Hacking or faking a wiki history for good purposes

I want to utterly hack the wiki format because I don’t think it’s been fully explored.

I’d like wiki software into which I can manually insert fake edits. I’d like to write the history in arbitrary order and set the dates myself. (Usually the dates are automatic.) I love the history!

Why? The history is a really useful way of representing the progression of a document.

Here’s one application. Lots of documents change and it might be useful to show their development in this fashion. In the UK, bills are discussed in parliament, they are edited then they sometimes become acts which are the basis of law. Very few normal people actually follow the process. A wiki-style history might help their understanding.

There’s a similar process at the Welsh Assembly and we certainly need help understanding what happens there.

There are also famous documents like the USA constitution which might be fun or historically interesting to represent in a wiki fashion. Imagine being able to see prohibition as a literal 18th amendment to the wiki and it being repealed by the 21st amendment.

As well as the democracy stuff, there might be journalistic applications of something like this. Representing important documents in different time-based ways.

This idea strikes me as somewhat “obvious”. (It was inspired by a comment in a video interview with Matt Mullenweg about open source.) Has it been done before?

I might have a go, there are many open source wiki software systems. For instance MediaWiki or DokuWiki could be adapted to do this. There are also document comparison programs, maybe I just need to do it as a set of documents which can be compared.

Maybe this intersects with what Google Wave can do, I haven’t tried it yet.

I use Google Docs every day now and it’s obvious that that has borrowed heavily from wikis. I’d struggle to go back to emailing attachments back and forth.

Google have two products called wiki – SearchWiki and Sidewiki – and neither of them are really wikis! But Google Docs are proper wikis. If you haven’t tried Google Docs, try it.

I’m thinking of other documents that change over time, which could be wikified. Like chessboards and images of your dog’s face.

My own face is a wiki edited by time. My body is a wiki, edited by beer and curry.

6 Replies to “Hacking or faking a wiki history for good purposes”

  1. Interesting, however – those last two statements seem to contradict one another. Time is a variable. How does it edit your face? If it does, why doesn’t it edit your body as well?

    Surely your face is edited by things that cause your face to change over time?

  2. Yeah SORRY. I meant the ravages of time. It was a meta-metaphor. You know, like, “time hasn’t been kind to his face”. Time as a byword for all that can go on, which happens to happen through time. Might do a blog post about it.

    When I wrote this I realised everything can be seen as a document. EVERYTHING. Who, or rather what, is going to track all the edits? There’s one exception, the ever unedited document, which is of course God. I might need a walk now.

  3. I like it! Are you talking about generation to generation? That’s a weird one because two “pages” combine, at least when it comes to sexual reproduction as opposed to snailstyle.

    In the lossy stuff, do you mean so-called “junk DNA”? I’m not a geneticist but how do we know it’s redundant? Maybe it’s a pastebin of ancestor history? I don’t know.

    On my walk I thought about a pizza as a document with layers of tomato, meat, pepper and finally cheese.

    But mostly I thought again about chessboards as documents. Visually, graphically, each move is a board edit. So it’s like a graphical wiki. Obviously you could just store this as notation. You could generate the wiki purely from the list of moves.

    Also the layers of a Photoshop (or whatever) graphic are like wiki edits, except instead of history in time it’s the z dimension perpendicular to the screen.

    Then I thought about the Earth’s surface as a wiki, with geologically sedimentary layers. Dust, fossils and so on are the edits. I don’t have an analogy for polystrate trees though.

  4. What you’re describing is very Google Wave, which is all about wiki-style collaboration. The playback feature lets you quickly see the evolution of the document (who added what, and when). I could totally see it being used in the way you describe.

    I still have a few invites left. If you’re interested, shout on Twitter.

  5. I read recently that junk DNA may just be an inactive archive copy from previous genomes. Maybe a bit more like disk fragmentation than revisions. It may be like the code of some programmers I know, where a function is copied, renamed and tweaked slightly. Repeat for several billion iterations…

    I’ve always liked the idea that as we go through life we of express all previous ‘revisions’ of life, starting from an egg and sperm, combining into a single symbiotic cell and then splitting into a multi-cell organism. The embryo then appears to take the form of all our ancestor species as it grows (although I’m not sure biologists would agree with this notion).

    Geological strata are definitely a wiki – ice cores are another useful one.

    Let’s stretch this to its logical conclusion – the universe is a wiki! Although due to the slight complication of light having a finite speed through space it takes bigger telescopes and longer exposures to see the earlier revisions.

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