democratizing visualization



communication interfaces

art & design
    History Flow
with Martin Wattenberg
  In 2003, Martin and I decided to investigate the dynamics behind editing in Wikipedia. History flow is the method we invented to make sense of the data we collected; it shows the editing activity of multiple authors on an article over time. These colorful diagrams revealed dramatic Wikipedia patterns such as edit wars and vandalism reversal. In fact, we discovered that the median lifetime of certain types of vandalism can be measured in minutes.

Our 2004 CHI paper was the first computer science publication analyzing the online encyclopedia. Since then, the site has grown enormously and the dynamics have become even more complex. We went on to study other aspects of Wikipedia, including the emergence of formal rules and policies.

In 2005, the History Flow application was made available for free on IBM alphaWorks. Jonathan Feinberg is the one to thank for making this happen. For more information about how the visualization works, check out the project site.  
  Studying Cooperation and Conflict between Authors with history flow Visualizations
  The Hidden Order of Wikipedia.
  Talk Before You Type: Coordination in Wikipedia
  The Visual Side of Wikipedia
with Martin Wattenberg and Kate Hollenbach
  How do different people edit Wikipedia? Whereas History Flow focuses on the editing activity in a given article, Chromogram displays the editing history of an individual over time. The visualization shows very long textual sequences through a simple color coding scheme.

In addition to confirming known patterns, such as reacting to vandalism events, Chromogram identified a class of organized systematic activities: that is, a purposeful, sustained related sequence of edits. This means that different people have distinct editing strategies when it comes to Wikipedia: there are both "reactive" and "systematic" editors. Systematic editors might methodically go over all of the pages related to a specific topic (for instance, all of US ships), or decide that they'll focus on pages that need stub sorting or re-categorization.

For more information about the visualization technique and our findings, visit the Chromogram project page.


  Visualizing Activity on Wikipedia with Chromograms.


Learning how thousands of people make the magic happen on Wikipedia...