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August 28, 2003

History flow

History Flow

HERE IS A logical and colour-coded way of viewing Wikis and other collaborative documents during their continual evolution. An essay may undergo dozens of revisions; source code for a computer program may undergo thousands. And as online collaboration becomes increasingly common, we see more and more ever-evolving group-authored texts. IBM's researchers have fielded a preliminary report on a simple visual technique, history flow, that provides a clear view of complex records of contributions and collaboration.

Much of the research focuses on wikis -- web sites that are freely editable by anyone who visits them. This technology was invented by Ward Cunningham in 1995 (Wiki Wiki Web). The idea behind such sites is to create truly communal repositories of knowledge where the contribution cost is so low as to allow novice and expert users alike to act as active members of a community. This “open editing” paradigm is a powerful and, sometimes, problematic venue for community collaboration as it invites both valuable contributions and flat out vandalism.

"Wiki-wiki" means "quick" in the Hawaiian language.
Image from IBM -- "History Flow: visualizing dynamic, evolving documents and the interactions of multiple collaborating authors"
Joi Ito -- "History Flow"

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