Wikipedia might be the biggest social experiment of all. Who asks people to crowdfund and crowdsource knowledge? That’s also the rub with the crowdsourced encyclopedia. You can track edits but it’s not easy to follow or pull a narrative out of how an entry changes over time.
Enter WikiWash, an open-sourced prototype in beta, brought to you by the Center for Investigative Reporting, The Working Group, Google and Metro News Canada. The idea is simple: enter a Wikipedia URL to “wash,” which reveals all of the edits, color coded by whether it was a removal or addition of material, with dates, times and user names. You can see the average number of edits per user, how often users edit, how many entries they work on, and other data on the, well, data. It’s totally geeky and I guarantee you can waste at least 20 minutes washing your favorite entries. Easy.
A Poynter profile on the project reports that developer Luke Simcoe, a data journalist at Metro News Canada:
found the page of a small town in Manitoba that’s going through a tug of war to show the town in a positive way, and they found that the person who was one of the most active editors on Rob Ford’s Wiki page also spent a lot of time grooming Gwyneth Paltrow’s. “It’s really made me rethink a bit of what the tool can do,” he said. You can use it to catch bad-faith edits, “but it’s also a really great tool for learning more about how Wikipedia works.”
You can also track edits in real time and export them all as a .csv for later use. Right now, it’s in beta and growing, so it’s not optimized for mobile. Yet. There could be a lot of uses for scraping away the layers of Wikipedia entries, finding patterns in truth telling and watching the juicy edit wars.