Several years ago I wrote an essay where I discussed the idea of what I referred to then as “industrial editorship”. The idea in my mind was that the process of gaining expertise in an endeavor would always lead to extraneous knowledge about the endeavor, which could be packaged and distributed along with whatever the main focus of the endeavor was. A lumber company, for example, generates lumber but also generates knowledge/experience about wood, large item transport, environmental issues, etc.
Wikipedia generates packaged information about huge numbers of subjects — how credible or noncredible is beside the point at the moment. What’s interesting is that in addition to the information, there is also being generated a great deal of knowledge about how information flows, patterns, upgrades, and changes. And that’s where WikiDashboard, at http://wikidashboard.parc.com/, comes in.
The URL above is for the front page of the site, and I recommend you read the FAQ and take a look at a few of the information pages, but WikiDashboard basically reproduces Wikipedia with additional editing information on top.
The front page of the Wiki shows you an the immediate difference. A table of information on top shows you the most frequent editors for that particular page (including the percentage of that page’s edits that they’ve done) as well as a bar of editing activity and an overall graph of activity for that page. The front page is rather generic — that is to say, there is not one user who has done a huge number of edits. On the other hand, if you look at something like the page for Project Gutenberg, you’ll see that one person is responsible for 7% of the edits on that page. You can click on the row showing the number of edits and you’ll get a popup window listing when the edits were as well as any comments that were made.
You can also click on user names and see what other entries that user is particularly busy on. The main editor of the Project Gutenberg page, for example, appears to take some responsibility for cleaning up after vandalism and therefore has done a lot of edits on a wide range of pages. On the other hand, the person who has the most edits for the André the Giant page seems to focus mostly on wrestlers and very tall people.
I have deliberately avoided politics in my examples here but needless to say political figures also seem to have their own groupings of edits as well. Following threads of what individuals edited a lot, and what also interested them, took me off in many different directions. I have the urge to spend a lot of time here and get an idea what the current pattern is, with the thought in mind that as we get closer to the elections that pattern will change a lot…