Animation contest

Contest held to produce history-animation tool

As external tools for using Wikipedia continue to crop up, a contest to design a tool for animating Wikipedia history, complete with prize money, closed last week with several entries competing for the reward.

On 14 June, blogger Andy Baio, inspired by the discussion over the disputed Podcasting article (see archived story), announced that he would offer $50 for the best implementation of a tool to animate the history of a Wikipedia article. Several others, including Wikipedia critic Jason Scott, added to the pot, bringing the total reward to $250.

Studying the history of articles has already received significant interest in the past from various sources outside of Wikipedia. A 2004 MIT study on how Wikipedia authors interact focused particularly on how a given article developed over time, including visual representations of its "history flow". And earlier this year, Jon Udell created a movie showing the evolution of the Heavy metal umlaut article (see archived story).

A total of four entries were submitted for Baio's contest within the week. The entries included Dan Phiffer's Wikipedia Animate; WikiDiff from Corey; AniWiki, created by John Resig; and Colin Hill's BetterHistory.

The winner, announced on Monday by Baio, was Dan Phiffer for his Wikipedia Animate program, which Udell had already used to create a new "screencast" of Heavy metal umlaut. Resig was awarded second place for AniWiki. Baio indicated that the prize would be divided up with Phiffer receiving $200 as well as a Flickr Pro account, a $20 Threadless gift certificate, and a starter package from Socialtext; Resig would receive $50 and a Flickr Pro account.

Innovative tools abound

This adds to the proliferation of software tools created as accessories for Wikipedia readers and editors. Some previous efforts include CryptoDerk's popular Vandal Fighter, used by many of the people patrolling recent changes, and the Wikiwax index of articles.

Another similar project, the Humanbot script written by r3m0t to correct spelling mistakes, recently finished its latest round and is considering what to undertake next. Because automatic correction of spelling has always been controversial, Humanbot was actually a distributed system hosted by JoeyDay, where the script fed changes to live users for review before they could be processed. Like most of the history-animation tools, Humanbot uses the Greasemonkey extension for Mozilla Firefox, which allows the addition of JavaScript to web pages.

The point was raised about these scripts that some might have a detrimental effect on the Wikipedia servers, although this can be avoided with appropriate design. One of the reasons Baio gave for Phiffer winning his contest was that the Wikipedia Animate tool does not load history automatically, but waits for the user to request it.

Also this week: UpgradeDonationsQuiz showArticle blocksContestFeatures, adminsKDESpoken RSST.R.O.L.L.

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This is the first I've seen in the way of a response from actual contributers to Wikipedia -- I'm curious what other kinds of user interface-level enhancements you might find useful.


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