Chris Betcher posted this on the oz-teachers email list on 19/8/2007

What I found really facsinating as I searched for the article creation date (which, in case you haven’t looked yet, was the same day as the massacre) was to browse through the history of page revisions to see how the article actually grew, minute by minute.

It began with a very simple line, “The Virigina Tech shooting incident occurred on April 16th, 2007. One person has been reported to be slain.” Three minutes later, it was amended to read “The Virginia Tech shooting incident occurred on April 16, 2007. One person has been reported to be slain and one person is reported wounded.”

The next revision came 2 minutes later and added a citation to a newspaper report. 7 minutes later, someone corrected a minor grammatical error. The article continued to grow, with over 100 edits in the next few hours, each one improving and correcting the one before it. There was a clearly evident group of people whose names keep appearing in the edit history list, demonstrating how people emerge to become the “keepers” of these articles. This is a completely organic process.... No one is elected to be in charge, no one has to hold a meeting to delegate responsibility. It just works.

The article has now been edited over 500 times, with each revision building on what has gone before it. The quality of the writing and the way it explains the incident seem quite excellent to me.

This is what people who are critical of wikis don’t seem to get... Their assumption is that articles are spuriously written by people wishing to cause trouble by spreading misinformation. They don’t seem to get that these things are written by large groups of people who, through a process of self governance and wisdom-of-crowds, manage to refine and evolve some very good articles through a process of constant iteration. By the time this article has come to where it is, many hundreds of people have contributed to it, and thousands of eyes have looked at it. How long do you think a spurious edit or a vandalised paragraph would last? Do you really think that the volunteer army that helped create this information would stand idly by and allow it to be ruined?


He has written a blog post about this titled Commanding The Tide To Stay Out, a most apt heading.

His blog is at http://betch.edublogs.org