Monday, January 06, 2020

How does truth manifest itself?

Have you ever watched a page on Wikipedia? Watched it change? Watched
the back-and-forth tug of war between different perspectives, different
incentives, fighting, struggling to survive?

These were questions I had when I visited the history of a page on
Wikipedia. The page was about a company. As I went through the over 500
changes that had been made to the page over 10 years, between 2009 and
2019, I looked at flurries of activity, compared various versions of the
page, and tried to see patterns that might indicate which versions
reflected "the truth".

Of course, change is endemic in today's world. So "the truth" might be a
moving target. Still, I looked at the kinds of changes, the
counter-changes, and began to observe the process that allows Wikipedia
pages to settle down. I started to think of that process as an algorithm
which approaches a limit ("the truth") over time.

This got me thinking that I would like to observe this change, in some
graphical form (it's my old statistical training). What if I had a
computer program that would display the page as it changed over time?
What if this display included the use of colors to "age" the information
on the page (from red to yellow to green to blue to black?). What if the
page was distorted, lifting the changes higher (closer / larger) to show
the "growth / change" of the page over time?

I thought about adding information to the graph, too, about the history
of the editors, from anonymous visitors, to bots, to people with logins,
to people with logins that have been around a while and have a good
reputation themselves?

I wish I had the tech and time to develop such a visual page history
machine. Maybe on GitHub? And maybe this graphical presentation would
give some clues for my own bot that would help me monitor the
"manifestation of the truth"!

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