IBM’s Collaborative User Experience Research group has posted a preliminary report on their work in “visualizing dynamic, evolving documents and the interactions of multiple collaborating authors” :
Most documents are the product of continual evolution. An essay may undergo dozens of revisions; source code for a computer program may undergo thousands. And as online collaboration becomes increasingly common, we see more and more ever-evolving group-authored texts. This site is a preliminary report on a simple visual technique, history flow, that provides a clear view of complex records of contributions and collaboration.
history flow provides answers at a glance to questions like, Has a community contributed to the text or has it been mostly written by a single author? How much has a particular contributor influenced the current version of the document? Is the text’s evolution marked by spurts of intense revision activity or does it reflect a smooth transition from its beginning to the present?
The researchers have applied their technique to selections from Wikipedia, chosen because its “‘open editing’ paradigm is a powerful and, sometimes, problematic venue for community collaboration as it invites both valuable contributions and flat out vandalism.”