In a stroke of oddly compelling genius (or possibly madness), Jon Udell has put together a remarkable flash screencast (note: there is sound and it looks best in full screen mode) detailing the evolution of the Heavy metal umlaut page on Wikipedia.
It's a wonderfully silly topic, but my point is somewhat serious too. The 8.5-minute screencast turns the change history of this Wiki page into a movie, scrolls forward and backward along the timeline of the document, and follows the development of several motifs. Creating this animated narration of a document's evolution was technically challenging, but I think it suggests interesting possibilities.
Wikis are one of those things that just don't sound right when you hear about what they are and how they work. It's one thing to institute a collaborative encyclopedia, but Wikis embrace a philosophy of openness that seems entirely too permissive. Wikis are open to the general public and allow anyone to modify their contents without any sort of prior review. What's to stop a troll from vandalizing a page? Nothing, except that someone will come along and correct it shortly thereafter (Udell covers an episode of vandalism in the screencast). It's a textbook self-organizing system (note that wikis focus not on the content, but rather on establishing an efficient mechanism for collaboration; the content is an emergent property of the system). It should be interesting to see how it progresses... [via Jonathon Delacour, who also has an interesting discussion about umlauts and diaereses and another older post about wikis]