One of the most interesting functions of Wikipedia is that you can look at every edit ever made to a page, from grammatical changes to full-scale rewrites. Even vandalism is recorded for posterity. The talk pages of Wikipedia articles are also fascinating because they provide a window into the in fighting and arguments that take place over seemingly pointless minutiae within the article. Both the talk page and the history page (once you get an understanding of the shorthand the editors use) give you a look at the kernel that blossomed into an article, and the internal machinations and politics behind certain editorial decisions. A few months ago, we even did a story about a publisher who released a several volume collection of the many thousands of edits to the Wikipedia article on The Iraq War.
With all that in mind, I was fascinated by an article that appeared on the blog The Awl yesterday called “Case History of a Wikipedia Page.” Focusing on the Wikipedia entry for Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, “In the past ten years, the entry has grown from [a] four-sentence description … to the detailed, 6,000-plus-word monolith of today. The two Lolita films now have their own pages, while the entry on the novel has expanded to include sections on such subjects as Lolita‘s Russian translation and its literary allusions. An edit is made, on average, about every other day.”