Category Archives: change

wikipedia provides rss for articles

As noted in The Long Tail, RSS feeds have been added to Wikipedia articles. The feeds can be accessed by going to an article’s history page – links for RSS & Atom feeds are on the left side, under the “toolbox” heading.

They’ve done a good job with these: instead of sending you a new copy of the article every time changes are made, as is the case with most blogging software, the feed explains exactly what’s changed. Here’s a sample of what they look like. It’s not the most intuitive presentation if you’ve never edited Wikipedia, but it is useful once you learn to decode it:

wikipedia rss

This is from the Wikipedia article on Susan Sontag; the feed is here, though the speed at which the Wikipedia changes suggests that you may no longer see these edits. This is actually two entries (the newest first) documenting a change that I made: I noticed that one of her books had been categorized incorrectly so I moved it to the correct category. In the bottom entry, I deleted Where the Stress Falls from the Monographs section: on the left side is the Monographs section before my deletion, on the right side in Monographs after my deletion. In the top entry, I added Where the Stress Falls to the Essays section. On the left is the section before my addition; on the right is the section after. The brackets, asterisks, and single quotes are the markup style used by Wikipedia. The yellow background is added to a new paragraph; green denotes a deleted paragraph. If you change existing text, changes are in red, much like MS Word’s track changes feature.

How useful is this? It might be too early to say: RSS is a useful building block, and once it exists, interesting uses tend to present themselves. I suspect it will prove most useful to casual Wikipedians, who update a small number of articles on a regular basis but don’t spend most of their time in the Wikipedia.