Wikipedia edits visualized

Today I present a new animated visualization of Wikipedia edits.

>> Animation <<   >> Screenshots <<

It shows all edit events for all Wikipedia’s on one random day. Currently this is 14 February 10 May 2011. On that particular day all Wikipedia’s combined had been edited 369,384 times.

The visualization grabs all those edits (time, location and language code) and shows how these were spread over the globe. You can see the distribution over space and time in an animation. You can also see static maps: bubble maps and heat maps, either per major language or for all languages combined. For bubble maps: large bubbles correspond to many edits, done from the location at the center of the bubble. For heat maps: bright colors correspond to many edits from that particular spot. Bubbles help you quickly focus on areas of large activity, heat maps have better resolution.

You can zoom and pan (mouse), click on the map for latitude and longitude (only when zoomed out), change the animation speed (5x-30x), toggle between color and black&white map (latter with country borders), show/hide the position of the sun, city names and approximated local times, and change event marker type and size (types are circle, fixed or animated language code). You can cycle through major languages  (easiest with space bar), fast forward the clock by 1 hour, or pause the animation. Type H for Help on all options and their associated keys.

Screenshot. Click image to see larger version..


Two measures were taken to guard privacy of authors. Timestamps have a deliberate error of up to 10 minutes. For very active editors or wiki’s with little activity this would not suffice. More importantly all coordinates have been rounded to a half degree longitude and latitude (roughly 55 km or 34 miles squared).

Tech note

The animation and maps were implemented in html5, with the canvas object. I used this same approach two years ago,with another animation about Wikipedia. Since then browser support for html5 canvas has considerably improved.

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28 Responses to Wikipedia edits visualized

  1. How do you obtain the location. I guess for unregistered editors the IP-number can be linked to a geographical coordinate, but what about registered users? Do you have access to the ‘checkuser’ data?

    Students here at the university made a hot map visualization of the blocked IP-numbers last year.

  2. Erik says:

    Hi Finn, I used the squid logs. Ip to geo lookup is done with MaxMind database. I would love to see that map you are referring to. Is it online?

  3. Hi Erik,

    Ah, so you got rather deep access :-)

    And no it is not online. The students made a Web service where users could type in the URL for the MediaWiki installation and the Web service would then download the blocked IP information from the wiki, do a geo lookup and render the information on a heatmap. I have the Student report. If you wish I could ask if I can forward the report.

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  5. Absolutely mesmerizing, Erik. I watched the animation, entranced, then looked at the bubble and heat maps for overall trends. Looking forward to the real-time version. ;-)

  6. Erik says:

    Thanks much, Eugene. I hope to discuss real-time feed at Hackaton Berlin later this week.

  7. Elitre says:

    I’d just love to see one of these for only!

  8. Erik says:

    @Elitre you can see animated edits for one wiki only, cycle through top 20 languages with space bar

  9. Elitre says:

    Thanks, I did not notice it at first (I was too fascinated by the bubbles coming and going). I’d like to add that taking a look at the it heat map @4.0x, it looks like quit a bunch of people in the South (where I live) edits straight from the sea :)

  10. Erik says:

    @Elitre Yes there are some issues here. Deliberate rounding to half degree could move coastal editors almost 30 km’s into sea. Also the country borders which are several pixels width at that zoom level almost look same grey as sea. Needs some more attention.

  11. RYU Cheol says:

    In addition to realtime feature, I imagine bullets shooting topics which have a geographical coordination.

  12. John Thomas says:

    I’m wondering if in some areas the data might be confused by proxy servers. I’m thinking in particular China, where many people editing Wikipedia might prefer to go through a proxy or some other sort of location obfuscation.

  13. Anthere says:

    hello Erik

    Just read your latest post about the visualisation tool. It is fabulous. I absolutely love it. Well done !


  14. Elitre says:

    I’m confident you’ll make this perfect.

  15. Tony1 says:

    Erik, great work. Fascinating!

    By the way, any news on when the data dumps are likely to occur so that the main table for the stats will be filled in for 2011? I’m wondering whether the Foundation has decided to alter the kind of stats it puts there …?

    Thanks again. Tony

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  26. Heath says:


    Where can I find the raw Squid Logs? Is that something that is freely available?


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