The Longest Now

London Bridges
Friday July 08th 2005, 2:57 pm
Filed under: international

I don’t know how human society would function without tragedy.  Is
this where so many utopian visions fail?  The drawing-together
around shared catastrophes is rooted very, very deeply. 

I like my drawings-together to be international and cleanly archived…
I’m writing up a condensed overview of what happened the other week on the
#wikinews channel, as the London bombings were progressing. 

The first comments on the bombing likely turned up on Wikipedia
itself.  Its community is enormous, and it is much easier to add a
note to a Wikipedia article than to figure out how to start a new new
story, or add a tip to the newsroom.

The first comments on IRC, which for Wikipedians (#wikipedia) is mainly a channel
for hanging out but for Wikinewsies (#wikinews) doubles as a fast-response newsroom for breaking stories,
were incisive and focused.  For the next 10 hours, that channel
was devoted to reporting and refining existing news; sharing news
reports as they came in and cross-referencing them with other sources;
griping about how unreliable certain channels were; and posting links
to first-hand photos and writeups from friends and colleagues at one of
the scenes.

By the mid-afternoon, Wikinews had a detailed primary article and a
small cluster (since grown to a large cluster) of other articles posted, covering both the London
bombings themselves and various brief satellite stories, with details
on how others were reacting, how specific lines of investigation had
progressed, which groups were claiming responsibility for what. 
The news articles were very current, and quickly dated. 

Wikipedia likewise had an extensive article about the bombings by
the end of the day,
developing in a very different, timeless fashion.  The wikinews
article had 300 edits the day it was published, then 30 the next
morning, and none thereafter.  The Wikipedia article, in contrast,
had 3000 edits the first day, 500 the next, and an edit-halflife of two
or three days after that.   Joho was quick to blog about this after I mentioned it to the Berkman mailing list.

A detailed
comparison is worthwhile; here is a copmarison of their first
paragraphs, two weeks later:

Wikinews: “Coordinated terrorist attack hits London

July 7, 2005
Three bomb explosions have hit London Underground trains, and a further bomb destroyed a bus in the city centre. The Metropolitan Police Service has initially confirmed that 33 people have been killed in the four explosions on London‘s
transport system this morning, and said the overall number of wounded
was as high as 700, in what are believed to be terrorist attacks. (See
later reports in the box at the side for later announcements made on
following days.)

Wikipedia: “7 July 2005 London bombings

For information on the 21 July explosions, see 21 July 2005 London bombings

On Thursday, 7 July 2005, a series of four bomb attacks struck London’s public transport system during the morning rush hour. At 8:50 a.m. (BST, UTC+1), three bombs exploded within fifty seconds of each other on three London Underground trains. A fourth bomb exploded on a bus at 9:47 a.m. in Tavistock Square. The bombings led to a severe, day-long disruption of the city’s transport and telecommunication infrastructure.

Both articles have around six images; the news article give a far more
thorough detail of what it was like on the day of the bombings; the
encyclopedia article is over twice as long with twice as many
references and far more historical comparison and analysis.

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