International Journal on Digital Libraries

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 77–93 | Cite as

Avoiding spoilers: wiki time travel with Sheldon Cooper

  • Shawn M. JonesEmail author
  • Michael L. Nelson
  • Herbert Van de Sompel


A variety of fan-based wikis about episodic fiction (e.g., television shows, novels, movies) exist on the World Wide Web. These wikis provide a wealth of information about complex stories, but if fans are behind in their viewing they run the risk of encountering “spoilers”—information that gives away key plot points before the intended time of the show’s writers. Because the wiki history is indexed by revisions, finding specific dates can be tedious, especially for pages with hundreds or thousands of edits. A wiki’s history interface does not permit browsing across historic pages without visiting current ones, thus revealing spoilers in the current page. Enterprising fans can resort to web archives and navigate there across wiki pages that were live prior to a specific episode date. In this paper, we explore the use of Memento with the Internet Archive as a means of avoiding spoilers in fan wikis. We conduct two experiments: one to determine the probability of encountering a spoiler when using Memento with the Internet Archive for a given wiki page, and a second to determine which date prior to an episode to choose when trying to avoid spoilers for that specific episode. Our results indicate that the Internet Archive is not safe for avoiding spoilers, and therefore we highlight the inherent capability of fan wikis to address the spoiler problem internally using existing, off-the-shelf technology. We use the spoiler use case to define and analyze different ways of discovering the best past version of a resource to avoid spoilers. We propose Memento as a structural solution to the problem, distinguishing it from prior content-based solutions to the spoiler problem. This research promotes the idea that content management systems can benefit from exposing their version information in the standardized Memento way used by other archives. We support the idea that there are use cases for which specific prior versions of web resources are invaluable.


Digital preservation HTTP Resource versioning Web archiving Wikis Spoilers 



This work was made possible in part by a Grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation. We are grateful to the Internet Archive for their continued support of Memento. Memento is a joint project between the Los Alamos National Laboratory Research Library and Old Dominion University.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Los Alamos National LaboratoryLos AlamosUSA
  2. 2.Old Dominion UniversityNorfolkUSA

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