I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around,
and don't let anybody tell you different

-Kurt Vonnegut

Welcome to what once was Judge Jonathan. This blog is dead. Please click here to continue. (Or here, if you really insist.)


Friday, December 16, 2005

Wikipedia vs. Britannica

It hasn’t been a good couple of weeks for Wikipedia’s reputation. Bad press all over, ranging from the discovery of philosophy articles on the German Wikipedia site which were copied verbatim from copyrighted Communist-era encyclopedias to the Seigenthaler affair (John Seigenthaler Sr., a 78-year old American journalist, discovered in his Wikipedia ‘biography’ that he had been involved in the Kennedy assassinations, and wrote an op-ed piece in USA Today about it. Although the author of the entry later openly apologized to Seigenthaler - stating that the whole affair was intended to be a "prank" - the resulting controversy was huge, even causing Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales to tighten the free encyclopedia’s submission rules.)

But just in time, a 136-year old academic journal come's to Wikipedia's rescue. Well, a survey conducted by none other than Nature shows that, at least in terms of the accuracy of their science entries, Wikipedia and the well-respected Encyclopedia Britannica aren’t that far apart. Ha!

Nature: Internet encyclopaedias go head to head

An expert-led investigation carried out by Nature - the first to use peer review to compare Wikipedia and Britannica's coverage of science - suggests that (...) the difference in accuracy was not particularly great: the average science entry in Wikipedia contained around four inaccuracies; Britannica, about three.


But to improve Wikipedia, Wales is not so much interested in checking articles with experts as getting them to write the articles in the first place.

As well as comparing the two encyclopaedias, Nature surveyed more than 1,000 Nature authors and found that although more than 70% had heard of Wikipedia and 17% of those consulted it on a weekly basis, less than 10% help to update it. The steady trickle of scientists who have contributed to articles describe the experience as rewarding, if occasionally frustrating.

Greater involvement by scientists would lead to a "multiplier effect", says Wales. Most entries are edited by enthusiasts, and the addition of a researcher can boost article quality hugely. "Experts can help write specifics in a nuanced way," he says.
Okay, update: Bad news again.

TimesOnline: Wikipedia hit by surge in spoof articles


No comments: