[Air-l] Wikipedia vs Britannica

Bram Dov Abramson bda at bazu.org
Thu Dec 15 14:42:19 PST 2005

> Nature, the best in science journalism as they say about themselves, has
> compared Wikipedia with (the old and edited and therefore better???)
> Encylopaedia Britannica.

You know, it seems to me that what comparisons such of these are missing
is the time arrow.  It compared Wikipedia as of 1 Oct 2005 to the 2002
edition of Encyclopedia Brittanica, say.  For instance:

> Only eight serious errors, such as misinterpretations of important
> concepts, were detected in the pairs of articles reviewed, four from each
> encyclopaedia. But reviewers also found many factual errors, omissions or
> misleading statements: 162 and 123 in Wikipedia and Britannica,
> respectively.

You'd think that, by 25 Dec 2005, at least some of those errors will have
been worked on -- particularly if the reviewers disclosed what they came
up with.  Yes, this was of course a sampling approach, and the
error-counting meant to represent some larger set.

But to the extent that Wikipedia is an infrastructure for peer-based
content creation, not a frozen product with a release date, it seems to me
if journalists wish to represent it more accurately they should be adding
the time dimension to their descriptions.  Otherwise it's a bit like
announcing definitively what The Web has to say about something, isn't it?
 True at some particular point in time, but not a done deal.


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