Wikipedia vs Encyclopedia


waiting for a time
There's been quite a bit of fuss over how good Wikipedia is recently, starting with Nature's study, which you can read here (word doc). Articles were compared between Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica, by a panel of experts, and although Wikipedia was found to have more errors that the Britannica, it was only slightly (average errors for Wikipedia - 4 per article, average errors for Britannica - 3 per article).

After the Nature piece was published, Britannica published this pdf as an advert (I think in the Times?), refuting the findings.

I thought that the Britannica "refutation" seemed pretty petty and nit picking, although I think Nature ought to make the data from the study publically available.

Then I found this and this on the Register, supporting Britannica against Nature. I usually like the Register, but found their claims of Nature's alleged bias somewhat hollow when they seem to have such a pro-Britannica bias themselves.

What do you all think? Is Wikipedia a great "collective intelligence" and internet phenomenon? Or is it just a rather crap encyclopedia that you should only use if you havn't got access to a "real" one, and everything in it should be taken with a very large pinch of salt?


entered apprentice
Interesting stuff. Whilst Wikipedia is obviously (given its provenance) to be taken with a slight pinch of salt, its basic mechanisms are pretty sound. The idea of peer review would seem to indicate that most commonly accessed stuff will be 95% correct, after a reasonable length of time. The more esoteric corners are slightly less accurate, as reliable as an anonymous website on the subject you might find on the internet elsewhere. (see some of the more obscure music entries for evidence of this). The thing is that the longer wikipedia exists, surely the more accurate it will become? Or will it merely become more disputed- even if this is the case its "open source" nature better reflects intellectual argument and debate. One thing annoys me tho- no attribution on wikipedia. So no responsibility?

Gabba Flamenco Crossover

High Sierra Skullfuck
Well, the beauty of it being on the net is that verification for anything is only a few clicks away. I find it useful as a 1st port of call, once you've got the terminology you can use google to do more in-depth searches.


entered apprentice
Yeah, and the links which you find on it are usually pretty interesting (I was researching some Badiou this evening and found a pretty good lecture debate thing linked from the bottom of the rather scant entry).


Well-known member
they should just make all encyclopedia's free at the point of access but then ex-yoga instructors turned PE then turned history teachers called Felicity can't warn their a-level classes not to get references from them.


Well-known member
I wonder if there is precedent for forcing wikipedia to protect an entry from editing, i expect so,
There was a story last year about a "war" going on over Kamala Harris' Wikipedia page and repeated attempts to scrub anything unflattering from it,