Rule Britannica

So, Nature (that scientific journal of high reputation) wrote an article about the differences between the Encyclopædia Britannica (that Encyclopædia of high reputation) and Wikipedia (that website of variable reputation). Along the lines that both sources were making a similar amount of errors, with some fairly anodyne discussion of how Wikipedia works and is changing the world etc. Now, I actually use Wikipedia quite a lot, but more to satisfy curiousity or when I get sucked into clicking on links on links on links on links oops there goes an hour…but you’d want to be seriously foolish to rely upon it as a definitive source. Anyway, I digress.

Turns out that it isn’t Wikipedia or Britannica we need to worry about, but Nature itself (according to Britannica…keep up at the back there, kids). Who have now been accused (by Britannica) of screwing up the methodology of their ‘study’, including using kids versions of the encyclopædia, giving incorrect tests, and drawing unsupported conclusions. Nature, of course, responded, although not very satisfactorily.

Of course, the big advantage of Wikipedia is quick updates…so the Wikipedia page about Britannica includes a description of the controversy so far. But if you go to the ‘Discussion’ page, you can see some nice fights where the Wikipartisans are accusing people who work for Britannica of editing the article. Or the lovely squabble about how accurate the report on the Nature article is. Although it’s mildly amusing to see this play out behind the scenes, and to have a record of he said she said, it’s very trivial, really.

(Britannica has no entry on Wikipedia yet. Then again, why should it? An encyclopaedia (bored of doing æ!) isn’t meant to be updated a thousand times a day. It’s meant to be comprehensive, and reasonably reliable. So although I have great time for the ideological aims of the Wikiproject, I think the wikies doth protest too much.


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