For some reason I have a soft spot in my heart for Wikipedia. I think it has to do with the unpaid staff, and freedom of information. Of course, as with all experiments, it has it’s detractors. I will be the first to admit that wikipedia is far from perfect. It has plenty of errors, biased articles and bad pictures. It also has TONS of wonderous information. Linked information at that. Want to know about spores? Maybe the flaming lips? It’s all there, sometimes even more than should be included. I remember in grade school being taught that you should use three sources for all information. I would hope that people use that as a general rule in life. Anyway, I started to hear a lot of grumbling in the last few months about the inaccuracy of my beloved wikipedia. It wasn’t the bad press that bothered me, but it seemed that all the reports I saw and articles I read all had a similar bone to pick with wikipedia. Under all the bullshit that was being spewed, they didn’t want information being given away. How could something free be “real”. If it’s not packaged handsomely, sold with an informative video, and priced to move…well it must be junk. I’m rambling now, but believe me, there are those who want to be sure wikipedia fails, and this is going to become a bigger issue.
Anyway, the reason for this ramble is that NATURE magazine recently did a study to see how wikipedia would fair in head to head competition with a “real” encyclopedia. The results (to me) were not surprising, but have not been as quickly and widely disseminated as the reports of inaccuracies were. Two things to remember that the report leaves out, that I think deserve to be mentioned…
1. Wikipedia articles are on average twice as long as Britannica articles…seeing the results of the study by word would most likely spike the results in wikipedias favor.
2. Anyone can change wikipedia, including the editors of Britannica. I mean, I’m not one to point at conspiracy theories, but this one seems too easy. Those