Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Britannica vs. Wikipedia

My mom is a middle school librarian who regularly helps kids with research in books and online. When she checked her e-mail this morning she had a message from Encyclopedia Britannica addressing a recent study by Nature magazine comparing the accuracy of Britannica's entries to those of Wikipedia. Their findings suggested that the encyclopedia was only slightly more accurate than Wikipedia. Out of 42 articles reviewed by experts 162 errors were found in Wikipedia, 123 in Brittanica.

This new open source technology is clearly threatening to a company like Britannica, and they wanted to make sure my mom knew why the study was wrong and why wikipedia was no good and why she should keep on buying new sets of books every 5 years for near $600. You can read all 7000 words of Britannica's response here, but in short they argue Nature used the wrong entries from the encyclopedia, the headline of the article was misleading and some things they thought were errors were in fact correct.

update: Nature's response can be found here

It's going to be interesting to see how this fight evolves in the future: if Brittanica will adopt some sort of open source exclusively for experts, if wikipedia will institute some sort of expert review.

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Anonymous Paul said...

It's like the tooth fairy. Nature magazine wanted to believe in Wikipedia so badly it fabricated the evidence.

I wish Britannica made its content available online cheaply - maybe through a a library, so if I was a member I could log on for free.

When you need more than fast food, Wikipedia really sucks badly, and the people who support it look like a religious cult to me.

3/23/2006 1:18 AM  
Anonymous Phil Boswell said...

It took EB three months to respond, with an effective denial that they have any errors to correct.

In the same time-frame, the offending Wikipedia articles have been corrected.

It would be interesting to see the results of a similar test run to EB's standards?

3/23/2006 4:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nature's response can be found here (PDF).

3/23/2006 1:31 PM  
Blogger Mer said...

That's really interesting. It's funny to watch well-known big wigs squirm when an up-and-coming competitior rocks more than they do. ;)

3/26/2006 3:29 PM  

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