Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Will Wikipedia Mean the End Of Traditional Encyclopedias?

And now approaching center ring in this clash of the information titans...On the traditional side weighing in at approximately 24 paper volumes we have Horrible Hoiberg of Britannica. And on the new-and-now side weighing in somewhere around one gig is Wiley Wales of Wikipedia. Who will prevail in this Tit-for-Tat extravaganza? Let's hope it's the users of reliable information...

WSJ.com | Will Wikipedia Mean the End Of Traditional Encyclopedias?
Wikipedia, the community-edited online encyclopedia, has blossomed. It has thousands of volunteers that have created more than five million entries in dozens of languages on everything from the Elfin-woods warbler to Paris Hilton.

But the popular site has also been dogged by vandals and questions about its accuracy. In one high-profile flap, retired journalist John Seigenthaler Sr. assailed Wikipedia in an op-ed after discovering his biography had been altered to include a reference that linked him to the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and his brother, Robert. A recent study in the journal Nature, however, found few differences in accuracy between science entries in Wikipedia and the venerable Encyclopaedia Britannica. Britannica, which offers short versions of articles online for free and charges $70 a year for full access, disputed the study and issued a rebuttal5.

Does Wikipedia's open-editing approach yield better results than traditional encyclopedias? Participate in the Question of the Day6.

At a gathering of Wikipedia contributors last month, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales urged them to put more emphasis on quality instead of quantity. In a bid to battle vandalism, the German version of the site is testing a new feature that will let administrators flag versions of articles as "nonvandalized," and those are the pages that will be shown to most visitors.

Can Wikipedia's everyone's-an-editor approach produce a reliable resource tool without scholarly oversight? Are traditional encyclopedias like Britannica limited by lack of input? The Wall Street Journal Online invited Mr. Wales to discuss the topic with Dale Hoiberg, editor-in-chief of Britannica. Their exchange, carried out over email, is below.

Please be sure to read the entire article.

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