Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wikipedia vs. Britannica

I was very surprised to learn that the errors found in Wikipedia were not very different from errors found in Britannica, in terms of numbers. Levinson cites Nature magazine's research that "the experts found an average of four inaccuracies per Wikipedia article and three per Britannica article (p. 93)." Personally, this does not seem to be a huge difference.

Using wikipedia could actually be more beneficial than using Britannica. This may sound crazy because for the most part, Britannica is widely respected, while Wikipedia has a multitude of critics. My point is simply that students understand the criticisms of Wikipedia and are willing to check the facts using other more reliable sources. However, most students (at least me) usually take Britannica or any other reliable encyclopedia at its words because it is based on experts rather than any normal citizen. As a result, fact-checking is important both on Wikipedia and Britannica.

Another advantage of Wikipedia over Britannica is the speed with which it can be updated. The false reports on the deaths of Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd were deleted within five minutes of their posting. Obviously, this presents a drawback of the problem of vandalism, but it also speaks to the power and effectiveness of editing to ensure the information on Wikipedia is accurate. Editing inaccurate information in Britannica takes a much longer time. In conclusion, Britannica may not be the better encyclopedia after all.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps, the best thing to say is that each has its advantages and disadvantages.