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(The Register)   Magazine study equating Wikipedia to Britannica bogus   ( divider line
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6898 clicks; posted to Main » on 23 Mar 2006 at 8:45 AM (12 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2006-03-23 08:48:23 AM  
I, for one, believe everything I read on the internets.

2006-03-23 08:48:44 AM  
zomg sum1 lied!
2006-03-23 08:49:57 AM  
Was the magazine a part of wikipedia?

/didn't read
//don't care
2006-03-23 08:51:55 AM  
"Independent experts were sent 50 unattributed articles from both Wikipedia and Britannica, and the journal claimed that Britannica turned up 123 "errors" to Wikipedia's 162."

Hmmm, "errors?" So what is their definition of "errors?" Mispellings? Grammar?
2006-03-23 08:52:01 AM  
SO, to sum up:
wikipedia > britannica > nature
2006-03-23 08:52:53 AM  
Heheh, no shiat. I've seen people online who make it a hobby to squeeze bogus information onto the Wiki to see if anybody catches it. Besides that, I would argue that even if Wiki has more information, the nature of it is a little different.

For example, go take a look at the Gundam wing of Wiki's little library of information. Thorough does not begin to describe it.
2006-03-23 08:54:07 AM  
Cue the O Rly owls in 3 ... 2 ...

/got nothin'
2006-03-23 08:55:08 AM  
I'll believe this when I read it on Wiki.
2006-03-23 09:00:13 AM  
This still overlooks one very important thing:

Wikipedia - Free, online, constantly updated
Britannica - Brazillions of dollars, bound books, updated annually, need more brazillions of dollars to buy next years copy.

This is just Britannica in CYA mode. Information wants to be free!
2006-03-23 09:04:41 AM  

Information may want to be free but I'd prefer it to be accurate.

Britannica, I trust. Wiki? Never.

/Free the Bound Periodicals!
2006-03-23 09:04:45 AM  
StarshipPooper maybe if you read page two of the article.....
2006-03-23 09:05:30 AM  
On wikipedia, the more heavy the interest in a topic is, the harder it is to put bogus information on it. It's very easy to write nonsense in a fringe article almost noone will read, but then, the loss isn't so great either. On mainstream topics, reverts will happen very fast, and on controversial topics even faster as people put in on their watchlist, and check changes every time it gets altered.

Many things on wikipedia are not up to standard, and this creates the problem of it being a usually accurate, but not reliably accurate source. This means that it's great to look things up, get a general gist of things, and start of in the right direction, but it's not a quotable, reliable source.
2006-03-23 09:05:59 AM  
Brittanica: no source citations, no transparency on who wrote the article, what their political biases might be, what else they write, or how the article was written.

Wikipedia: source citations, complete transparency on who contributed and the discussions by which contributions were made, and what kind of angle writers are coming from (by knowing what else they've written.)

Yet I have to deal with people telling me how much more credible Brittanica is. Sure, if you don't do the work to vet a Wikipedia article, it's not very credible. But it's not credible to be lazy in general.
2006-03-23 09:07:56 AM  

This still overlooks one very important thing:

Wikipedia - Free, online, constantly updated, unreliable, biased, edited by people with too much spare time, impossible to cite as contents may change.
Britannica - Brazillions of dollars, bound books, updated annually, need more brazillions of dollars to buy next years copy, carefully reviewed, authoratitive and freely available from most decent libraries.

/Fixed for you.
//Still use Wikipedia for basic technical background though
///Just don't worship the frikkin' thing
2006-03-23 09:08:04 AM  
As a contributor to Wikipedia, I'm certainly not going to rubbish the project; but much as I hate to say it, there *are* too many bits and pieces I've come across for me to trust everything it says unless it gives me a reference.

Wikipedia really needs a reference-fetish culture and more sceptics. And I have to say that I dislike the fact that ultimately a group of zealots willing to invest the time and band together where others are not have more weight on their pet article inputs. There are some articles that, (simply because anyone is able to edit them, and the zealots *will*) will never be "unbiased" or "neutral" if such a thing exists. I much prefer to label those articles as disputed and let people make up their own minds after seeing the talk page and history.

Frankly, there *is* a lot of fancruft in there too, which although not a big deal in itself, gives the impression of a bunch of nerds with too much spare time (probably true of the less consequential articles... but then they're of less consequence).

But a lot of the questions it raises could and *should* be asked equally of traditional encyclopedias; *who* are the people that write them? *Where* do they get their facts? Is it really possible to write entirely neutrally on some matters?

Some "Wikipedians" (hate that name, BTW) have a (possibly justified) paranoia that Britannica and the like are trying every means possible to attack them. Personally, I'd rather defend with the truth, include as many reliable references in articles as possible (*especially* that), be open about disputes. There's always the risk that in defending the project, the "community" becomes over-defensive and starts denying the problems. In fact, there's always the risk that the "community" becomes more important than the project itself, a means, not an end. I hope this doesn't happen.

This is one reason I respect Jimbo Wales; he admitted that Wikipedia was far from perfect and had problems.

As I said, I think reference-fetishisation will ultimately prove more productive to Wikipedia than blinkered zealotry. "Here are our sources; you decide if they're reliable or not". Britannica should be the ones on the defensive in the face of Wikipedia, not vice versa.
2006-03-23 09:12:53 AM  
I believe Tycho has the last word on Wikipedia:

What you've proposed is a kind of quantum encyclopedia, where genuine data both exists and doesn't exist depending on the precise moment I rely upon your discordant farking mob for my information.
2006-03-23 09:16:04 AM  
There is a lot of concerns about "trust" thrown around, but as much as I like Britannica, having them publish a report "proving" they are far superior to Wikipedia is a bit like Microsoft publishing a report "proving" that closed source is superior to open source. Whenever commercial interests are at stake, you should probably wait for confirmation from an unbiased source.
2006-03-23 09:18:04 AM  
I'm sure Brittanica is telling the truth here, afterall they have no financial intrest in this study.
2006-03-23 09:18:28 AM  
The truth is out. There is no truth.
Reality is only perception, and no one can accurately explain their perception of the world to someone else. Sure, we have some good models, such as mathematics, but the bulk of it all is shady.

Suck my balls, fundamentalists.
2006-03-23 09:22:22 AM  
Nature really has some explaining to do. This study was junk science about as reliable as the average wikipedia article Perhaps the greatest problem with Wikipedia is that it is biased and since nothing is set in stone ever variable. About the only thing Wikipedia is good for is getting insight into current cultural phenomena like the pages dedicated to the Family Guy or 24.
2006-03-23 09:24:23 AM  
Nature is a mainstream science mag. As such I think it is more interested in circulation than accuracy sometimes, and is willing to publish something "iffy" in order to be the first and generate controversy. There have been several controversial papers printed in Nature that would not have passed a more stringent peer review of other journals. Clearly this is another example of Nature generating a controversy to sell mags. Most of the articles in Nature are great science but every now an then something slips throught that shouldn't. That being said Nature does have a larger readership than the more essoteric journals and publication in Nature gives great exposure to your research.

I bet there is no definition of "Badonkadonk (pops)" in Britannica. Thus Wiki > Britannica in my book. Hell, if I want to understand something I go to a more detailed source than an encylopedia. Last time I opened a Britannica was in high school. Wiki is great for quick information on a topic for a Fark arguement (ie. something where it might be benificial to have a slanted view of the facts).
2006-03-23 09:28:47 AM  
Merovech You have lost your friggin mind. lollerz!
2006-03-23 09:29:59 AM  

I believe 'equating' is what submitter was looking for.

I can't believe I'm the first grammar nazi to raise the banner in this thread.
2006-03-23 09:30:17 AM  
I have only discovered how much more complete Wikipedia is than it was when it first started. I think it's an amazing thing considering nobody's making any money from it. It's too important to write off.
2006-03-23 09:33:50 AM  
I'd have to say you're being silly, they did not report such, they responded to Nature's comparative investigation. The funny part is that Nature, at least up to this point and probably beyond, has enjoyed in the scientific community a reputation of reliability and thoroughness, much like Britannica. The much needed reason for so strong a response from Britannica, is that Britannica themselves recognize the impact of Nature's point of view. Nature's history dictates credibility. When that credibility declares something, well, people are just more apt to accept it.

Did you RTFA?
2006-03-23 09:34:23 AM  
Encylopedia Britannica is an incredibly biased and unreliable source in it own right. For over 30 years their entry on "Israel" was written by 5 'middle-east scholars' that turned out to be 5 Lebanonese professors, which turned out to be PLO members, with at least one related to Arafat. As a result, their entry for Israel was obviously very biased. Would you have former Nazi's write the 'WWII' section?
2006-03-23 09:36:21 AM  
Wikipedia ... impossible to cite as contents may change

Go to any Wikipedia article that gets a decent amount of traffic, doesn't matter which. See that "history" tab up there? Click on it.

2006-03-23 09:40:15 AM  
Guy Necologist: "Wikipedians" (hate that name, BTW)

Wikipederast? Wikipedophile? Wiki-Wanker?

//second green
///had a funnier headline though
2006-03-23 09:45:02 AM  
In Encyclopedia Britannica description of the Six Day War of 1967 there is no mention of the Egyptian removal of UN troops, Egypt's illegal closing of the Straits of Tiran (an act of War by international law), the movement of 100,000 troops into Sinai (against previous UN agreements) or the huge mobs in Cairo whipped to a frenzy by Gamal Abdul Nasser with cries of "Death To The Jews". F*ck Britannica.
2006-03-23 09:45:06 AM  



I'm not sure I would have fessed up on this one.
2006-03-23 09:49:58 AM  
They're not the same thing, and they're not supposed to be. I would never go to Brittanica for help with PHP 5, and I would never go to Wikipedia for research on a scholarly article (well, I would, but I wouldn't cite it).
2006-03-23 09:51:36 AM  
I don't use encyclopedias.
2006-03-23 09:54:48 AM  

It's very easy to write nonsense in a fringe article almost noone will read, but then, the loss isn't so great either.

If Wikipedia purports to be an encyclopedia but boasts glaringly inaccurate information that goes unchecked, fringe articles or not (which are, in fact, the ones I'd be most likely to look up), I'd say that's a very great loss indeed. And make no mistake, Wikipedia does boast such terribly false information.

The whole idea is nifty on a philosophical level, but in practice naive and wrong-headed. As you rightly point out, Wikipedia is fine for quickly looking up something to get the general gist, but to rely on it for accurate information for anything remotely important is absurdly foolish. I'm glad it exists and have used it on occassion, but the people who tout it as some wonderful bastion of community and universal information threatening to create a new order of information gathering are the same kind of folks trying to get Thetans flushed out of their systems.
2006-03-23 09:56:44 AM  
I tried to look up Encyclopedia Britannica's entry in Wikipedia so I could verify ossarac's claims, but all I saw was "Wiki si teh suxxors. Br1tanicuh 4 evuh" repeated 20 times.

Oh, and Kar98, you made me laugh.

2006-03-23 09:56:57 AM  
I'm sure there's got to be a lot more stuff in Wikipedia for you to write in bold face about, ossarac
ZAZ [TotalFark]
2006-03-23 09:57:04 AM  
complete transparency on who contributed

An IP address is not very transparent.
2006-03-23 09:58:51 AM  
Leggat , yes, I did RTFA, but I also read Britannica's .PDF response to Nature. This source mentions

"As we have said, where reviewers found genuine inaccuracies in the Britannica, we corrected them..."

and yet the only examples they provide start with "We do not accept this criticism," "We do not accept the validity of this review," "We stand by the author," "We stand by the passage," and the like. Their claim would have been stronger had they demonstrated passages where they accept the criticism, accept the validity of the review, or question the Britannica author, and how they changed the article to correct the reported errors. They simply claim to have corrected some errors, but the closest I found was "The author of this article, Christopher Saint of the IBM West Coast Design Center, is willing to accept valid notices of inaccuracy in his article,but he simply disagrees with this criticism. We stand by this paragraph and our author."

It's quite possible that every objection they raised in their rebuttal was absolutely true -- and I would be surprised if they didn't check it out very thoroughly before releasing it, because Wikipedia would have a field day otherwise -- but the best lie is the truth partly told. There is a reason that you are supposed to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" in a court of law. By omitting examples of their mistakes and the corrections they performed -- or better yet, giving a comprehensive rebuttal/mea culpa for every point in the Nature article -- they show they are as interested in slanting the result as they claim Nature was in the original story.
2006-03-23 10:03:11 AM  
2006-03-23 10:04:28 AM  
bobbooty: This is just Britannica in CYA mode. Information wants to be free!

So the article about wikipedia not being so bad was reported by Nature News, the lay press side of Nature Publishing Group.

The article about britannica not being crap was reported by, surprise surprise, britannica itself, with vicious commentary added by the notoriously snarky Register, which, in case you're keeping score, also hates blogs and anything having to do with social networking.
2006-03-23 10:07:29 AM  
I just love Wikipedia for the cultural references. If you don't know what a photon torpedo is Britannica won't help, Wikipedia will.
2006-03-23 10:10:16 AM  
bubbaprog represents the sort of anti-Xenu folks I was talking about, willing to make any leap of faith necessary whether or not it flies in the face of objective truths.

And the objective truth is, the fact that Wikipedia's data can change at any moment doesn't only mean it can be kept up to date more easily that a traditional encyclopedia certainly a benefit it also means your cite today may be gone tomorrow; that the entry you look at now may be wrong, only to be right five minutes later, only to be wrong again two days later; and that I, right now, can change an entry to suit my purposes, whether it be winning an argument or proving a point or being temporarily "right" about something. Trusting the community at large to contribute information is one thing. Trusting that same community to provide the checks and balances needed for a credible source of information is quite another.

The Wiki model is wonderful for gathering a large amount of information together about unimportant topics. The extensive entries on totally worthless topics are strangely compelling, it allows a database of information to be built MUCH quicker than the previously possible, and all the fan fluff is certainly easier to navigate than fan pages. But again, those who try not only to justify Wikipedia as a legitimate encyclopedia, but to argue that its a more trustworthy source than a legitimate encyclopedia, are cut from the same cloth as those whove bought into Xenu the Galactic Overlord.
2006-03-23 10:12:34 AM  
When I read Britannica, I feel like I should be smoking a pipe.

When I read Wiki, I feel like I should be smoking a joint.

/that's really the difference
2006-03-23 10:13:00 AM  
Cowboy Neal: I believe 'equating' is what submitter was looking for.

Equating isn't a very appropriate word. "Comparing" would have been better. "Comparing the error rates of" would be even better.
2006-03-23 10:14:05 AM  
Oy, can I just say? Cosmo, Entertainment Weekly, and Time are magazines. Nature, Science and Cell are journals. Two entirely different things, and calling them "magazines" is just wrong.
2006-03-23 10:15:03 AM  
Well, I'm going to read the rest of that response myself. Wish I had the original Nature article. As someone who has lab work published, and is looking to co-publish in Nature later this year, I'd like the work to be taken as seriously as it would have a year ago today.

My above post mainly dealt with the idea of perception of intimacy. "If Nature says it, it must be True" But I totally agree with your stance on acknowledging fault. If what they were writing was science motivated, which it rightly was not, this would be more important.
Since it is more of a commercial interest, and Britannica has both the right and responsibility to defend that interest, the hard-ball stance they take is understandable, and expected.

Thanks for the unexpected reply, too. Polite discourse on fark? Just another sign of these troubled times...
2006-03-23 10:19:22 AM  
Guy Necologist

Fellow Wikipedian. I just hate the way removing garbage is an absolute and utter crime on the site. On article on "Simulacrum" I was working on was utter garbage, and labeled as such. I read through the material, researched the true meaning of the term, cleaned out the extraneous examples and trivia that went nowhere, and put together an article that was concise, well structured, and up to a professional writing standard.

People called for my account to be suspended.

No, really. I was accused to "throwing out information" among other quite nasty things. On another article on "the Ha Ha" guy, it took months of frustrating re-writes for the other chucklehead to acknoweldge that "Dry Plates" would probably never have been advertised widely in a newpaper. It was a lab process that was highly experimental, and photography only really took off after the development of film.

After my few experiences on Wikipedia, I think I've gotten it out of my system.
2006-03-23 10:21:23 AM  
Mr. Gunn
The article about britannica not being crap was reported by, surprise surprise, britannica itself, with vicious commentary added by the notoriously snarky Register, which, in case you're keeping score, also hates blogs and anything having to do with social networking.

Bless their souls.
2006-03-23 10:23:01 AM  
MisterBill: Equating isn't a very appropriate word. "Comparing" would have been better. "Comparing the error rates of" would be even better.

I think juxtaposing would be a better word.
2006-03-23 10:23:03 AM  
I contribute to the 'pedia from time to time, and think it's a worthy and awesome project. But I don't trust any information in it unless I see a hard external source I DO trust outlinking from the Wiki article.

"No original research" is one of the key axioms, and people tend to jump on that pretty fast when unsourced claims get put into articles. I look at it as more of a huge and awesome index, but if I can't get third-party verification, I take Wiki info with a head-sized grain of salt.
2006-03-23 10:25:04 AM  
After RTFA, this all seems to be nothing more than a difference of opinion. The article doesn't actually prove that Nature's article was "bogus", but that Brittanica suggests that it was.

And all that meandering it does at the end trying to link disparate sources of evidence, well, that's just stupid.

Oh, and Nature isn't a "magazine".
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