Subscribe to

Britannica tweaks the wiki

Britannica has announced that it’s going to enable some measure of reader participation in the extending of the online version of their encyclopedia. You can see the beta of the new site here.

The detailed overview of the planned site says:

two things we believe distinguish this effort from other projects of online collaboration are (1) the active involvement of the expert contributors with whom we already have relationships; and (2) the fact that all contributions to Encyclopaedia Britannica’s core content will continue to be checked and vetted by our expert editorial staff before they’re published.

Excellent! We needs lots of variations on the theme of collaboration. Editing adds value, as does expertise. They slow things down and reduce the ability to scale, but Wikipedia’s process makes it possible to read an article that’s been altered, if only for a minutes, by some devilish hand. It all depends on what you’re trying to do, and collectively we’re trying to do everything. So, this is good news from Britannica. It’ll be fascinating to watch.

To pick a nit, I’m not as convinced by Britannica’s insistence on objectivity as a value, however. The blog post says “we believe that the creation and documentation of knowledge is a collaborative process but not a democratic one.” It lists three positive consequences of this. The third is “objectivity, and it requires experts.” In a reference that makes you wish they’d at least once use the word “Wikipedia,” the post continues: “In contrast to our approach, democratic systems settle for something bland and less informative, what is sometimes termed a ‘neutral point of view.’” I think it would be reasonable for Britannica to tell us that an expert-based, edited system is likely to yield more articles that are more comprehensive, more uniform in quality, more accurate and more reliable. But haven’t we gotten past thinking that expertise yields objectivity?

Anyway, I think it’s amazing that the Britannica, in its 240th year, is taking this step. Britannica will be better for it, and so will we. [Tags: ]

6 Responses to “Britannica tweaks the wiki”

  1. on 11 Jun 2008 at 5:58 pmW Power

    It is interesting that Encyclopaedia Britannica has decided to follow in Wikipedia’s footsteps.

    Britannica never thought that an open source product like Wikipedia would seriously challenge the credibility of its brand. They were wrong and Encyclopaedia Britannica’s staff seriously misread the global market. They are now very concerned about the widespread use of a free Wikipedia vs their paid subscription model From a corporate perspective, Encyclopaedia Britannica is in serious trouble.

    It will be interesting to see if Encyclopaedia Britannica survives.
    It is the combination of a) the success of Wikipedia and b) improved search engines that has put financial pressure on Encyclopedia Britannica over recent years. Many libraries, schools & individuals are questioning the need to pay to subscribe to Encyclopaedia Britannica when the content is free on the internet, and often much more comprehensive.

  2. […] “We need lots of variations on the theme of collaboration. Editing adds value, as does expertise.” […]

  3. on 12 Jun 2008 at 12:44 amPeter

    I’m trying to make a wiki-like travelguide for backpackers, and it’s been tried like 20 times already with a straightforward wiki – none of them create travelguide content that seems good enough to actually travel with, backpack style, including wikitravel, which is the most popular.

    So I’m playing with structure (enter hostel information in a more structured way), which gives great possibilities in the UI, and with editing process (anyone can edit anything, but there are subtleties there that need to evolve, like editing for style, …).

    Anyways, yes, many possible systems of collaborative content creation :)

  4. on 10 Dec 2010 at 6:25 pmCheeplyelulge

    It may be hard to find webhosting is one of the most important things to use to think of when hosting a webpage. Do you guys have a facebook account?

  5. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit
    and sources back to your website? My blog site is in the very same niche as yours and my users would certainly benefit
    from some of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this
    okay with you. Thanks a lot!

    Feel free to surf to my homepage … crooked teeth

  6. on 10 Sep 2014 at 3:37 ami miss my ex boyfriend

    The monarchies sold monopoly rights in order to
    raise revenue. Things are bad for millions of people in this country right now.
    You do not have to attend to his concerns or compromise your own schedule when he feels like doing something spontaneous with you.

    Review my weblog; i miss my ex boyfriend