29 December 2005

Wikipedia Pretty Accurate

According to a recent study of Science coverage in Wikipedia.
However, an expert-led investigation carried out by Nature — the first to use peer review to compare Wikipedia and Britannica's coverage of science — suggests that such high-profile examples are the exception rather than the rule.

The exercise revealed numerous errors in both encyclopaedias, but among 42 entries tested, the difference in accuracy was not particularly great: the average science entry in Wikipedia contained around four inaccuracies; Britannica, about three.

Wikipedia is growing fast. The encyclopaedia has added 3.7 million articles in 200 languages since it was founded in 2001. The English version has more than 45,000 registered users, and added about 1,500 new articles every day of October 2005. Wikipedia has become the 37th most visited website, according to Alexa, a web ranking service.

Due to its collaborative nature, Wikipedia will never offer a consistent written presentation of encyclopedic entries. The writing will vary vastly, in tone and in quality. But that doesn't mean on the whole, it is less accurate than an old fashioned dead tree compendium. In fact, I would point out that the millions of eyeballs and individual empowerment to create, add, update, (and delete) articles trumps the edicts of a lone editor or small annointed circle that refrain from expanding topics where controversy may erupt or plaster a sanitized Disneyesque theme across the board.

Yes, some fool can instantly commit an act of virtual grafitti, or purposefully deceive, either with serious intent or in the spirit of prankfulness. Again, the millions of eyeballs will laser in on an egregious offense if the topic has any relevance whatsoever. Just peruse all the pages on history, and if you take the time to review the meta material (i.e., history of updates, past versions, article "discussion"), it reveals far more than a dry, lifeless legacy encyclopedia article ever could. For example, this page on the USS Liberty incident that happened in 1967 — even with the stated mission of NPOV (neutral point of views), writers from all sides sqaure off, including survivors of the attack, who are able to add a perspective from thier own personal experience. Even just the reference links, pointing to books, news articles, other web sources of contrasting dispositions is invaluable, with no equivalent in any dead tree encyclopedia.

22 December 2005

This is for all the people who have been saying I ought to have a blog

The father of the World Wide Web starts his own blog.
In 1989 one of the main objectives of the WWW was to be a space for sharing information. It seemed evident that it should be a space in which anyone could be creative, to which anyone could contribute. The first browser was actually a browser/editor, which allowed one to edit any page, and save it back to the web if one had access rights.

Strangely enough, the web took off very much as a publishing medium, in which people edited offline. Bizarely, they were prepared to edit the funny angle brackets of HTML source, and didn't demand a what you see is what you get editor. WWW was soon full of lots of interesting stuff, but not a space for communal design, for discource through communal authorship.

Now in 2005, we have blogs and wikis, and the fact that they are so popular makes me feel I wasn't crazy to think people needed a creative space. In the mean time, I have had the luxury of having a web site which I have write access, and I've used tools like Amaya and Nvu which allow direct editing of web pages. With these, I haven't felt the urge to blog with blogging tools. Effectively my blog has been the Design Issues series of technical articles.

That said, it is nice to have a machine to the administrative work of handling the navigation bars and comment buttons and so on, and it is nice to edit in a mode in which you can to limited damage to the site. So I am going to try this blog thing using blog tools.