Best Bio of the Chief Justice – EB or Wikipedia?

There is quite a controversy raging over a Nature article comparing the accuracy of the online Wikipedia with the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

We posted the following comment about that to digg:

True, true. We agree with devinbunker that “you need to take everything you read with a grain of salt”. We have several encyclopaedias on CD-ROM including the EB, Encarta and the German Brockhaus and we have two full sets of the EBs in the print version. The EB is a great encyclopaedia and we use it regularly. However, we also use the Wikipedia regularly. We check the entries in ALL sources against other available alternative sources because no encyclopaedia entry is ever perfectly accurate. EB articles are written by experts in the field – who also have their personal prejudices, foibles and sources of error, just as Wikipedia authors do. Wikipedia authors may not be considered experts, but maybe they read several experts to find their information, rather than just one expert. In my opinion, what is involved here is not so much the issue of the accuracy of information, but rather the fact that information is a big business and traditional encyclopaedias are surely suffering from the Wikipedia boom. We are regularly contacted by people trying to sell encyclopaedias to us. A major reason for the popularity of the Wikipedia is that it is free, instantly available online and yet very comprehensive and in some respects much more up-to-date than traditional encyclopaedia offerings online or off. An example here would be the bio of the new US Supreme Court Justice Roberts at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_G._Roberts,_Jr. which finds no comparison among the standard encyclopaedias, either as to timeliness of entry nor as to the extent of coverage. The people at EB should stop complaining and improve their product, e.g. by offering alternate expert views on controversial scientific topics, etc., rather than just by presenting one version of some so-called expert’s idea of the truth. The EB’s major problem is that their information model is simply out-of-date and it is time to catch up if they want to survive.

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