Saturday, March 24, 2007

Hype doesn't help

You know I love Web 2.0 and all that, but the hype gets out of hand now and then.

In celebrating the "wisdom of crowds," this recent reference to Wikipedia says, "Thousands of Wikipedia users have created an encyclopedia that studies have shown is as accurate as traditional volumes like Britannica."

Now, I use Wikipedia as a source quite frequently, but this much cited study certainly did not find it as accurate as the professional encyclopedia.

The study in question was in the highly respected journal Nature; while it was generally impressed with accuracy in the open source Wikipedia, the review found 162 errors in Wikipedia and 123 in Britannica. In fact, Wikipedia is only 75% as accurate as Britannica.

What the article in Nature actually said was "the average science entry in Wikipedia contained around four inaccuracies; Britannica, about three."

So where the Wikipedia makes 1,000 errors, Britannica makes only 750. That's not "as accurate as." That's a huge difference.

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