Saturday, August 4, 2012

Answering my random question

I recently asked whether there were more than a Britannica worth of Britannica-quality articles in Wikipedia.  Looking into it a bit, I'd have to generally agree with Earl that no, there aren't.

Britannica has about half a million articles (according to Wikipedia's page on Britannica).  English Wikipedia has about four million.  I would not say that one in eight Wikipedia articles is up to Britannica standards.

Granted, the famous Nature study of 2005 found that Wikipedia science articles are nearly as accurate as Britannica articles -- and that Britannica is far from flawless.  One can dispute the methodology and conclusions of that study, and Britannica did, but the overall conclusion seems at least plausible.

However, apart from science articles only being part of the picture, the writing in Wikipedia is uneven and full of Wikipedia tics.  Britannica, with full-time writers and editors, ought to be a bit better.  I tend to think this is where Wikipedia generally falls short. Factually, the two are comparable.  In style and organization, not so much.

Taking content and writing together, there are probably relatively few Britannica-quality articles in Wikipedia, but there are more than enough that are close enough.

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