Shostack + Friends Blog Archive



Over at Freedom To Tinker, Ed Felten writes about the Wikipedia quality debate.
He takes a sampling of six entries where he’s competent to judge their quality, and assesses them. Two were excellent, one was slightly inaccurate, two were more in depth, but perhaps less accessible than a standard encyclopedia, and one (on the US Microsoft anti-trust case) was error-prone.
Ed writes: “Until I read the Microsoft-case page, I was ready to declare Wikipedia a clear success.” However, I think his experiment is only one-third to one-half done. I think that Ed ought to look up the same 6 entries in another encyclopedia or two, and report back. I’d suggest the Britannica, which is usually considered the gold standard, and perhaps Microsoft’s Encarta [link to no longer works], which may be the most widely used.
I can’t do this experiment the way Ed can, because firstly, I don’t have an EB account, and second, because I don’t know all the topics to the depth he does. I could pretend, and perhaps miss errors that he’d catch, or sample six other articles, and perhaps I will over the weekend.

3 comments on "Wikipedia"

  • Ed Felten says:

    Good suggestion! It turns out that I have access Britannica Online, so I can do the comparison you suggest. See Freedom to Tinker on Monday or Tuesday for the result.

  • adam says:

    Glad you like my suggestion!
    I have some hypothesis about what you might see, and will post them later. To prevent me from changing them:
    % openssl sha1 encyclopedia-hypothesis.html
    SHA1(encyclopedia-hypothesis.html)= ef20745d47bc0f6afa12b1d399ef87e262ad1c18

  • Wikipedia vs. Britannica Smackdown

    On Friday I wrote about my spot-check of the accuracy of Wikipedia, in which I checked Wikipedia’s entries for six topics I knew well. I was generally impressed, except for one entry that went badly wrong. Adam Shostack pointed out, correctly, that I h…

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