Business - Written by Jeff DeChambeau on Monday, June 9, 2008 17:26 - 2 Comments
Wikipedia tells me that “there is no page titled ‘frozen hell’”
Indeed, under the new Britannica scheme those who wish to contribute will need to create a profile outlining their qualifications and expertise in the area they are commentating on. They will then be able to add comments to encyclopaedia entries, or write their own. This content will then be reviewed by the expert editors of the site, and if any of it is deemed worthy of inclusion, added to the main article with a credit.
I’ve certainly got an intuition as to which articles will be ‘commented on’ first. While this seems like a sensible move for Britannica, it will be very easy to paint them as hypocrites given how critical they have been of Wikipedia in the past. People want to be engaged, so I think that Britannica’s real challenge will be fine tuning the process: submitting a comment or revision, only to have it disappear into a bureaucratic black hole is not a good way to encourage participation and engagement. At the same time, editorial standards are important to keep useless content to a minimum.
Maybe there’s some nice middle-ground?
Take a look at the Linux kernel, wherein distributions have stable and unstable releases. Normal users use the stable releases, and enthusiasts use the unstable releases. Maybe the ideal encyclopedic-middle-ground (which I don’t exactly expect from either Britannica or Wikipedia) would use a similar approach: users can update pages on the ‘unstable-edition’ site, but for content to make it’s way to the more public facing ‘stable-edition’ site, it has to be vetted for by experts.
But I’m getting off topic… I think that this move by Britannica is, at the very least, a concession that while the facts may well be set in stone, the way we go about presenting them isn’t. That’s good news. If the Encyclopedia industry is waking up to the new world of Wikinomics, I only hope that other industries aren’t far behind.
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