Monday, March 23, 2009

Is Encylopedia Britannica a Wikipedia Wannabe?

Do you think Encyclopedia Britannica can do what Wikipedia has done? I guess they are going to try, but I admit, I am a bit skeptical. When I first skimmed over a post in the AppScout blog, I was intrigued, even a little excited. I thought this was a great idea, for EB to adapt to a new way of learning and free information – very altruistic of them, in fact. But, then, I started to think about it and read some of the comments made on the post, especially the ones made by Tom from Britannica. I love that there is always another side to “things.” And, there is absolutely another side to this thing.

From what I can understand EB has created an online version to which users/readers can contribute. When folks make contributions, the EB staff will review that information and, I guess, regurgitate it online. Essentially, you submit what you have to offer, and they decide if it is worthy and correct – they edit it. At least I think I get the process, according to Tom from Britannica. Again, it sounds great to me at first, but the more I think about it, I’m a little disappointed by what they are offering. If I feel I am expert enough to contribute to a page or topic, do I really want them editing my contribution? What if they missed my point? Will they ask ME if what they are publishing is in line with my thoughts – true? How is this really a contribution from me if they make all the decisions?

And another thing . . . I don’t believe EB is free. That’s not very “Wikipedia like.” What’s wrong with EB just being EB? How financially necessary is it for them to compete with Wikipedia? Hang on . . . Who thinks it is totally bizarre that I am suggesting Encyclopedia Britannica is competing with Wikispaces out of financial desperation?

So, what do you think? Will EB’s answer to Wikispaces keep them relevant?

Just sayin’
Lee Anne

1 comment:

Dana Sterling said...

I think Britannica was completely blindsided by the success of Wikipedia. I think they, like all types of content providers who are used to charging big bucks for what they publish, are struggling to remain profitable in this era of free information on the web.

What we've traded away for all this free access, of course, is verifiability and the professional gatekeepers that used to control content, like editors and journalists.

Wikipedia and other places in the Web 2.0 world are developing new, bottom-up ways of verifying the information they provide and making it reliable and high-quality, but as a former journalist this part of the issue is really interesting to me and it's hard to find people who are talking about it meaningfully instead of bemoaning the changes.

Check out Clay Shirky's blog on my links list if you haven't already. He writes about the impact of free information. Wired magazine also has done a good job of covering this.