Sunday, December 18, 2005

 

Wikipedia

I've certainly heard of Wikipedia, but I hadn't visited there until a couple of days ago. I was prompted to visit that site after reading about an article from the journal Nature that compared the accuracy of the Encyclopedia Britannica to Wikipedia. According to that article 42 entries from both Britannica and Wikipedia were sent to relevant experts, who found an average of 3 inaccuracies per entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica entries, and only 4 per entry in Wikipedia. I think that's really impressive.

With the results of that study in mind I visited Wikipedia to check out a few entries on geology. I started with the San Andreas Fault, which was generally well-written, and I was very surprised to see a link in that article to an entry about the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD). For the non geology geek SAFOD is a very new project that involves drilling a hole across an active part of the San Andreas Fault at a depth of around 3 km. The second phase of drilling was only completed late this summer, so I was really surprised to see it mentioned on Wikipedia at all, and again the article was pretty good (and naturally better after a bit of editing on my part). SAFOD isn't mentioned at all in the online Encyclopedia Britannica (at least in entries that can be viewed for free - there is one hit on "SAFOD" in something in the members only section, but not being a member I don't have access).

So, I'm favorably impressed with Wikipedia for 4 reasons:

1) I'm impressed with their accuracy relative to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
2) I'm impressed with the breadth of material on Wikipedia.
3) I'm impressed with the speed/responsiveness of Wikipedia.
4) Wikipedia is free.

I'm going to start contributing to Wikipedia. I think it has a lot of potential.

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