According to John Graham-Cumming, Wikipedia is a better resource for
researchers than Britannica.
writing The Geek Atlas I used both Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia for
research. It quickly became obvious that Wikipedia trumps Britannica.
While researching the history of places appearing in my book, The Geek
I used a lot of different resources.
But the most useful resource was Wikipedia <http://wikipedia.org/>.
At the start of writing the book I bought myself a subscription toEncyclopedia
Britannica <http://www.britannica.com/> because I was worried that Wikipedia
might be inaccurate.
What I discovered was that Wikipedia trumps Britanncia all the time because
its articles are in more depth and provide better references. And the site
design means that Wikipedia is easily navigable and focuses on the content,
whereas Britannica’s site assaults the eyes with distractions.
Initially, I’d find myself double-checking facts on Wikipedia by looking in
Britannica. I’d read that
on September 5, 1906 on Wikipedia and jump to Britannica to check the
After weeks of doing this I realized that Britannica wasn’t helping. Any
errors I found on Wikipedia were because I was reading original source
material (see for example this
And more often than not I was finding original source material via
Wikipedia. Because Wikipedia has a
linking to reliable sources it turned out to be a wonderful starting point
Britannica, on the other hand, appears to view its role as being the
reliable source. Because it is edited and managed, part of its brand is
reliability. This leads to a sort of self-sufficiency which contrasts with
Wikipedia’s need to prove its reliability constantly.
The beauty of being forced to prove reliability is the wealth of third-party
links provided by Wikipedia. For example, when reading about the Miller-Urey
Experiment <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller%E2%80%93Urey_experiment> you’ll
find a link to Miller’s 1953
If you search for “Miller Urey Experiment” on Britannica the best you’ll
find is a short (248 words) article about Stanley Miller that mentions the
experiment. There are no links to external web sites concerning the
experiment, and no references to material such as academic papers.
So Wikipedia’s supposed ‘unreliability’ actually plays to enhance its
reliability and usefulness because it’s forced to continuously declare where
a particular fact was found. At the same time Britannica is a walled garden
After a few weeks I canceled my Britannica subscription and worked solely
with Wikipedia as a starting point for research. I never relied on Wikipedia
as the sole source of information, but it was always a marvelous spring
board to get me started.
The richness of Wikipedia trumped the hallowed reliability of Britannica.
(Crossposted to wikien and foundation:)
Some points about IPA on all language wikis.
1) As a rule, all language wikis should use International Phonetic
Alphabet as their standard pronunciation scheme. Very few appear to
2) All language wikis should attempt to use IPA to pronounce the
endonym of a foreign word, not the exonymic re-pronunciation (ie. Iraq
= /iːˈrɑːk/ not /ɪˈræk/).
3) With rare exceptions, IPA should be the default phonemic
transcription scheme, and
alternate schemes such as [[Wikipedia:Pronunciation respelling key]]
should be avoided or deprecated.
4) Feedback from languages about IPA should be useful. IPA is actually
quite flexible about exactness, while still being phonetically
precise. If there are flaws in IPA itself, the Wikipedia community can
help raise them for the Internation Phonetic Association.
5) Ambiguity about how it is supposed to be used is a cross-project
issue should be dealt with at the Foundation level (ie. global not
just inter-wiki policy).