Dear Mr. Fasoldt, Dear Ms Stagnitta,
I read your article in the Post-Standard "Librarian: Don't use Wikipedia
as source" at
where you wrote:
I was amazed at how little I knew about Wikipedia.
If you know of other supposedly authoritative Web
sites that are untrustworthy, send a note to
technology(a)syracuse.com and let me know about them.
Have you visited britannica.com?
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Information at britannica.com
can be edited by anyone who was given
permission from the company. It might be a PhD who hasn't done anything
else than writing about this specific topic. It might be someone else
who feels competent. You never know.
Selassie" with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haile_Selassie
At wikipedia, you can see a) who wrote b) when c) which part of the
text, who changed it, who altered the order who removed parts.
The authors, such as David Parker can be emailed or asked for
clearification in doubt.
You and Susan Stagnitta are perfectly right to advise people never to
"trust" unreliable sources but I can't see a difference in this case
between a "black box" company and a group of academics and skilled
laymen who make the process of encyclopedic writing transparent.
Several wikipedians have created a document called "Making fun of
which contains a list of "errors" (in a broader sense). This does not
change the level of trust towards Britannica.
If you spot a mistake in Britannica, what are the consequences? If it
was in a book, there is no chance to correct it and the risk might be
that a student relies on wrong information. She/He will not be able to
get a refund from Britannica or even a discount on the new and
(hopefully) corrected version.
Ms. Stagnitta said "Anyone can change the content of an article in the
Wikipedia, and there is no editorial review of the content." Even if the
first part of that sentence is correct, the second part does not
describe the reality.
Just have a look at the procedures at
might be hard to get used to the fact that editorial review might be
ad-hoc or it might be a constant effort. If an article was found fit for
being a "Featured article", the process of improving that article does
I would like you to encourage you to ask Britannica if they feel that
their content is "authoritative" in a sense that they will guarantee any
given fact in their Encyclopedia. Ask them if they are able to attribute
every sense to a specific author who can be contacted. Ask them if they
will make their decision transparent, which lemma does get into the EB
and which lemma does not get into it.
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