[Wikipedia-l] Wikipedia v. Britannica

Delirium delirium at rufus.d2g.com
Mon Aug 18 19:34:35 UTC 2003

Jimmy Wales wrote:

>I ask because I continue to work on a plan for a drive to Wikipedia
>1.0, and a big part of that plan involves getting a realistic
>assessment of what a Wikipedia 1.0 will look like, relative to
>If I end up setting a 'target date' for Wikipedia 1.0 of 1 year in the
>future, what might we realistically expect to achieve?  What if I set
>the 'target date' for 2 years in the future?
 From this and another of your posts that suggested 'retail' (or was 
that someone else's post?) am I right in inferring that WP1.0 is 
something along the lines of the "Sifter" project that was proposed 
earlier?  Or is it instead just a marker for the current Wikipedia?  The 
latter would seem unsuited to freezing as a 1.0 though -- you wouldn't 
want to ever publish a print encyclopedia that contained even one 
article whose entire contents are "dskafldsafkjhdanz" or "i like ham", 
and the live Wikipedia invariably has a few of these.  You wouldn't even 
really want to put that sort of thing on a CD-ROM.  You wouldn't want to 
put blatantly factually incorrect information on a CD-ROM either, which 
is a bit of a problem (I've found plenty of Wikipedia articles with 
wrong dates and such).

Part of the advantage of Britannica is that you can be reasonably sure 
that when you read an article that states a fact, that fact is correct, 
or at least at the time of publication was believed to be correct by the 
experts in the field (no one can account for future discoveries, of 
course).  If it is intended to rival Britannica, WP1.0 will have to have 
a similar level of reliability -- when it says someone was born on 
January 7, 1845, they better have actually been born on that date -- 
not, say, January 7, 1854.  And when something is mentioned as a 
mainstream physics topic, it had better actually be one, not a fringe 

This is really what I see as the major obstacle in rivalling Britannica 
-- the sheer amount of information is a problem that will fix itself 
given some time.  But to have *reliable* information is more difficult.  
Right now I use Wikipedia as a way to find out about topics I didn't 
know about, but not as an authoritative source -- I always check 
everything of importance (whether factual information or discussion of, 
say, philosophical topics) with another encyclopedia or a book before 
taking it as true.  This is somewhat diminished on major articles -- I 
can be reasonably sure that the WW2 article is accurate, as it is 
high-profile enough and has enough people reading it.  But for the 
articles on less high-profile topics, I'm not nearly as confident.


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