Thursday, August 31, 2006

Wiki-Brittanica

So, here's a thought… (copyright Sean Brin – maybe its about a time you write something there :) I just got out of the class I am TAing on Human Computer Interaction. During the lecture, Dan, mentioned that one of the great advantages of Wikipedia is that it instantly releases material and updates; something that can hardly done by Britannica in a paper version. And I was thinking…

Britannica does have a website, so technically it could somehow adapt to the dynamics, and there is an ongoing struggle between it and Wikipedia over the online dominance (well, actually the battle has gone well beyond the borders of the cyberspace). In the last year or more, Wikipedia has been criticized for being inaccurate and mediocre, particularly compared to the established encyclopedias. Although I do favor Wikipedia's model and philosophy, today's lecture made me think that Britannica could actually have an upper hand in this online battle if it would open its mind to some new models. Thus for example I think there is place for a Wiki-Britannica: something that will have the core of Britannica content with ability for people to add and edit it. In ideal world this would be based on interaction between Britannica people and the community of Wikipedia editors, thus (hopefully) leading towards better quality, more rigorously researched, and yet more diverse and culturally sensitive content.

Here are also many questions of course. For example the question of business model arises. Today, in order to use Britannica, you have to pay, and this money is probably used to do that research the encyclopedia is so proud of. What will happen if the content will become free and dynamic online? Should all the content become free? Besides, will Britannica's content gain from a real interaction with people who care? Will the spirit of Wiki community remain if it starts interacting with an institutionalized entity such as Britannica? I don't know… but I like the idea, particularly in light of the recent changes Wikipedia had in the way the community is managed. Perhaps this is the time to consider new models for both sides of the spectrum…

1 comment:

picture_frame said...

It's in hebrew, but i think it's related to the subject:
http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3300880,00.html