MacUser reviews Britannica vs Wikipedia
Last week, MacUser, a biweekly Macintosh and Apple magazine in the UK, published a three-page review by Steve Caplin entitled "Encyclopedia Britannica vs Wikipedia", specifically pitting the free encyclopedia anyone can edit against the 2011 DVD edition of Britannica for the Macintosh (£39.99) along with the annual website subscription (£49.95). While the comparison was not systematic, it touched on a number of key areas. Firstly, it reported that the usability of Wikipedia trumps that of Britannica—Wikipedia's fast loading times were praised, as was its design, which was described as "clean, informative, and apart from the small logo, entirely devoid of visual clutter". By comparison, wrote Caplin, the process of searching Britannica "is a little slow" and there are technical issues with switching between the search field and the results.
Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister of the UK
To test how well Britannica keeps up with current affairs, Caplin tested the article on Nick Clegg. He noted that the 2011 DVD edition of Britannica fails to mention that Clegg became Deputy Prime Minister in May 2010, although the online version is slightly more up-to-date. The online version, though, lacks the detail of its 7,500-word counterpart article on Wikipedia and has only one image, compared to the seven on Wikipedia and the 30 more the review states are on Commons (in fact, Nick Clegg's category on Commons has 44 files at the time of writing, although a few are not of Clegg). On the other hand, Wikipedia is not reviewed quite so favourably for the article on radiocarbon dating, which the review says has "a severe case of information overload" compared with Britannica's 640-word article, which is "concise, comprehensible and memorable". Fascism, the article notes, is only 12,260 words on Wikipedia, while Britannica's is 16,500 words (although this may be because further details on Wikipedia are tucked away in subsidiary articles and hatnoted).
The issue of Wikipedia's focus on pop culture and its skew towards recentism and possible systemic bias are raised, noting that Wikipedia has a comprehensive article on the footballer Ryan Giggs (and the superinjunction controversies—as covered by The Signpost on March 23)—as well as coverage of pop culture topics like Dexter, Avatar and Chatroulette. Such topics have no articles in Britannica. Wikipedia's coverage of science fiction (and, indeed, a vast array of "arcane trivia") dwarfs Britannica: Doctor Who in Britannica returns 283 words to Wikipedia's 12,500.
The article concludes that Britannica does better in "conciseness and accuracy", but Wikipedia scores very well despite covering pop culture in too much detail.
Putin receives the same award as Wikipedia
News that Vladimir Putin is set to be awarded the German-based Quadriga Award, which is "dedicated to all of those whose courage tears down walls and whose commitment builds bridges" (source), featured prominently in the German media this week. This is the same award Wikipedia received in 2008. At the time, Wikipedia was represented by Jimmy Wales, although he has forwarded it to Wikimedia Germany.
The decision of the Quadriga committee to award the prize to the former Russian president has received criticism from both the German media and Wikipedians unhappy that Wikipedia's contribution to global liberty has been put on a par with Putin, who many in the west consider responsible for a number of human rights violations in Russia. For this reason, some of them have called for a return and rejection of the Quadriga Award that Wikimedia Germany received in 2008.
Jimmy Wales is listed as a Quadriga Board member, which led some media, including the Austrian Der Standard and German Berliner Morgenpost newspapers, and television station n-tv, to believe that he did not vote against Putin. In fact, Wales has since clarified that he had nothing to do with the award, was not consulted, and states that he would not have voted in favour of giving Putin any award. Meanwhile, discussions about returning the award continue.
Questions raised over Johann Hari edits
Johann Hari (born 21 January 1979) is a British writer and columnist for The Independent. An editor operating from the username David r from meth productions has, for quite a few years, been editing Wikipedia articles on Hari and on topics related to Hari including other journalists like Cristina Odone, Francis Wheen, Andrew Roberts, Niall Ferguson and Spectator writer Nick Cohen. The effect of the edits were to make Hari "seem one of the essential writers of our times" according to Cohen, who goes further in his 'Diary' piece for The Spectator this week, alleging that Hari is involved in a case of either anonymous sock puppeting or meatpuppeting.
David Allen Green, the legal correspondent for the New Statesman, investigated further and published an entry on his personal blog, Jack of Kent, entitled Who is David Rose?. Green traces User:David r from meth productions from Wikipedia over to SourceWatch, a wiki maintained by the Center for Media and Democracy, where a user called 'DaveR' had made edits primarily to the article and talk page on Johann Hari. At one point the DaveR user fails to login and uses an IP address which is traced to The Independent—184.108.40.206. Green goes on to state that what we know of the 'Dave R' character from various blog comments and wiki edits is that he is called David Rose, who claims to have gone to university with Hari and who also has an email address which was apparently used to publish a pornographic story.
The story was also covered in the The Telegraph's Holy Smoke blog by Damian Thompson under the headline Johann Hari, Wikipedia and a porn site: an extraordinary new development. The Telegraph also had a post from Cristina Odone on the topic. On Wikipedia, the story was mentioned on ANI, the BLP noticeboard, the Administrator's Noticeboard and the Conflict of Interest noticeboard.
- Kul Wadhwa in Ireland: The Head of Business Development at the Wikimedia Foundation, Kul Wadhwa, was interviewed for the Irish Times this week. In the interview, which focused on the growth of social media, Wadhwa was positive about the prospects for sites which allow interaction, including Wikipedia. "I think you've kind of just scratched the surface on a lot of ways people are going to interact... people want to connect". Wadhwa was also quoted as being particularly excited about a new "collaborative education project".
- Konkani language "going places": DailyBhaskar.com, a news website serving India, covered the impact that Wikimedia's effort to open up the Konkani language to the web is having on the language, currently spoken by some 3.6 million people centred on the west of the country (based on an article by Daily News and Analysis). In particular, the article highlights the presence of discussions about the language, which is written in different scripts in different regions, on the agenda for this August's Wikimania. A Konkani Wikipedia is currently being incubated.
- More coverage of 'philosophy' trend: This week, The Guardian ran a short article covering a trick that has been floating around the Internet for a while: "Start at any Wikipedia page, then click the first link (ignoring any that are italicised or nestled in brackets), then repeat. For more than 93% of articles, you will end up at philosophy" (). For more about 'getting to philosophy', see previous Signpost coverage.
- Greek "I participate in Wikipedia" campaign: The general coordinator of the government-supported Greek "I participate in Wikipedia" campaign was interviewed on the University of Amsterdam's "Masters of Media" group blog (by graduate student Ilektra Pavlaki who had blogged there earlier about her encounters with Greek Wikipedians, see Signpost coverage).
- "Bigipedia" spoof of Wikipedia resumes: A second series of Bigipedia, a BBC comedy radio show parodying Wikipedia, will start tomorrow. (See the Signpost review of the first season, which aired in 2009)