The article on Wikipedia replacing Encyclopedia Britannica was shocking to me. As a senior at Rutgers I remember the days when I would have to look up information in the encyclopedia for papers and those times at the library learning to use card catalogues (I don’t even know if libraries still have card catalogues). This is one of the reasons it’s so difficult for me to imagine a world without the printed Encyclopedia Britannica’s.
I have to admit, ever since high school I’ve used Wikipedia. Not for classes or papers, but sometimes just during everyday conversation it’s so convenient to be able to look up random facts when you come across a piece of information you’re not aware of. Also, when I’m bored I sometimes go on the Wikipedia site and hit random page just to give me something to read. I find it interesting though that I so often do research on my own in Wikipedia, yet when I had the chance to just take an encyclopedia off my shelf and read I would never do this. I wonder if maybe this is a result of growing up in the technological age that I prefer Googling information or looking it up on Wikipedia rather than looking in a book. I wonder if anyone else has realized this about themselves, that they find it more entertaining or interesting to look up information on line rather than spend time flipping through the pages of a book.
It’s interesting to me that if Encyclopedia Britannica had to stop printing because of the popularity of Wikipedia, does that mean that Wikipedia can be used as a legitimate source? As many students probably know, professors, high school teachers, and many reputable researchers are unable to use Wikipedia as a reference for research because of it’s inaccurate history (and the ability for anyone on the internet to comment on the page). However, I was very interested in the piece of the article that states that Wikipedia is 98% as accurate as college textbooks! My first impression was that Wikipedia’s accuracy must have greatly increased, but after our discussion in class about the inaccuracies often found in college textbooks I had to reconsider this statement. I never realized how biased college textbooks can be (especially history and English textbooks) and how many typos are found within college textbooks.
For the accuracy of Wikipedia I did some more research and found that a lot of Wikipedia research is being funded by Google and other foundations. Also, I found a news result on Google that discussed how Wikipedia is making efforts to synchronize it’s facts among all languages and have Wikipedia itself (not the editors) create its own charts and graphs to go along with data in order to stay as up to date as possible with the newest information. I thought this was extremely interesting not just because the title was “Teaching Wikipedia to Write Itself” (I temporarily had a Terminator moment where the machines took over), but also because it truly shows the efforts of the internet to provide up-to-date and accurate information to the masses.
Overall, while I’m sad to see the Encyclopedia Britannica go, I am excited to see the new advances being made in technology. Hopefully one day soon Wikipedia will meet everyone’s expectations and be able to be considered a reputable source for referencing in papers and other works!