One interesting week news is that Pluto isn’t a planet anymore. It is now called Dwarf Planet. But what it have to do with technology? Well, while in Wikipedia, the article of the ex-planet was modified some hours after the official announcement made by IAU, normal school books will only be updated just in… 2008.
The power of contribution:
For those who don’t know, Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, where people contribute with information. The essence of it is the interaction between users and their contributions, for making all content. In a regular encyclopedia, each article is submitted to some famous specialists for then defining if it will be published or not. In Wikipedia any one can modify articles. Apparently this could cause the chaos, but the fact of thousands of people interacting and making feedback, lead the content, if not correct, very close to this.
The aggregated knowledge of each one who contributes with articles makes it a virtual encyclopedias as good (or better) as the printed ones. The Nature Magazine made a study which detected an average of 4 mistakes for each wikipedia’s article, against 3 in Encyclopaedia Britannica. With a differential, after the mistakes are find, the online community corrected them, while in Britannica, it may take several months or even years.
Books are dead?
No, not yet. Books still make an important role in the modern world, where information is everything and everywhere. The big problem is to find the information when needed. Some online stores as Amazon have an advanced system to find words inside books, and Google have a running project to digitalizes books, making easier to find information on its inner for everyone. That forgotten book with the information you are looking for wont be left on the dusty bookshelf anymore. But even with this digitalizing process, the information of the change of Pluto into Dwarf Planet won’t be updated.
Click here if you want to take a look of the updated Pluto’s article at wikipedia.
Hi Daniel. I’d like to correct a few misconceptions in this post. You did know that Britannica has a number of digitial products, didn’t you?
1) You suggest Britannica’s article on Pluto hasn’t been updated. In fact (like Wikipedia) Britannica’s database was updated within hours of the IAU announcement.
(Due to the policy described at http://www.britannica.com/webmaster, you can read that entire article for free.)
2) You suggest that the errors discovered in Nature’s review were not corrected in Britannica. In fact, Britannica addressed all legitimate issues cited in Nature’s study in about 6 weeks. Wikipedia was updated in about the same amount of time, but not faster. The difference is that while Wikipedians brag about the speed with which those updates occurred, at Britannica we don’t think theyhappened fast enough.
3) For the record, the Nature article (not, but the way, a scientific or peer-reviewed study), suffered from a number of methodological flaws, such sending a reviewer a 350 word introduction to a 6500 word EB article, who then cited the Britannica article for omitting key information. See http://corporate.britannica.com/britannica_nature_response.pdf for a detailed review of the Nature article.
Good to know this facts. But the main thing is that books take way longer to be updated.