Encarta elaborates

Encarta makes subtle digs at Wikipedia

Encarta blog writers denigrate fully-editable philosophy

Last week, Microsoft's Encarta encyclopaedia announced that it was to allow users to make suggestions for article improvements (see archived story). It made the announcement with a nod to Wikipedia with the comment on the 'editing help' pages that Encarta is not like "open-content encyclopedias found elsewhere on the Web".

The news was not universally well-received, and many people were critical of the fact that Microsoft was only proposing to allow suggestions about existing articles, excluding ideas for new articles. On the Encarta blog Archived 2005-04-09 at the Wayback Machine, Encarta editor David Hirning elaborated on this point. "We don’t want our users to spend time crafting an article for Encarta that we ultimately decide doesn’t meet our standard for reference material", he said. "Encarta is not just a pell-mell conglomeration of information and random bits of trivia".

Making subtle digs at Wikipedia, he said "you won’t find articles on each of Ashlee Simpson's teeth in Encarta". Wikipedia's articles on the US pop singer have been causing controversy for some time, with Everyking creating a flurry of articles about the singer, her album, songs and tours, many of which have subsequently been listed on votes for deletion. Everyking is currently subject to an arbitration committee ruling preventing him from editing articles related to Simpson.

German Wikipedian posts challenging questions

Mathias Schindler from the German Wikipedia responded to Hirning's blog post with some pointed questions. "So, basically, your point is 'We don't offer anything special for wishes for new articles. Just do it the usual way and we may listen to you - or not.', right? There will be no way to provide a list of high-ranked wishes for new articles (which may or may not fall into your or your employer's definition of 'encyclopedia'), right? There will be no way to see if a wish for a new article on a certain subject has already been rejected, right?", he asked. At the time of writing there has been no response.

Schindler has been posting to his own blog on MSN space [1] Archived 2005-04-20 at the Wayback Machine. Among other things, he has been criticising the restrictive license applied by Encarta to contributions, which means that contributors from the public would not have the right to reproduce their contributions anywhere else, if they were incorporated into the encyclopaedia.

Microsoft invite Jimmy Wales to speak to them

Interestingly, Jimbo Wales reported to the Wikipedia mailing list that Microsoft had invited him to give a talk at Redmond, Washington [2]. Wales said that he would try to also give a talk at the University of Washington Information School, from which Encarta has employed graduate students to work as fact-checkers, to find out what their experience of the new system was. No date has yet been set for the talks.

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