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In the media this week

Encarta pseudo-wiki debate continues

Discussion has continued this week about Encarta's recent announcement of a facility by which users can suggest additions and revisions to articles (see last week's story). Search engine website described the idea as "Wikipedia for wimps", and said that "Unlike Wikipedia's quasi-hippie vision of the Internet as a collaborative medium...for Microsoft it's all about the cost savings" [1]. The cost saving point was also noted by CNN [2], who noted that the extra cost involved in hiring fact checkers was offset by Microsoft's expectation that people would be offering their expert advice for free.

Microsoft's Encarta blog [3] Archived 2005-04-24 at the Wayback Machine saw further comment from users, who were generally unconvinced by what Encarta was offering. A couple of people said they had made suggestions: one to "an article that I have been trying to get encarta to correct for a couple years", and another to Encarta's entry on Karate, aimed at "fixing some of the most glaring problems". In response to a question from a Microsoft employee asking what would make people use the editing facilities, another user responded "Actually citing who's written the article, and a history of how it's been changed by in-house Encarta editors, would help. As it stands, with the articles completely uncited, Encarta possibly suffers from greater credibility problems than Wikipedia." [4][permanent dead link].

Goverments should be more like wikis, suggests think tank

British think tank Demos this week published a paper looking at open source software, which included extensive analysis of Wikipedia, and why Wikipedia and Linux in particular are such successful examples of projects based on open source principles. The paper analysed the factors which make open source projects successful, and then suggested possible new applications for open source principles, including making laws open to public scrutiny during their drafting stages and setting up open learning collaborations.

The Guardian reported on the publication, and emphasised the possible applications of collaborative software in government [5]. The paper speculated that lawmaking might eventually evolve to the stage where parliament is obliged to consider contributions made by an open system, but says that entirely open Wikipedia-style drafting may not be appropriate, and suggests that contributions could be categorised into those by academics, judges, politicians and others.

Wikis to supersede newspapers?

The rise of the new media and decline of the old raised comment this week, as Rupert Murdoch said that newspapers were often out of touch with their readers. The Economist reported that the media mogul had said that news outlets should become more interactive, and looked at phenomena such as blogs and wikis [6] which enabled dialogue and collaboration on the Internet. Considering Wikipedia, the magazine said that while wikis might be expected to be "a recipe for anarchic chaos", Wikipedia was "growing dramatically richer by the day".

Meanwhile, Archived 2009-08-09 at the Wayback Machine noticed via a circuitous route that Wikipedia has now overtaken the New York Times on the Alexa traffic rankings. A graph uploaded to Flickr by Fuzheado shows the relative traffic of the two sites [7], and Geoffrey Mack of chanced across the graph while searching for Alexa on TagCentral, which he had found via Writing on the Alexa blog, Mack wondered if the new media would eventually become like the old, and if the "fun and interesting" sites like Wikipedia would ever start charging for their content, but said that for the moment they were "making the Internet exciting again, like the early days".

It's not all onward and upward progress for the new media though: Wired News this week took a look at some of the teething problems faced by Wikipedia's sister project Wikinews. While the project is gaining new users faster than Wikipedia at the moment, according to the article, some commentators suggested that at the moment it quotes from other news sources too frequently. "After seeing the third quote that is attributed to AP, I'm going to probably click through and read the AP article", said one media observer.


Among the news outlets citing Wikipedia articles this week are the LA Times using Wikipedia as source for an article on the papal inauguration [8]; ABC News suggesting its readers come to Wikipedia for more information about virtual reality [9]; Indian financial paper Business Standard quoting from the article on Application Service Providers [10]; and the Cincinnati Post pointing readers to Hoosiers in an article about 'underdog' films [11].

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