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Encyclopaedia Britannica dips toe in Wiki waters

By Stuart Turton

Posted on 9 Jun 2008 at 12:21

The encyclopaedia Britannica website is rolling out a new system allowing readers to potentially contribute to articles.

Britannica has long been a vocal critic of Wikipedia's user-generated content, and has repeatedly attacked the accuracy of its articles. Unsurprisingly then, it is keen to stress that its new website will not be following the Wiki-model, describing it "as a collaborative process but not a democratic one."

Indeed, under the new Britannica scheme those who wish to contribute will need to create a profile outlining their qualifications and expertise in the area they are commentating on. They will then be able to add comments to encyclopaedia entries, or write their own. This content will then be reviewed by the expert editors of the site, and if any of it is deemed worthy of inclusion, added to the main article with a credit.

Not that Britannica is expecting the site to suddenly become awash with reader comment, however: "At the new Britannica site, we will welcome and facilitate the increased participation of our contributors, scholars, and regular users, but we will continue to accept all responsibility of what we write under our name. We are not abdicating our responsibility as publishers or burying it under the now-fashionable wisdom of the crowds."

A decision, which it claims, helps to "cut through the cacophony of competing and often confusing viewpoints on a topic. In contrast to our approach, democratic systems settle for something bland and less informative, what is sometimes termed a 'neutral point of view.'"

The new website is currently in beta and can be visited here.

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