Saturday, March 22, 2008

When Wikipedia Won't Cut It (Part 1)

Recently on the Library blog, the authors published an entry about research resources which go beyond Wikipedia's "incomplete citations, biased views, and inaccuracies," and direct the user to alternatives which deliver "high quality accuracy."
Most of these are definitely worth taking a look at and keeping an eye on as they grow and change but not all are really very useful.

The first site they recommend is Citizendium, the Citizen's Compendium, an encyclopedia-like site which relies upon ordinary users to write and "experts" to edit its articles. The idea of Citizendium is to go beyond Wikipedia's free-for-all approach to developing an encyclopedic database and enlist folks who are certified to know about what they are writing about.
To join Citizendium the user is required to be vetted at a website called BeenVerified, which helps substantiate you are who you say you are. The site asked various questions about where the prospective member lived and jobs they've had (with information culled from the Web) to substantiate my identity. Of course, this doesn't verify one's expertise. When setting up an account you are asked to check areas of expertise and Citizendium "constables" check up before they are allowed to contribute on their own. Membership seems to be aimed at the academic community and it does seem that Citizendium is trying to make their online encyclopedia a more reliable source of information than Wikipedia currently is.
While it may be true that Citizendium articles are more authoritative, it certainly can't compete with Wikipedia for breadth of coverage. Currently there are some 5,700 articles in Citizendium as compared to 9,000,000 in Wikipedia.
Definitely a site worth knowing about and using.

American FactFinder

This is the English language portal to information from the U.S. Census Bureau. The permutations and combinations of information at the Census Bureau are almost endless and since they are based on data collected by various census polls they can be considered to be as accurate as those compiling the data.
Wikipedia has an external link to this site on its United States Census page but does not have an article specifically on this subject.
For lots of reasons, not the least of which is that this is the online version of the Statistical Abstract of the United States, this is an invaluable site for all students and staff.


This somewhat specialized site which includes an index of academic papers, dissertations, books, etc., on linguistic topics would certainly be fruitful as a resource for linguists and those interested in language in general. The interface is quite playful, one might say almost juvenile, for an academic website. According to its Wikipedia article, the site has been in existence since 1991 and is partially funded by grants from the National Science Foundation.
For the general user this site is too specialized to be added to list of general portals on the Web.


This is web portal to Web resources which "[s]ubject specialists select and evaluate ... and write high quality descriptions of...." The usefulness of this site is as a reviewer of resources on the Web rather than a compendium of information in general.
It is definitely a site which every student at Redwood should know about and use regularly.

Classic Encyclopedia

The fifth of these resources is an online encyclopedia based on the 1911 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. While that edition is considered the classic edition, it's probably not too wise to rely upon it for much modern information. It's an interesting historical artifact and some very well-known authors contributed to it but one needs to be very careful in using it as the definitive source of information.
Probably not very useful for high school students except as a curiosity.

More to follow....

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