Encyclopedias, Social Networks, and Health Resources Lead the News

By Hane, Paula J. | Information Today, January 2008 | Go to article overview

Encyclopedias, Social Networks, and Health Resources Lead the News


Hane, Paula J., Information Today


The online encyclopedia space continues to generate a lot of activity and interest. This is a result of two factors: the success of the wildly popular Wikipedia and the credibility issues it raised.

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Wikipedia itself launched a beta site called Veropedia, where it plans to move the most stable, expert articles on Wikipedia. According to the FAQ, "articles must meet very strict criteria of our own. There can be no cleanup tags, no 'citation needed' tags, no disambiguation links, no dead external links, and no fair use images. In addition, each article will be given to recognized academics and experts to review. These experts can either provide their stamp of approval or make suggestions as to how the article can be improved further. In that way, users will know that the article is reliable."

Larry Sanger, one of the co-founders of Wikipedia, began developing a competitive service last fall called Citizendium (or "Citizen's Compendium"). The site deferred to the authority of expert editors and required contributors to use their own names. However, the main source for Citizendium content consists of Wikipedia itself as reviewed, edited, supplemented, and vetted by Citizendium. The site celebrated its 1-year anniversary and announced that more than 2,100 people have joined as authors and editors, and 3,300 articles are under development. Sanger predicts a growth explosion in the next year. A new "Core Articles" initiative identifies and prioritizes new articles for addition to the Citizendium. In addition, a new Eduzendium initiative, now in a pilot project, encourages professors to use the Citizendium for serious public writing assignments.

Ezclopedia is a new OA, user-written encyclopedia trying to outdo Wikipedia.

The site is still in alpha stage and has little content so far. Here's an interesting twist that might influence its appeal to writers (positively) and to readers (negatively): "Since its inception, Ezclopedia has been a for-profit organization. ... Each article page will contain contextual advertising related to the contents of the article. Advertising revenue generated by each article is shared among Author(s) of the article and Ezclopedia." I'd say it will probably have a tough haul making inroads into Wikipedia's popularity.

Scholarpedia launched a year ago as a free peer-reviewed encyclopedia written by scholars. It is designed to complement Wikipedia: Instead of covering a broad range of topics, Scholarpedia covers a few narrow fields, but it does that exhaustively.

At this time, Scholarpedia hosts Encyclopedia of Computational Neuroscience, Encyclopedia of Dynamical Systems, Encyclopedia of Computational Intelligence, and Encyclopedia of Astrophysics. Currently, only curators of Scholarpedia (who are elected, invited by the editor-in-chief or other curators) and scholars with high Scholar Index can author and curate articles in Scholarpedia. This invitationonly policy is implemented so that prominent scientists have the priority to write on their discoveries.

Book Scanning Update

The race to transform printed texts to digital continues apace. Yale University announced that it would post portions of its collection online through Live Search Books, Microsoft's digital library. Yale will start by scanning 100,000 of its English-language books that are out of copyright.

Scribe, a high-speed scanner and software application developed by the Internet Archive, speeds the conversion of books to digital format and encourages experimentation with the free delivery of digitized material via the internet. The first "Scribe" in the Southeast arrived at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Libraries in early November, thanks to an agreement between the library and the San Francisco-based Internet Archive.

All materials scanned in partnership with the Internet Archive are freely available on the web. …

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