Monday, April 21, 2008

Too Little or Too Much

My Encyclopædia Britannica subscription has now been processed; so I figure I should provide at least a brief follow-up to yesterday's post and the ensuing comments. As I mentioned in a comment this morning, I knew I was not going to find anything like the "Propædia;" and it turned out that the closest I could get to any organization structure involved outlines for the "Macropædia"-like articles. My first impression was that those outlines were neither better nor worse than the ones I have found for the longer articles on Wikipedia. Thus, there was very little to pique the sort of exploratory adventures I used to have with the print edition. Instead I was back in the world of search queries and quick scans to see if what I found was answering some immediate question I had.

Things where not much better when I explored the blog space. The most important thing I observed was that it was not very active. Also, the "stable" of bloggers did not interest me very much, probably because I was perusing it primarily in terms of my interest in the performance of music. I did note Andrew Keen's name on the list, but I already have an RSS feed for his own blog! Besides, his Britannica posts are now about a year old.

Will I now start to use Britannica content instead of Wikipedia sources? For all that I have written about contentious behavior on Wikipedia, the music contributors have (so far, at least) been a rather amicable and mild-mannered bunch. They have also been really good at cataloging, which helps when I am interested (as I was recently) in such things as a chronology of the operas of Francesco Cavalli. I shall still continue to argue that Wikipedia has limitations if you really want to learn about something (particularly something unfamiliar); but I am not sure that the online version of Britannica is doing that much better a job. It is certainly not doing the job that the old print edition used to do.

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