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Monday, September 01, 2008

Looking for Nuggets of Knowledge

Last week I happened on the IEEE virtual museum, a group of history and background articles on electrical engineering topics. Looking more closely, it is only infrequently updated with new content.

Made me think about the distribution of public knowledge on the Web. Things like the IEEE virtual museum were once commonly established on the WP. I rarely think about them as a source of knowledge these days. I need some combination of both coverage and accuracy to make me think of using a Web source. The IEEE sources are no doubt accurate, those I scanned looked good, though not as deep nor broad as I would have liked. Each had a much longer and recently updated article in the Wikipedia (WP).

Accepting the accuracy of a WP article can be dangerous, they can be inaccurate, biased in sometimes obvious, sometimes arcane ways. Usually strongly dependent on the category of the knowledge. Watch out especially for politics, religion and issues of national pride. No surprise, but even aspects of science and technology can get caught up in these.

I could simply search, of course. If what I am searching for has a commercial meaning it brings back so much noise that its not useful except by lots of followup searches. I have liked the fact that in recent years the WP entry shows up high for many searches since it allows me a basic grounding before I dive into commercial results.

Organizations like the IEEE should use places like the WP to place their articles in useful categories. The WP already does this with generalized topic articles, almost essays about the field, which then point to detailed articles. The IEEE could be given editorial privileges, and even 'advertise' membership. The WP gets credibility, the IEEE gets more hits and memberships.


Jeff said...

I wonder how easy it is to update the IEEE virtual museum. Compared to Wikipedia, that is. And how difficult it is to get authorization to do so. Again, compared to Wikipedia. My guess is "not very" in both cases...

Franz Dill said...

Interesting question, I will try to get hold of the people involved at IEEE and see what they have to say.