Many thanks to Hiawatha Bray of the Boston Globe for this story today about Britannica’s new editorial-feedback feature.
Archive for the ‘new britannica site’ Category
To the Internet’s prolific meme machine, the coincidence must have been irresistible. In the same week earlier this winter that Britannica talked publicly about “opening” our editorial process, Wikipedia mulled changes to its own methods deemed less open by some. Britannica was inviting readers to contribute; Wikipedia might “flag,” or hold, some user revisions for administrative review before they were published. From this did the trend-spotters of the media and blogosphere detect a harmonic convergence between the two antipodes of the encyclopedia world, and they were happy to proclaim, almost as one: Britannica, Wikipedia, each becoming more like the other.
How perfectly symmetrical.
The truth, as usual, was far more complex. Let’s take a look at it.
Encyclopaedia Britannica recently introduced some new features to Britannica Online that make it easy for our readers to suggest edits, revisions, updates, amplifications, and corrections to our articles and to submit their handiwork to our editors for consideration.
Several Wikipedians have contributed, and we’d welcome others And yes, anyone who has Internet access can do this. Not only will our editors review your suggestions promptly, but if they’re accepted for publication you’ll get credit in the article history for that entry in your own name.
Nothing Wiki This Way Comes
Ha! User-generated content, you say. Well, yes. But a wiki? No. Because the operative word in the paragraph above is suggest. Britannica users don’t have the ability or authority to publish the edits they propose; only Britannica editors can do that, and that’s the way it will stay.
And even though we plan to introduce new features and sections on our site where our users and expert contributors will be able to publish their own work and collaborate with one another without editorial oversight by us, when it comes to the Encyclopaedia Britannica itself, all of the suggested revisions we get, no matter whom they come from, will be reviewed, checked, and approved by our editors before they’re published. All of them.
To make this even clearer, let’s look at some of the key features of Britannica’s editorial method that distinguish it from Wikipedia and other collaborative enterprises on the Internet.
We’re always open. We don’t close or freeze any articles or put them off limits to revision. All articles at Britannica are open, always. Users may submit suggestions for revisions to any article, and the editors will review the suggestions based on the same criteria we use for all revisions. If they find that the suggestions will improve the article, those revisions will be published and the person who submitted them will be recognized by name in the Topic History for that article.
Since we introduced our new online feedback system recently, many of our users have done this and seen their names appear with the articles to which they contributed. While we haven’t published every suggestion we’ve gotten, we have published many, including several from people who’ve told us they also edit Wikipedia. (We’re delighted to have them, incidentally, and would welcome other interested Wikipedians.) We’ve been generally impressed with the level of quality of the suggestions we’ve received.
Impressed, but not entirely surprised, because corresponding with our readers about the contents of Britannica is not a new practice for us. Even before the advent of e-mail we got thousands of hard-copy letters each year from readers who had suggestions for us or disputes about something we’d published. We read them, reviewed them, answered them, and made many changes to the encyclopedia as a result. Our new online system is simply a more efficient mechanism for interacting with our readers in a way we have done for decades. It makes it smoother, faster, and much easier to submit specific text changes.
Professional editors, professional editing. Our editors are all skilled, well educated, and trained in the strong editorial methods we’ve developed over many years. They learn to use good judgment, consult with colleagues as needed, and make decisions consistently, not on the basis of their personal whims. Many of them are subject-area specialists, with doctorates in their areas of editorial responsibility.
Today, as always, new articles and proposed revisions go through a rigorous editorial process before they’re published. As we get more submissions from users we’ll put more resources into reviewing and publishing them promptly, but the process will remain the same. All of our articles—not just some—will get the full treatment before readers see them.
Expert contributors. Our articles are written by people who know the subject they’re writing about and are qualified to do so. Major articles are written by senior scholars and experts who have achieved a high degree of mastery in their fields. We’re proud that more than 100 Nobel Prize winners have written for Britannica.
This may be the foremost buzzword on the Web today, the Holy Grail of publishing and many other Internet enterprises. Ours is a skeptical age in which anyone on the Web laying claim to authority is expected to spell out for visitors how he or she works. Fair enough. Here’s how transparency works for us.
- We communicate with everyone who submits revisions to us in good faith. Everyone gets an e-mail thanking them and acknowledging their submission. After our editors have reviewed the submission and decided how to act on it, the user is again notified. In between these two steps, the review process can become directly collaborative. Not infrequently, the editor in charge will communicate with the user with questions for more information or clarification. People know that we’re looking at their suggestions and taking them seriously, and we always tell them what we plan to do with them.
- Each of our online articles includes a “topic history” describing the revisions that have been made to it for the past several years, when those revisions were made, and who was responsible for them.
- Major articles are signed by leading experts and senior scholars, and their names and affiliations are given.
- We list our editors by name here.
Collaboration. We have a highly collaborative editorial process. Editors have a wide range of latitude in which to work to make articles as good as possible, and they’re trained to take advantage of the people and resources at their disposal. In addition to extensive interaction with their staff colleagues—copy editors, fact checkers, cartographers, and photo and media editors—article editors also consult with the authors of their articles, expert advisers all over the world, our Board of Editorial Advisors, and readers who’ve taken an interest in an article.
While the editorial systems of Wikipedia and other online collaborative enterprises may have their rationales and advantages, this is what works best for us. It’s different from others in key respects, though it’s consistent with standards of scholarship that have developed in the encyclopedia world as well as in the broader realm of publishing and produced excellent results for many years. We alter our method when necessary, as we’re doing now, to keep the contents of Britannica relevant, reliable, and up to date, but our commitment to producing sound, quality products and to the processes responsible for such products doesn’t change.
Our method is highly transparent, collaborative, and it works. We invite you to take part in it.
[Reposted from the Britannica Blog]
Britannica.com Week in Preview: August 18-24
Two years ago it became a little smaller world, and many of us were grumpy about it. On August 24, 2006, the International Astronomical Union sent the textbook and reference world into a tizzy when they demoted Pluto to a dwarf planet. Dwarf planet/smaller world? Perhaps someone at the IAU had some Disney fetish when they came up with this new classification? You know it’s a tough economy when even a planet can get laid off. Well, not to worry, the demotion sparked a cottage industry, and many scientists, businessmen, school children, and lawmakers have spent the better part of two years trying to restore Pluto to its former glory.
Other features this week at Britannica.com’s homepage include:
August 18: On Monday film director Roman Polanski turns 75. His Chinatown (1974) reinvigorated the moribund film noir genre, and several later films, including The Pianist (2002), received wide acclaim, though Polanski’s life evoked controversy after he fled to France in 1977 after pleading guilty to having sex with a minor. Mongolia isn’t often in the international news, but this week it’s in celebratory mode. Last week Tuvshinbayar Naidan captured the country’s first Olympic medal, and it was on this day in 1227 that the great Mongolian warrior-ruler Genghis Khan died. Though he lived 800 years ago, he continues to cast a huge shadow over the modern world, and he even had time to make a cameo appearance in the film Night at the Museum in 2006. Also on Monday, twos are wild as the Bay of Smokes, Reykjavík, celebrates the 222nd anniversary since it was designated the administrative capital of Iceland; and it was this day in 1587 that Virginia (I was actually born in what is now North Carolina) Dare became the first English child born in the New World.
August 19: Bill Clinton was a controversial figure as president, and this year he became embroiled in a controversy over race during the Democratic primary. All may not be forgiven and forgotten, but as Bill prepares for his convention speech next week in Denver the former president celebrates his 62nd birthday. Am I alone in wondering what gift Barack Obama will be sending? Tuesday is also the 125th anniversary of the birth of one of the queens of fashion–Gabrielle Chanel; she ruled over Parisian haute couture for almost six decades. It was the beginning of the end for Mikhail Gorbachev and the beginning of the beginning for Boris Yeltsin on this day in 1991, as hard-line communists staged a coup against Gorby. Also on Tuesday, Afghanistan celebrates its 89th anniversary of independence from Great Britain.
August 20: Soviet communists may have been unsuccessful in 1991, but they sure were successful in 1968. It was 40 years ago that Soviet troops crushed the Prague Spring liberalization in Czechoslovakia–a country that still exists sometimes in the words of one presidential candidate. With the conflict in South Ossetia, many historians are harkening back to Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. It was also 33 years ago on Wednesday when the Viking 1 spacecraft was launched; after its 7 year mission was completed, it had mapped and analyzed large expanses of the Martian surface. Though he died young, architect Eero Saarinen (born 98 years ago this week) left a lasting impression as one of the leaders in a trend toward exploration and experiment in American architectural design during the 1950s; though his TWA terminal at JFK Airport in New York City was a major achievement, I wonder if he would be quite proud of being associated with what was allowed to become a pretty drab spectacle on the interior.
August 21: As John McCain and Barack Obama prepare for their conventions and debates, we can be pretty sure that they won’t reach the rhetorical (or historical) quality of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, which kicked off 150 years ago in Ottawa, Illinois. Those seven debates ran three hours long each, and apparently reporters weren’t there to ask ridiculous questions such as this gem from the 2008 Democratic debate by ABC moderator George Stephanopoulos to Barack Obama: “But do you believe he’s [Obama’s erstwhile pastor Jeremiah Wright] as patriotic as you are?” With fabrications about Obama continuing to swirl (13% of Americans continue to believe Obama is a Muslim) and even making their way into a #1 NYT best seller, one has to wonder if these debates would have had the same historical impact if cameras were there and reporters able to moderate. Communists just didn’t have a good time this week in 1991. While communists were attempting to oust Gorbachev in the U.S.S.R., they were losing their grip on Latvia, which declared its independence 17 years ago Thursday. Also on Thursday, music fans remember Count Basie, one of the giants of jazz, who was born 104 years ago.
August 22: Friday marks the 144th anniversary of the Geneva Convention, which gave international recognition to the Red Cross. The neutral organization has been awarded three Nobel Peace Prizes, and the use of its symbols during the rescue of Ingrid Betancourt and other hostages held by the FARC in Colombia led to charges that the government’s actions might jeopardize the organization’s relief efforts. It was also 19 years ago this week that the Ryan Express notched his 5,000 strikeout. Nolan Ryan eventually retired at age 46 with 5,714 K’s.
August 23: While U.S. basketball star Kobe Bryant prepares for what he hopes will be the gold medal match on Saturday, he will be celebrating a birthday. The soon-to-be 30-year-old phenom has already played 12 seasons in the NBA and is 24th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Queen Noor of Jordan, wife of former King Hussein, turns 57. She is engaged in many philanthropic efforts, particularly land mine elimination, and a few years ago she wrote a piece for Britannica on their danger (see The Hidden Dangers of Land Mines). Miscarriage of justice? Eighty-one years ago Sacco and Vanzetti were executed. Historians continue to debate their guilt–on the 50th anniversary of their execution Massachusetts governor Mike Dukakis issued a proclamation stating that Sacco and Vanzetti had not been treated justly and that no stigma should be associated with their names. Saturday also marks the 399th anniversary of Galileo’s presentation of his design for the telescope to the Venetian Senate.
August 24: Pluto’s status as a planet occurred two years ago; Pompeii’s destruction occurred 1,929 years ago. On this day in 79 CE, the Roman city was buried in an ocean of ash after the eruption of Vesuvius. Also on Sunday is the anniversary of the births of former Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges.
This and other information is available this week via Britannica’s homepage. Or, you can search the site to read other articles of interest. I’ll be back next week with another preview of Britannica’s weekly content.
[Reposted from the Britannica Blog]
Seldom have our Web servers or the all-important cables that enable them to do their vital work gotten the public recognition they deserve. Sue has rectified that and given you a sneak peek at the 2009 Britannica Almanac, which will be out in the fall.
That’s Britannica’s Michael Ross with Sue at the right.
Today is 08-08-08, and according to news reports, the Chinese authorities were to take full advantage of the fortuitous numerical convergence and start the opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games precisely at 8:08 Beijing time. Under the circumstances, it seems only fitting that we repost these observations by our own resident numbers maven, Professor Ian Stewart:
“The number 8 is generally considered to be an auspicious number by numerologists. The square of any odd number, less one, is always a multiple of 8 (for example, 9 - 1 = 8, 25 - 1 = 8 x 3, 49 - 1 = 8 x 6), a fact that can be proved mathematically. In Babylonian myth there were seven spheres plus an eighth realm, the fixed stars, where the gods lived. As a result, 8 is often associated with paradise. Muslims believe that there are seven hells but eight paradises, signifying God’s mercy. In Buddhism 8 is a lucky number, possibly because of the eight petals of the lotus, a plant associated with luck in India and a favourite Buddhist symbol.
“In China, just as the number 7 determines the life of a woman, 8 determines that of a man. A boy gets his milk teeth at eight months, loses them at eight years, reaches puberty at 2 x 8 = 16, and loses sexual virility at 8 x 8 = 64. The I Ching, which describes a system of divination using yarrow stalks, involves 64 = 8 x 8 configurations.”
[Cross-posted from the Britannica Blog]
You can post these related widgets on your blog or Web site and give your readers the Britannica articles on each topic:
I sometimes find it almost impossible to believe this really happened, but it did: 63 years ago today.
Britannica.com Week in Preview: July 28-August 3
Who’s the greatest one-hit wonder of all time? According to VH1 it’s Los Del Rio and the Macarena–and who can forget even Madeleine Albright getting jiggy with it at the UN. (As a digression, speaking of getting jiggy with it and my total embarrassment that I used that phrase, Will Smith, the creator of the term, will be turning 40 later this year, and it was just released that the Hancock star was Hollywood’s best-paid actor last year.) But, I say it’s Emily Brontë, author of Wuthering Heights; though it was her only novel, it’s one of the classics of English literature, and this week at Britannica.com’s homepage we remember her on July 30, the 190th anniversary of her birth. (I know Britannica’s literature editors will rightly shoot me dirty looks for the Brontë-Los Del Rio comparison, but I’ll risk the incoming.)
Other highlights of what’s on Britannica.com’s homepage this week:
- What two things do Brian Greene (host of PBS’s The Elegant Universe), Sister Wendy Beckett (the “art nun”), Stephen Venables (the first climber to reach the summit of Everest’s left side of its East Face without Sherpa sypport or supplemental oxygen), and Jimmy Carter (former U.S. president and Nobel Peace Prize recipient) have in common? They’re all Britannica contributors, and they’re all featured this week at Britannica’s homepage. All week long we’ll be highlighting their articles: string theory (Greene), “The Art of Looking at Art” (Beckett), Mount Everest (Venables), and the Camp David Accords (Carter).
- July 28: Last week Britannica featured the 215th anniversary of the birth of Simón Bolívar, and this week Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who considers himself perhaps the spiritual and ideological heir to Bolívar, turns 54. Also on Monday, the famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava turns 57. Among his upcoming projects is Chicago’s Spire, which is slated to become the world’s tallest residential building. And, this featured quote on Britannica’s homepage from Will Rogers, who had a knack for capturing the national mood on politics–both then and now: “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”
- July 29: On Tuesday, NASA turns 50. The American space agency has landed on the Moon, launched probes and satellites, and developed the first reusable space vehicle. And, Spidey turns 52–no, not the comic book character but England’s Viv Anderson (nicknamed the Spider), who became in 1978 the first player of African descent to play for England’s national team. Also featured on Tuesday is this provocative quote from Albert Einstein: “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”
- July 30: The Governator (aka Arnold Schwarzenegger), looking like beefcake in the photograph from Conan on Britannica’s homepage, turns 61 on Wednesday and apparently couldn’t get out of his day job as governor of California to star in the upcoming new generation of Terminator films, depriving us of some new catchphrase, such as “I’ll be back.” It’s also the 78th anniversary of Uruguay’s defeat of Argentina in football’s first World Cup and the 43rd anniversary of LBJ’s signing of the landmark bill that created the Medicare and Medicaid programs in the United States.
- July 31: Unlike the evil Voldemort, her name may be spoken. British author J.K. Rowling turns 43 on Thursday, having last year completed the seventh and final book (or not) in the Harry Potter series. Moving from the realm of fantasy to tragedy, Thursday also marks the one-year anniversary of the UN’s authorization of a joint peacekeeping mission in Darfur; the fighting there has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the displacement of possibly two million more. Earlier this month, an International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor sought a warrant for the arrest of Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir.
- August 1: If Video Killed the Radio Star, it’s MTV’s fault (the song was the first video to appear on the network). MTV–sometimes now derided as “Minus the Videos” because of its move toward greater reality-based programming rather than music videos (but, really, who can live without their fix of the Real World or Road Rules?)–turns 27 on Friday.
- August 2: As the Iraq War continues in its 5th year, Britannica takes a look back at the Persian Gulf War (1990-91), which began 18 years ago Saturday when Saddam Hussein ordered Iraqi forces to invade Kuwait. From one dictator who was hanged to the niece of a president who was overthrown and assassinated in a coup that led to the creation of another dictatorship (can you follow all that?). The niece: Isabel Allende, the famed Chilean author of magic realist tradition, turns 66. The uncle: Salvador Allende, the first democratically elected socialist president of Chile, who was assassinated in 1973. The dictator: Augusto Pinochet, who led Chile’s military government until 1990 and was, after leaving office, charged with human rights abuses.
- August 3: With all the tumult that has erupted since Brett Favre unannounced his retirement, it’s about time another NFL quarterback takes center stage. New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, winner of three Super Bowls and MVP of two of them, turns 31 on Sunday. Perhaps he’s best known, though, for leading the Pats to a loss in Super Bowl XLII to my Giants (or maybe it’s just us Giants fans who think he’s best known for that?). Sunday also marks the 416th anniversary of Christopher Columbus setting sail for the New World.
This and other information is available this week via Britannica’s homepage. Or, you can search the site to read other articles of interest. I’ll be back next week with another preview of Britannica’s weekly content.
[This post appeared originially on the Britannica Blog.]
Britannica.com Week in Preview: July 14-20
Britannica.com’s homepage contains daily and weekly features where we place the news in context, highlight contributors and new content, quiz our readers, and profile events and biographies of the day.
Today starts a series of weekly posts that I’ll make here at the Britannica Blog that gives our readers a preview of some of the highlights of what’s to come on the Britannica site.
- As the British Open prepares to, well, open in England, Britannica proudly features all week a brand-new article on the tournament by British golfer Colin Montgomerie. Tiger Woods, who edged out Montgomerie at the 2005 Open, is out with an injury.
- July 14: While the world’s golfers are preparing to storm the sands of the Royal Birkdale, across the Channel the French will be shouting “Vive le 14 juillet!” and celebrating Bastille Day, marking 219 years since a mob stormed the prison, signaling an end to the ancien régime.
- July 15: As oil prices surge, causing major U.S. airlines to cut jobs and beg consumers to call on the U.S. Congress to pass legislation to end market speculation, which they charge has caused the spike in oil prices, the Boeing Company marks its founding in 1916.
- July 16: Speaking of destruction, on July 16 the world marks the anniversary of the atomic age. It was on this day 63 years ago that the United States’s Manhattan Project had its first succesful test. Less than a month later, atomic bombs were used to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, and bring the war in the Pacific to an end.
- July 17: If you need a little levity after reading about the atomic age, take a trip to the Magic Kingdom, which this week is celebrating its own anniversary. Fifty-three years ago the first guests entered Disneyland in Anaheim, California, realizing the fantastical dreams of showman Walt Disney. Mickey and Minnie are still going strong, with theme parks around the world, including in Orlando (U.S.), Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Paris.
- July 18: Speaking of birthdays, Nelson Mandela turns 90 this week. During his amazing life, he survived more than 27 years of imprisonment on Robben Island and helped end apartheid in South Africa without bloodshed. Celebrities and others feted the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner last month in London. Even singer Amy Winehouse showed up–which was perhaps an event in itself.
- July 19: A year before Mickey and Minnie sauntered through Disneyland, the first part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings was published. In the 2000s the tale was turned into a box-office smash, through the vision of director Peter Jackson and a cast including Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Viggo Mortensen, and, of course, Frodo….errr…Elijah Wood.
- July 20: From Middle Earth to the Earth’s Moon, it was 39 years ago this Sunday that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the earth’s satellite, while the author of this blog kicked his pregnant mother for the first time (well, at least so goes the legend in the family).
This and other information is available this week via Britannica’s homepage. Or, you can search the site to read other articles of interest. We’ll be back next week with another preview of Britannica’s weekly content.
[Note: This post appeared originally on the Britannica Blog.]
The redesigned Britannica site announced in our blog post last month is now live. Please bear in mind that at this point the site represents simply a new look and organization created to make way for the collaborative features described in that post, which are still to come. You’ll start seeing those features a few at a time in the weeks and months ahead. Please stay tuned, and give us any thoughts and suggestions you have. Constructive ones are most welcome.
You can click below for a virtual tour of the new site. Click here to see a richer version of the same thing.