Touting itself as “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit”, it’s no wonder
garnered so much
press lately. After all, it is hard to imagine that millions of anonymous
users could accurately maintain a factual and unbiased living encyclopedia.
Wikipedia is a non-profit site that is policed by hundreds of volunteers, yet
very few of these volunteers have the experience and knowledge of a professional
writer/editor. A cultural bias has seemed to have washed over many entries on
the site, as general consensus replaces cold, hard facts. There is also a matter
of vandalism, which the site is susceptible to. These problems, coupled with the
almost obsessive behavior of many of the volunteers (try placing an external
link on the site without having it removed), have led people to other sources
for information. If you are looking for a different kind of online encyclopedia,
try the seven alternatives to Wikipedia listed below.
Scholarpedia is a site made from the same
software as Wikipedia. It almost appears like a mirror site, but there are
some significant differences. Scholarpedia is written by, you guessed it,
scholars. Experts must be either invited or elected before they are assigned
certain topics and, although the site is still editable by anyone like a
wiki, updates must first be approved before they are made final. This not
only ensures that all information added to the site is accurate and
attributed to an author, vandalism never becomes an issue.
Citizendium is a wiki that seems to be a compromise between the free-for-all
that is Wikipedia and the strict supervision that accompanies Scholarpedia.
One of Wikipedia’s founders,
created Citizendium in the hopes of improving on Wikipedia’s model. With
what the site refers to as “gentle oversight”, all articles are subject to
approval by the site’s editorial team. Articles that haven’t been approved
will have an accompanying disclaimer, which helps to prevent people from
taking potentially false information to heart. Also, you must register under
your real name to become a contributor, unlike Wikipedia. Although the site
is still in beta form, it is quickly becoming a popular alternative to
Wikipedia, one that Sanger feels will
When it comes to trusted and unbiased facts, this site is your best option.
Here, every volume of the Encyclopedia Brittanica has been transferred to
Web format, in addition to multimedia features and an easy search tool.
Updates to the site’s entries are made by professionals, as this isn’t a
wiki community. The only drawback to this site is that it isn’t free. To
have full access to Encyclopedia Britannica Online, one must pay a
subscription fee of $69.95 a year. This is a sound investment for students,
however, as the yearly fee is substantially cheaper than buying the
encyclopedic set in
form. Also, major universities will accept the site as a reliable source
when citing information in a research paper, something
MSN Encarta is another online encyclopedia that bypasses the
that plague Wikipedia. All entries have been written and fact-checked by
professionals and the site will never be vandalized. However, like
Encyclopedia Britannica Online, this site requires a subscription fee. For
$29.95 a year, you can access MSN Encarta in its entirety, including the
site’s accompanying thesaurus, world atlas and other
tools for students.
Infoplease is a free online encyclopedia that is a part of
Education, the largest educational book distributor in the world. All of
the information found on the site is gathered from trusted sources, such as
the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia and the Random House Unabridged
Dictionary. Although entries may be limited in size when compared to
Wikipedia, you can be sure that all the information is accurate and
incapable of being influenced by outside users. Also, Infoplease has many
multimedia features that assist researchers, particularly students who are
Conservapedia is a conservative, Christian-influenced wiki encyclopedia that
was created as a response to Wikipedia’s alleged left-wing bias. The
information found on this site is free of foul language, sexual topics and
anything else deemed offensive by the site’s editorial staff. If you feel
that Wikipedia shows a strong bias toward liberal views, then this site may
suit your needs. All Conservapedia users are asked to follow the site’s seven
Uncyclopedia is an ambitious spoof of Wikipedia. It could be seen as an
over-the-top response to Wikipedia users, also knows as “Wikipedians”, who
the site much too seriously. From the home page’s logo to the formatting
of each entry, the parallels between the two sites are uncanny and
well-executed. Make no mistake, however. Nothing on Uncyclopedia should be
taken as fact, which may be another dig at Wikipedia’s occasional
inaccuracy. If you are fed up with Wikipedia’s many faults and want to have
a good laugh, check out this satirical site.
Wikipedia is one of the
popular Web sites in the world, with mirror versions available in 251
languages. However, due to faults in its open-content structure, Wikipedia’s
influence has been a menacing one at times. For example, on March 10, 2007,
was falsely reported dead on
Wikipedia entry. This news was taken as fact and spread quickly, even
convincing Sinbad’s family and friends. Although the site can be a good starting
point for research, there are many other alternatives, including the seven sites
listed above. As Wikipedia’s detractors grow in numbers, so will online
encyclopedias with better business models and editorial staffs.
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