Chronic information fatigue: on the way to finding a cure

May 21, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

Kim’s step-daughter, GeraldineUniversity students in a course I’m currently teaching often rely on Wikipedia. Despite my ranting at them about not relying solely on Wikipedia for accurate content, I have also occasionally plunged into the Wikipedia universe to brush up on a topic. But now there’s Digitial Universe, which I find a very exciting prospect. Wikipedia, often referred to as the faith-based encyclopedia, is of course a fabulous concept: a worldwide network of authors building a repository of human knowledge. But it’s no secret that Wikipedia has been accused of offering unreliable content and having no traditional review process.

You don’t often hear about Digital Universe because there are bigger players out there with commercial interests. And as we stagger under the enormity of content available on the Internet, we also struggle to tell the difference between sponsored content that someone has coughed up money for and regular content. You’ve probably read Larry Sanger’s pretty famous essay on the issues surrounding Wikipedia, but if not, here it is. So it’s great to see a different business model that offers vetted content and an organic structure.

Digital Universe will be offering portals on such topics as the Cosmos, Human Rights and the Arctic. The software is browser neutral and you can even type in your age to obtain age-specific content. Paid experts will oversee the creation of content and, like a huge editorial room, editors will approve other editors. So the expert responsible for the Ocean Portal can grant editorial control to someone for the Reef Portal, and in turn for the Fish Portal or Shark Portal. Quality control and content accuracy is more assured as content is delivered by topical experts within a structure that grows organically.

Scientists have embraced the Digital Universe with the launching of the Earth Portal in April 2007 (with Jane Goodall announcing the launch). With amateur scientists out there on the web generating often dubious (or whacky) content, scientists have no doubt struggled to find a credible voice with users. The Earth Portal provides a visible community of scholars whose names and reputations are up in lights for all to see. The portal’s Encyclopedia of Earth has 700 experts from 50 countries who have written and edited 200 articles so far. There’s an exciting taxonomy of topics here. There’s a great Energy Timeline here and a scholarly article on the causes of climate change here.

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Entry filed under: Climate Change, Information management, Science, Wikis.

Fun in the buff and knowledge management Physician, heal thyself

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