Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Why Wikipedia Is Not An "Encyclopedia for the Masses"

Imagine a young student, maybe 14 or so, needing to know what Angular Momentum is, having come across the term for the first time.

Our student has two choices for online encyclopedic help:

  1. Wikipedia, the Encyclopedia for the Masses, enblitherates the subject here and
  2. The Encyclopedia Britannica, which does a slightly more useful job because it was written to explain stuff to people who don't already understand whatever it is they are looking up

Sadly, most kids would not know of the latter resource, and would thus give up physics and go play Fortnite instead after reading the first paragraph of solid mathblither and off-page hyperlinks (to more blither).

Why the STEM editors cannot do the same sort of job the Star Trek, Pokemon and Marvel Universe editors do is beyond me. I can get up to speed on any of those things even though not one of them interests me in the slightest (with the possible exception of X-Men). Proper introductions, working up to the hardcore as the article progresses so as to educate without overwhelming the reader. Contrast with the dense, jargon-encrusted job the STEM articles have as an opener. They make income tax instructions look interesting.

Wikipedia, crushing any desire to know more science since, well, forever.

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