R.I.P. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Part II

By Deane Barker on March 15, 2012

Why Encyclopedia Britannica mattered: Not everyone is happy that the Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print.  The guy makes some very good points.

This is, however, part of a trend that assumes expertise is overvalued. Today, most technology users value connectivity and experience. Newspapers and magazines are in decline, bloggers and content aggregators are on the ascendant. The problem with crowd-sourcing the answer to any particular question is, of course, that you’re as likely to find ideologically driven opinion as hard fact. You also have little in the way of support for judgments about credibility, reliability, and accuracy.

What he’s dancing around is that the barrier to content production gets lowered, both in the ability to create original content, but also in our desire to consume it.  Let’s face it, people would rather read some short rehash of a long news item (like, uh, this post, for example) than the news item itself.

Content curation and aggregation is becoming the way things are done now, and it’s getting to the point where actually creating new content is almost novel.  I had this exact conversation with Erin Kissane the other day – she’s embarked on actually creating original content for Contents Magazine, as opposed to just recycling existing content (which is, I’m now embarrassed to admit, sort of what I do here all day).

There’s not quite enough of this to go around, it seems.  The blogosphere (is that still a word?) sometimes seems like a massive echo chamber just feeding on itself all day.

In the process, I think we’ve lost our regard for experts, which the editors at Britannica undeniably were.  It’s not enough to say something smart, because you can sound just as smart repeating something that another smart guy said.

(You know, like I did right there.)