Welcome Guest.   Make a donation to an author on the site August 30, 2014, 11:22:52 AM  *

Please login or register.
Or did you miss your validation email?


Login with username and password (forgot your password?)
Why not become a lifetime supporting member of the site with a one-time donation of any amount? Your donation entitles you to a ton of additional benefits, including access to exclusive discounts and downloads, the ability to enter monthly free software drawings, and a single non-expiring license key for all of our programs.


You must sign up here before you can post and access some areas of the site. Registration is totally free and confidential.
 
The N.A.N.Y. Challenge 2014! Download dozens of custom programs!
   
   Forum Home   Thread Marks Chat! Downloads Search Login Register  
Pages: [1] 2 Next   Go Down
  Reply  |  New Topic  |  Print  
Author Topic: Britannica - would you buy it on (say) Kindle or Nook?  (Read 5541 times)
IainB
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 4,632


Slartibartfarst

see users location on a map View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« on: March 15, 2012, 08:36:55 AM »

Came across this yesterday on Britannica's blog: Britannica Goes All-Out Digital
Looks like the hardcopy has gone into the history books, and digital is king.

I bought a hardcopy of Britannica years ago, mostly for my kids, but I have always liked it since I was a child. At one time I would have read the thing all day long if I had been allowed to.
I got a discounted CD copy of Britannica for PC some years back, and it was very good - much better than Encarta - but restrictive (due to DRM, I think), and I ended up not using it overly much.
But I think that if Britannica came onto (say) Kindle or Nook, then I would buy it - and that would determine which technology I plumped for (Kindle or Nook), whereas I am pretty ambivalent about them at present.

This would be despite my using Wikipedia quite a lot. I use that because it is ubiquitous and convenient, but having been involved in creating a few Wikipedia articles, and contributing to lots more, I became disenchanted with it due to the frequent moronic vandalism and stupid editing bias by some Wikipedia editors. So I stopped contributing time or money to Wikipedia.
I regard Britannica as a more reliable and authoritative source, though I have always felt that it went downhill a bit after it left British ownership.
Logged
40hz
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 10,628



see users location on a map View Profile Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2012, 09:22:45 AM »

I wouldn't buy it in e-book format.

But that's because I don't go to Britannica to research or look things up. I go to it for intellectual entertainment. I browse and read it for fun and personal edification. I like to turn pages, flip around, pull volumes down at random, and be surprised. I'll often start reading something, follow up on something mentioned, and end up happily sitting with five or six open volumes heaped around me with dozens of paper notes and post-it's sprinkled over everything. Some people play computer games. I'll go book or encyclopedia crawling when I'm looking for something to do. And sometimes the connections and correlations you discover, or the insights you gain, are extremely valuable.

I can't do that with an e-book. A <go to random article> button isn't the same thing for me.

If I actually wanted to use Britannica as a reference tool, I'd be more inclined to just open an online account rather than get the electronic version.

But that's me.  smiley
« Last Edit: March 15, 2012, 09:28:48 AM by 40hz » Logged

Don't you see? It's turtles all the way down!
TaoPhoenix
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 3,479



0 - 60 ... then back to 0 again!

see users location on a map View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2012, 09:47:30 AM »

There's an idea that kicks around in Business circles called Good Enough. It's a tricky thing because on some things you should want to pay a little (sometimes a lot) more for real quality. Then just when that sounds obvious, on other things you need to save cash This Week, so then something cheaper in price with some of the original function gets you by or is even just fine!

So of course Britannica is more authoritative - but how much does it cost? And THAT's your comparison vs Wikipedia.

Edit: Meanwhile, I wouldn't want it on the e-readers at all - I'd want it on my high end desktop that can crunch the info and do stuff to it.
Logged
Innuendo
Charter Member
***
Posts: 1,913

View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2012, 10:32:51 AM »

Edit: Meanwhile, I wouldn't want it on the e-readers at all - I'd want it on my high end desktop that can crunch the info and do stuff to it.

Yes...give me a Britannica wherein I can get 3D-accelerated models of whatever the article is explaining (the solar system, the human anatomy, storm/wind patterns/currents, ....dinosaurs!) that harness my gee-whiz CPU & video card!

And in the spirit of 40hz's post, give me the ability to lay the volumes out on a virtual table-top so I can look at articles side by side, have numerous volumes open at once, and give me the ability to use virtual post-it notes.

That'd be an awesome program....till they clogged it up with DRM. Sad
Logged
mwb1100
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 1,294


View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2012, 11:30:49 AM »

I'd buy if the price were right and the DRM not too intrusive. And, of course, the more intrusive the DRM, the righter the price would have to be.

Without details on those things, it's hard to say - I'm not even sure what the right price would be...  Internet searches and resources may have their problems, but they're far better than the research tools I had back when I was in school.
Logged
40hz
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 10,628



see users location on a map View Profile Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2012, 12:10:46 PM »

Of course once it's purely electronic it would make it much easier to enforce censorship over it. I could imagine a situation where different versions could easily be made to accommodate local political and religious authorities. I'd imagine something like the story of the Crusades being treated differently in an Iranian edition as opposed to a UK edition. Same goes for treatments of economic and political subjects.

Hmm... I can see it now...Encyclopedia Britannica - available in Standard Western, Mideastern, Muslim, Socialist, Christian Conservative, and North Korean editions - with more to follow...

Next comes something like this...

News update: last week authorities disabled all electronic use of the Encyclopedia Britannica in _______ after determining the collection was "rife" with what were characterized as "severe factual errors" and "morally offensive" articles and topics. Authorities further stated that they were opposed to censorship in any form and only reluctantly took this action in order that school children not be put "at risk."

Authorities and the publishers of the Encyclopedia Britannica met behind closed doors yesterday with the goal of resolving their differences and working out a mutually acceptable "accommodation" in order that sales and use of the Britannica collection could resume as quickly as possible...
 huh
« Last Edit: March 15, 2012, 12:28:38 PM by 40hz » Logged

Don't you see? It's turtles all the way down!
CWuestefeld
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 933



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2012, 02:56:46 PM »

I've got a handheld "WikiReader" device that holds a complete (text-only) copy of WikiPedia. I take it with me whenever we go on trips, so we can research the background story behind anything we might run across.

For example, a couple of weeks ago on vacation we met an astronomer who brought with him a 12" reflector telescope (wow!), and showed us a bunch of things in the sky. We were able to go back to our rooms and read more about "earthshine" and things like that. And the kicker is that, because we were in Jamaica, cellular data rates were astronomical, so our little offline reader was by far the most practical solution.

And, of course, being offline solves 40hz's concerns as well.
Logged



superboyac
Charter Member
***
Posts: 5,662


Is your software in my list?

see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2012, 03:25:36 PM »

CW...you got it!  I was in the middle of preparing a setup like that myself.  I recently tried out Britannica's software version of their encyclopaedia.  It's useless, don't bother.

I will agree with 40 on browsing the real deal books.  I spend a lot of my youth getting distracted in those pages.  By the time I got to whatever article it was that made me open the book in the first place, I had read 5-6 things along the way.  There's something great about that.
Logged

superboyac
Charter Member
***
Posts: 5,662


Is your software in my list?

see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2012, 03:35:00 PM »

I mean, at this point, Britannica is just dying a relatively quick death.  Who really needs it?  Nobody wants or needs your books, anything you put online will be inferior to wikipedia, so either figure out a way to fill a need that is currently unfilled, or...goodbye.

Highlights and Advantages of Digital Products?
Um...idiots.  Who is this written for?  We've been using digital products for a decade now.  When was this written...1995?  Get over yourself...I'm pretty sure you don't need to explain to people the advantages of digital products in freaking 2012.  You do realize that wikipedia is a very popular website... Wink

Quality is still Number 1 at Britannica
Honestly, I could care less.  Wikipedia, google, discussion forums...(I'd also add the very cool "Talk" tab on wikipedia pages that allows you to read and follow the debates regarding the accuracy of the facts).  Do i really care about the opaque quality control methods of a company that has become obsolete?

Whatever...all I got out of that article was how clueless Britannica is.
Logged

Carol Haynes
Waffles for England (patent pending)
Global Moderator
*****
Posts: 7,952



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2012, 03:40:20 PM »

I think Britannica as an eBook would be pretty poor given that images aren't well handled on Kindle etc.

A subscription based website (which is what they have now) is probably the most realistic model. DVD is another way but having to buy every couple of years to keep up to date is annoying - is suppose now they could move to a USB device format with an update subscription service.

Having said that since Britannica ceased to be a British publication they seem to be all about money!
Logged

40hz
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 10,628



see users location on a map View Profile Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2012, 03:45:53 PM »

@CW - I saw one of those. It was pretty amazing. About the only thing about it I didn't like was it didn't support tables. So anything that was formatted as a table didn't appear. And it also didn't let you know which things beyond the obvious (like graphics) got left out. No full text search either, which was a problem for me.

Still, for what it was and what it cost it was pretty amazing. (I don't put it even remotely on par with TEB. But for a quick&dirty desk reference, or a take-along on a trip, I could see the the electronic Wikipedia making a lot of sense.)

BTW- I also tried the electronic Britannica. Much like SB, I found it unusable.
Logged

Don't you see? It's turtles all the way down!
CWuestefeld
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 933



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2012, 03:52:26 PM »

I gave the WikiReader to two of my nieces. My sister was slightly miffed, though, because of an article she read on it about rhinoceroses (iirc). Apparently the article discussed the mating habits of the rhino. (I'm not a big fan of limiting access to objective information)
Logged



IainB
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 4,632


Slartibartfarst

see users location on a map View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2012, 03:54:00 PM »

I browse and read it for fun and personal edification. I like to turn pages, flip around, pull volumes down at random, and be surprised. I'll often start reading something, follow up on something mentioned, and end up happily sitting with five or six open volumes heaped around me with dozens of paper notes and post-it's sprinkled over everything.
You have almost exactly described how I would often use the hardcopy Britannica as a child - it's a sort of "discovery" learning experience, and I would be as happy as Larry in that state. I quite miss doing that now (I don't have my hardcopy Britannica with me now.)
I'm not sure whether you would be able to get that same experience with a smart tablet like Kindle or Nook. Not yet, anyways. I don't have either device, but I don't see how you could have all those pages opened out on the floor strewn around you in some kind of order like that and making notes on bits of paper, all in gestalt view - using a single reading tablet.

I know that's making a case for hardcopy versus tablet, but it seems to me that the ergonomics of using an information tool can make a huge difference to the efficiency and pleasure of learning through a discovery experience. I use a laptop an awful lot for reading complex information whilst working through some client's knotty problem, and though I delight in the speed with which I can pull information and related links up onto the screen, I feel at the same time highly frustrated by the relatively tedious linearity of the whole process I am engaged in, when compared to the exploding connectivity and richness of of that "discovery" experience.

But if I'm working on something on my laptop and I need to jump to a reference in an encyclopaedia, I can see that it would be a meta-change - possibly quite a big step forwards - if I could (say) bring up an authoritative source (e.g., like Britannica) on a tablet, select some reference information from it (related to what I am working on), and then wirelessly xmit that to my laptop for inclusion into a report on my laptop screen.

The DRM constraints in my old PC Britannica forced you to have a Britannica CD-ROM in the drive at all times. That was a pain and it inhibited ergonomic efficiency. Having the Britannica on a tablet - and eventually maybe having my whole reference library on it as well, could be a real incentive for trying the Kindle/Nook path now - just as a first step and a suck-it-and see exercise. My daughter Lily could try it out as well, so it wouldn't be solely an experimental gamble for me, but something potentially useful for her. (She's interested in the idea too.)
Logged
wraith808
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 6,221



"In my dreams, I always do it right."

see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2012, 04:31:38 PM »

I mean, at this point, Britannica is just dying a relatively quick death.  Who really needs it?  Nobody wants or needs your books, anything you put online will be inferior to wikipedia, so either figure out a way to fill a need that is currently unfilled, or...goodbye.

Actually, not.  There's a very good reason for Britannica and other recognized sources to be there- and other than the fact that Wikipedia is crowdsourced, so the information is only as reputable as effort the community puts into it, i.e. unsourced information remains on the site.  That is for education.  Most schools don't accept things sourced from Wikipedia.  In the educational arena for the most part, Wikipedia is persona non grata.
Logged

CWuestefeld
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 933



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2012, 04:47:23 PM »

But studies have shown that the quality (i.e., error rate) of Britannica is only somewhat better than Wikipedia -- they're both of similar magnitude.

I fear that the stigma really stems from academia (right down to elementary school) believing in a top-down model, a priesthood of experts who dictate to the masses, whereas WP stands for power from the ground up.
Logged



wraith808
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 6,221



"In my dreams, I always do it right."

see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #15 on: March 15, 2012, 05:07:22 PM »

But studies have shown that the quality (i.e., error rate) of Britannica is only somewhat better than Wikipedia -- they're both of similar magnitude.

I fear that the stigma really stems from academia (right down to elementary school) believing in a top-down model, a priesthood of experts who dictate to the masses, whereas WP stands for power from the ground up.

Not to get off-topic, but while your arguments may be valid (there is the argument that it's not about top down, but responsibility), they still don't reflect the stark reality of those students in the halls of academia, i.e. they can't use Wikipedia.  So Britannica and their ilk still serve a very real purpose currently.  And indexing them in a digital manner on a digital platform does serve a purpose.  Not having that constraint, I don't think that I would purchase them for myself, but others in my household do have to live by those constraints, so it's a possibility.
Logged

40hz
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 10,628



see users location on a map View Profile Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #16 on: March 15, 2012, 05:23:27 PM »

But studies have shown that the quality (i.e., error rate) of Britannica is only somewhat better than Wikipedia -- they're both of similar magnitude.

I fear that the stigma really stems from academia (right down to elementary school) believing in a top-down model, a priesthood of experts who dictate to the masses, whereas WP stands for power from the ground up.

While I can agree in spirit with that argument (academics having much to answer for) I still worry about the current trend towards confusing consensus with fact and proof. I've seen too much scientifically determined fact dismissed with comments like: "Well, that's just your opinion." or "I'm sorry, but we don't see it that way." to be too anxious to toss out our entire qualified peer review system in favor of mob rule when it comes to creating reference materials.

And while crowd sourcing may be all the rage, I can't help but wonder why the opinions of experts or scientific research is now often considered less reliable and acceptable than the off-the-cuff collective opinion of 400 laymen, a talk show host, or a badly designed and conducted poll.

Small surprise we now see things like over 500 locales authoritatively listed as the number one place (singular) for starting a business in America - if the magazines can be trusted. Or how worries about carbon and global warming are dismissed by our policy makers because their is no 'scientific' consensus to support the concern.

Not to say that everyone isn't entitled to their opinion.

It's just that I think its both naive and potentially dangerous to think that everyone's opinion should automatically be given equal weight.

Call me crazy, but from what I've seen, something like 80% of what's out there talking (i.e. the "All I know is______" crowd) isn't entitled to an opinion because they simply don't know enough (and usually can't be bothered to learn enough) to be qualified to even have an opinion worth listening to.
 Cool
« Last Edit: March 15, 2012, 05:33:48 PM by 40hz » Logged

Don't you see? It's turtles all the way down!
superboyac
Charter Member
***
Posts: 5,662


Is your software in my list?

see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #17 on: March 15, 2012, 05:24:33 PM »

I mean, at this point, Britannica is just dying a relatively quick death.  Who really needs it?  Nobody wants or needs your books, anything you put online will be inferior to wikipedia, so either figure out a way to fill a need that is currently unfilled, or...goodbye.

Actually, not.  There's a very good reason for Britannica and other recognized sources to be there- and other than the fact that Wikipedia is crowdsourced, so the information is only as reputable as effort the community puts into it, i.e. unsourced information remains on the site.  That is for education.  Most schools don't accept things sourced from Wikipedia.  In the educational arena for the most part, Wikipedia is persona non grata.
I've changed my tune on all that educational institution stuff lately also.  I really don't value much of the academic community as much as I did 10 years ago.  At this point, even if someone had a PhD, I would have a healthy amount of skepticism about what I though of the person.  I've met too many highly intelligent people that have very few resume accolades, and I've met a lot of people with lots of degrees to their name that lacked all sorts of common sense and open-mindedness.

I know the academic community doesn't respect informal sources of information, but i don't care anymore.  I just don't have much trust or patience left for things that want me to believe them simply because of a label like "Dr." or "40 years experience doing...".  Too often, people and corporations are hiding behind these labels.  What they're hiding?  i don't know, but they won't tell, and if you don't tell, I don't trust.  I'd just as soon go to sources like wikipedia that are willing to be transparent and engage in open and honest debates.  "Because I say so" doesn't mean anything...even if you have 5 PhD's.
Logged

40hz
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 10,628



see users location on a map View Profile Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #18 on: March 15, 2012, 05:43:03 PM »

I'd just as soon go to sources like wikipedia that are willing to be transparent and engage in open and honest debates.

Except they're really not. There are all sorts of agendas, cliques, and power brokers within the Wikipedia community. Just like everywhere else. (Get involved as a contributor and you'll find that out pretty quickly.) So while I don't think having a PhD should automatically be the final word in a discussion, I still think juried articles and extensive peer reviews of research data and findings goes a long way towards keeping things honest. At least more often than not.

Not that it will matter. The free exchange of academic information is coming to an end as more and more academic research gets sponsored by business and government interests and now tends to disappear into information silos - or behind paywalls and NDAs - as fast as it's collected and written up.

I'm not defending the ivory towers. But I am experienced enough not to think that getting rid of our current known problem children is automatically going to solve things. Most times, you get rid of one group of rascals and a bigger group of absolute thugs take their place.
 smiley
Logged

Don't you see? It's turtles all the way down!
wraith808
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 6,221



"In my dreams, I always do it right."

see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #19 on: March 15, 2012, 06:18:29 PM »

Except they're really not. There are all sorts of agendas, cliques, and power brokers within the Wikipedia community. Just like everywhere else. (Get involved as a contributor and you'll find that out pretty quickly.)

QFT.  And very good summarization of what I meant above with your comments on the peer review system.  Non-PhD's can bring things to the table, and so a group of PhD's vetting each other's work doesn't mean that you have the last word on the subject.  But you're a sight closer than you are without them.
Logged

40hz
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 10,628



see users location on a map View Profile Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #20 on: March 15, 2012, 06:21:08 PM »

I feel at the same time highly frustrated by the relatively tedious linearity of the whole process I am engaged in, when compared to the exploding connectivity and richness of of that "discovery" experience.

That, I think, cuts right to the heart of it for some of us. Online and electronic lookups tend to be linear activities .

@IainB - Linear! (That's twice this month you've hit on the exact word I was looking for! You're hired.) Grin
Logged

Don't you see? It's turtles all the way down!
superboyac
Charter Member
***
Posts: 5,662


Is your software in my list?

see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #21 on: March 15, 2012, 06:26:56 PM »

But studies have shown that the quality (i.e., error rate) of Britannica is only somewhat better than Wikipedia -- they're both of similar magnitude.

I fear that the stigma really stems from academia (right down to elementary school) believing in a top-down model, a priesthood of experts who dictate to the masses, whereas WP stands for power from the ground up.

While I can agree in spirit with that argument (academics having much to answer for) I still worry about the current trend towards confusing consensus with fact and proof. I've seen too much scientifically determined fact dismissed with comments like: "Well, that's just your opinion." or "I'm sorry, but we don't see it that way." to be too anxious to toss out our entire qualified peer review system in favor of mob rule when it comes to creating reference materials.

And while crowd sourcing may be all the rage, I can't help but wonder why the opinions of experts or scientific research is now often considered less reliable and acceptable than the off-the-cuff collective opinion of 400 laymen, a talk show host, or a badly designed and conducted poll.

Small surprise we now see things like over 500 locales authoritatively listed as the number one place (singular) for starting a business in America - if the magazines can be trusted. Or how worries about carbon and global warming are dismissed by our policy makers because their is no 'scientific' consensus to support the concern.

Not to say that everyone isn't entitled to their opinion.

It's just that I think its both naive and potentially dangerous to think that everyone's opinion should automatically be given equal weight.

Call me crazy, but from what I've seen, something like 80% of what's out there talking (i.e. the "All I know is______" crowd) isn't entitled to an opinion because they simply don't know enough (and usually can't be bothered to learn enough) to be qualified to even have an opinion worth listening to.
 Cool
There's ^^^ which you describe above.  And on the other side of the spectrum, there are those very intelligent, very learned people who either can't or won't explain whatever it is they know so well.  For example, there are those that don't realize that most people haven't spent a lifetime poring over the specific thing that they are experts at, and they are unable to communicate their knowledge in a beneficial way.  Then, there are those who simply won't be clear because they don't want to "give something away" (it's true...I've seen it).

Another thing I've noticed in the very "smart" crowds, especially the ones that really need the PhD label before they listen to anything...if they think you are not qualified, all they do (because they are very smart and clever) is take your opinion, and disagree with it.  It's a form of bullying in my opinion.  So if I ask "So do you think the Great Pyramids were built by aliens?" they'll answer "Well, perhaps they were built by slave labor."  And they go on to explain how that's possible.  But had I asked "So do you think the Great Pyramids were built by slave labor?"  well now they'll answer 'Well, perhaps they weren't slaves but respected artisans and engineers."  And this is fine, but I've seen too much that they are doing this general tactic to disagree.  They just will not agree.  Even if they agree, they have to sort of stick in that last word...the but-how-about-this comment.  And the whole thing really boils down to that all they are trying to do is appear smart.  it's not an honest and open exploration of a topic.  I have really been turned off by this attitude in the universities I have attended.  And even more so in the workplace.

And then there's this legalistic they do about changing your mind.  I change my mind constantly, especially as i dig deeper into a subject.  And a lot of these guys I describe above like to bully you about changing your mind, because anyone who changes their mind is immediately not credible any more.

I know I'm bitter and defensive about this.  But it is something I have struggled with much of my life and I'm only understanding it on a personal level now.  A lot of my family came from areas where you just couldn't ask questions freely.  And that's never really gone away for a lot of them.  And I had to sort of balance all that out with the fact that I'm also a born and raised American.  It's that 1st generation thing.  It's crazy.  In the end, I just don't want people making me feel guilty or bad about exploring a subject, and I think that's something this country is (should be?  was?) great at.
Logged

40hz
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 10,628



see users location on a map View Profile Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #22 on: March 15, 2012, 06:45:29 PM »

I have really been turned off by this attitude in the universities I have attended.

I guess I've been pretty lucky on that score, although it may have been a function of where I went and when I went there. It's a very different world on university campuses than what I knew when I attended. So maybe a part of my attitude is out of date.

And even more so in the workplace.

I'll +1 that part, no argument. (That's why I started my own business - and probably why you did too?)

In the end, I just don't want people making me feel guilty or bad about exploring a subject, and I think that's something this country is (should be?  was?) great at.

I think you're correct on all three points. It is. Should be. And rapidly is becoming was. That's why we're all constantly fighting the ignorance around us. Don't give up. Thmbsup
Logged

Don't you see? It's turtles all the way down!
CWuestefeld
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 933



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #23 on: March 15, 2012, 08:03:39 PM »

While I can agree in spirit with that argument (academics having much to answer for) I still worry about the current trend towards confusing consensus with fact and proof. I've seen too much scientifically determined fact dismissed with comments like: "Well, that's just your opinion." or "I'm sorry, but we don't see it that way." to be too anxious to toss out our entire qualified peer review system in favor of mob rule when it comes to creating reference materials.

And while crowd sourcing may be all the rage, I can't help but wonder why the opinions of experts or scientific research is now often considered less reliable and acceptable than the off-the-cuff collective opinion of 400 laymen, a talk show host, or a badly designed and conducted poll.

Understand that for encyclopedias as a class -- Britannica, Wikipedia, and any others -- their charter is explicitly not to provide 1st tier (researcher published) or even 2nd (literature aggregating the original research). Their job is to convey the consensus, and that's it. Both Britannica and Wikipedia do a pretty good job at this (although I know a number of subject matter experts who are frustrated that WP reverts their edits for facts they know, but cannot demonstrate through 2nd tier sources, and thus deride WP). So I think that this is as it should be when we're discussing encyclopedias.

That said, I agree with you about the problems people have grappling with concrete facts, the scientific method, and policy. Observed, measured facts (the sun rose this morning at X o'clock) aren't subject to debate at all, other than calibration of the measurement devices. But few people have the sophistication to understand how those measurements work (e.g., recent scientific controversy over measurements of the speed of light at CERN), and so I think that many folks believe that the facts themselves are being debated (and a retarded press doesn't help the matter).

But let me take this a step farther in two different ways.

First, I see a disconcerting overuse of the phrase "common sense", particularly when discussing governmental policy. It seems to be used to excuse a lack of rational argument, saying that no justification is necessary. But reading between the lines, it suggests that either the speaker has no justification, or that the speaker feels that the listener isn't worth giving a justification to. And this is very dangerous because history shows in controversies beyond number (heliocentric universe; biogenesis; etc.) that the obvious answer is frequently very wrong.

Second, even when one has the facts correct, it does not always directly lead to policy decisions. One cannot decide policy without mixing facts with values, and everybody has their own set of these. Just because the earth's climate is changing, it doesn't automatically follow that something must be done to stop it (I don't mean to debate this argument, simply to recognize that it is debatable. Just because there are large numbers of undocumented aliens in America, it doesn't automatically follow that they are a detriment to our society.

We may be able to arrive at consensus about the facts of a given issue -- or at least most of us should be able to, since most of us are unable to support an argument against a real expert, and thus have little choice but to accept the consensus of the scientific community. But the only way we can translate those facts into a policy is by taking a single set of values to act upon. Sometimes we can all agree on a value, as when the country was threatened in WWII -- we all found ourselves on the same page. More often, we value different things to different degrees, and so are unable to agree on policy. And so a policy is dictated that interferes with someone's values. This breaks the enlightenment liberal philosophy on which the USA was founded, and is what Hayek wrote about in the classic The Road to Serfdom.
Logged



IainB
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 4,632


Slartibartfarst

see users location on a map View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #24 on: March 15, 2012, 08:09:18 PM »

That, I think, cuts right to the heart of it for some of us. Online and electronic lookups tend to be linear activities .
Well, I suspect that would be generally true for all (not just some) of us - in terms of human experience.
If you analyse anything that you do as a process, then you can quickly establish/see whether it is linear. A lot of what we do can thus be seen to be linear process flow, and even that explosive/connected "discovery" process would be linear if it was broken down (decomposed) into small enough discrete steps. The thing about using the hardcopy reference texts (hardcopy media) though is that it seems non-linear, because it is "fast" (speedy).
It is fast because you can use your trained reading faculties and that media, jumping your attention across a wider span and then focussing in as necessary, in such a way as to minimise the duration of the discrete sequential linear process steps and of any delay intervals between them. You thus accelerate the process.
Quote
"Need more input! Need more input!" (from the movie "Number 5")
Doing this another way doesn't seem to be possible at present, using the available technology. In fact the Britannica-on-a-tablet technology suggested (above) could arguably slow the process down.

I think that if you tried it out in practice it would indeed slow the process down. This would be unusual in my experience, because time and again it can be demonstrated that if you automate a process you will be able to speed it up - but it is generally implicit in that that you are removing the human element (and human error). But this discussion is related to the ergonomics and the human experience of "discovery" learning, so it is impossible to isolate the human element without defeating the objective (which would be something like [To achieve effective "discovery" learning]).

So we're probably not able to go about automating it in "the right way" using current technology - or at least in the way I am supposing we could use Britannica-on-a-tablet - i.e., it is, or could potentially be going backwards.

I have realised during this discussion that, whereas I had initially envisaged using just a laptop and a tablet as described, you could equally use a laptop and two or more separate displays (monitor screens). It's the number of displays that seems a relevant constraint - to mimic the books "spread out on the floor" around you. I have googled displays and decided that what could work might be larger touch-sensitive displays that you could position in portrait or landscape format, and adjust from vertical or to lie down flat or at a (say) a 35° angle facing you. Sort of "big" tablets positioned/laid out on the floor or desk around you.

And it wouldn't matter where the knowledge base was that you were accessing, as long as all devices could access it with equal facility. So, using Britannica-on-a-tablet would not seem to be the solution, but it would seem to be a pretty good starting-point to experiment and "suck it and see" and to better understand the limitations of the technology. Rather like a prototype of the multi-display scenario that I have just outlined.

I think I might have asked the "wrong" question in the opening post. Substitute "knowledge base" for "Britannica" or "Wikipedia", so as to remove the attractively diverting debate about which is "better", etc. But you would have to be able to trust the authors of that knowledge base not to be loading it with bias, political correctness, religio-political ideology, propaganda, innacuracies or downright falsehoods - or to be over-pricing it. Those of us who have been awake for the last 20 or so years are more likely to be skeptical as to how that might be able to work out.

In any event, I would still love to have my knowledge base - including my entire document reference library - either held on a tablet or readily accessible via a tablet. Portable, discrete, read-anywhere access to knowledge and references.
I reckon Britannica-on-a-tablet could be a good starting point and I'd be a serious potential customer for one of those, subject to price/affordability.

This would go a little way towards a worthwhile objective (imho) - the expansion of free and easy access to the sum of all human knowledge, necessary for our further development and cultural evolution. Only the other day I was delighted to read that Oxford U was putting some of Newton's papers and some Islamic manuscripts online. How good to see these things finally being made accessible to the general public, brought out into the daylight instead of being held in secure and dark cells behind some artificial and seemingly impenetrable barrier - library walls or other academic walls/paywalls (ref. Elsevier).

So, my thanks go to Amazon or Apple et al. Whatever fault we might be able to find in them (probably quite a lot), this discussion might not have even been able to take place on this subject if it hadn't been for the de facto commoditisation of the concept of reading tablets, by that group.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2012, 08:21:28 PM by IainB » Logged
Pages: [1] 2 Next   Go Up
  Reply  |  New Topic  |  Print  
 
Jump to:  
   Forum Home   Thread Marks Chat! Downloads Search Login Register  

DonationCoder.com | About Us
DonationCoder.com Forum | Powered by SMF
[ Page time: 0.175s | Server load: 0.13 ]