A Blog of Very Little Brain

'What does Crustimoney Proseedcake mean?' said Pooh. 'For I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words Bother me.'

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I believe in equilibrium.

This goes to say that whenever something tilts to one (usually wrong) side, eventually it will be tilted to the other side, balancing things right. For example, more often than not, someone releases some research that claims the opposite of what we all know. I’m not referring to Microsoft Get-The-FUD campaigns and their ilk, but to a third-party (usually a respected one) that announces, that something isn’t the way you always thought it to be, only to return on their claims several months later (sadly, after the damage has already been done).

For example, several months ago, Symantec published an article claiming that Firefox has twice the amount of security flaws than Micrsoft’s Internet Explorer. I have claimed then, and still stand by it, that being Open-Sourced, Firefox not only is not twice as insecure, but can deal with those flaws much faster and more efficiently, while Microsoft either ignore or refuse to recognise flaws (which exist nonetheless), until they release a fix for them, which can take as much as several months.

This been said, lately, Symantec had a change of heart, now counting “vendor- and non-vendor-confirmed flaws”, clearly showing that Firefox is the more secure of the two.

Another recent example comes in this article regarding Nature.com’s comparison of the Britannica and everyone’s favourite encyclopedic punch bag, Wikipedia. To refresh the memory, Nature.com conducted a review of 50 articles from each publication, and found, to their surprise, 30% more errors in Britannica than in Wikipedia. A short debate erupted, some claimed the triumph of the “common intelligence” over the old-fashioned academic one, some wondered what was the basis for error (for instance, what the hell is Wagnerian Rock?) but the sad writing was apparent on everyone’s wall.

Not really.
You see, it appears that Nature.com “cooked” their research. Cooked, I said? More like steamed, stewed, roasted, soaked overnight, mashed, baked, fried, boiled, and brewed, as, according to the Register, “Nature sent only misleading fragments of some Britannica articles to the reviewers, sent extracts of the children’s version and Britannica’s “book of the year” to others, and in one case, simply stitched together bits from different articles and inserted its own material, passing it off as a single Britannica entry.
And they could only find 33% more errors? This doesn’t bodes well for Wikipedia. But then again, those mashed-up examples that Nature.com used for the Britannica are more-or-less how Wikipedia articles are created.

Written by Erez

Sunday, March 26, 2006 at 0:25

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