Thursday, June 25, 2009

Britannica.com makes me want to weep

I got a marketing mail from Britannica.com trying to entice me back after I canceled my subscription. So, I figured I'd just go take a quick look at a random Britannica entry and remind myself of what I was missing. Nightmare.

On the Britannica.com home they were mentioning that their article about the US Voyager program was featured and I could see it for free. So I clicked.

This featured article contains 503 words that give the briefest of introductions to Voyager. The related articles are all about the planets that Voyager passed, and there's a connection to a general article about space exploration. There's absolutely no drill down to explore Voyager in any depth.

Of course, I whizzed over to Wikipedia and looked up the same subject. The main article contains 2,009 words and links to in-depth articles about Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. And there are links to interesting articles about their voyages, their power systems, the Voyager Golden Record and more.

And Wikipedia links you straight to the definitive source for Voyager information: NASA's Voyager Program page. Britannica doesn't link; they choose to link to a small collection of images of the Voyager craft from NASA's web site.

So, basically Britannica.com's article is close to useless because it's a dead-end and a short dead-end at that. In contrast, Wikipedia's article is rich, links to even more information and lets me get to source material.

And if that's not enough Britannica.com's page is infested with distracting ads. The worst of these are the weird keyword-linked ads buried right inside the article itself.

It looks like you might be able to click on, say, solar system in the article to drill down. Far from it! Hover over solar system and you get the following irrelevant, useless, pop-up ad.



Pure genius, Britannica.com. Pure, pure genius.

Now, Britannica.com's article does contain some drill down, but some of it is useless. For example, the Voyagers each contain a phonograph record with a recording of sounds from Earth (language, music, etc.). On the Britannica.com page the words phonograph record are a link. Click through and they will tell you what a phonograph record is, not about the ones on board the Voyagers. Thanks, I'm old enough to know what a phonograph record is.

So, Britannica.com, now you know why I donate money to Wikipedia, and don't buy your service.

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