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Wikipedia v Citizendium


John Simkin
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Article in today's Times:

http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/ne...icle2409783.ece

A project has been set up with the aim of usurping Wikipedia as the web’s leading reference work.

Like its rival, the Citizendium site will solicit input from the public. But in a departure from the standard “wiki” model, it will be directed by expert editors, and contributors will be expected to use their real names.

The changes are designed to stamp out the inaccuracies and mischief-making that have blighted Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia that “anybody can edit”.

The venture reflects a general revolt against unchecked user-generated online content, amid fears that efforts to tap the wisdom of crowds have unleashed a tyranny of the masses.

The movement’s champion is Andrew Keen, who argues in his book The Cult of the Amateur that free but substandard online content risks destroying entire industries. The idea that open collaborative projects can replace the work of professional individuals, he argues, represents an “extraordinary popular delusion”. Citizendium is led by Larry Sanger , a co-founder of Wikipedia, who left that website to become one of its most vocal critics.

“Wikipedia has accomplished great things, but the world can do even better,” Dr Sanger said. “By engaging expert editors, eliminating anonymous contribution and launching a more mature community under a new charter, a much broader and more influential group of people and institutions will be able to improve upon Wikipedia’s extremely useful, but often uneven work. The result will be not only enormous and free, but reliable.”

The pilot Citizendium project is invitation-only. A vetted group of editors, called “constables”, is developing a set of rules for contributors.

Gareth Leng, Professor of Experimental Physiology of the University of Edinburgh, has agreed to serve as a constable. “Public understanding of science needs scientists to help to explain, clearly and objectively, what science can do and what it can’t,” he said.

“At the Citizendium, our role will not be to tell readers what opinions they should hold, but to give them the means to decide for themselves.”

If it succeeds Citizendium may owe a large debt to Wikipedia, which was founded in 2001 and now has more than eight million articles in 253 languages – from Afrikaans to Zazaki.

It was proposed that the new project will begin life by “mirroring” – or reproducing – Wikipedia’s content, a process allowed under the site’s copyright conditions. “Contributors [to Citizendium] will then be able to edit articles,” a spokesman said. “The eventual goal will be to either improve or replace all Wikipedia-sourced content.”

Citizendium’s expert editors will then “bless” versions of articles as “approved” or trustworthy.

The aim is to stamp out the anonymous and sometimes malicious edits that have undermined Wikipedia’s reputation. In 2005 John Seigenthaler, the founding editorial director of USA Today, discovered that he had been linked to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy by a Wikipedia article. Attacking the site he called it an irresponsible haven for “volunteer vandals with poison-pen intellects”.

Last month it emerged that computers linked to politicians and large companies had made sweeping edits of Wikipedia to rewrite or erase embarrassing entries. Jimmy Wales, the site’s founder, has acknowledged Wikipedia’s limitations. “If what you are after is ‘Who won the World Cup in 1984’, Wikipedia is going to be fine,” he said. “If you want to know something more esoteric, or something controversial, you should probably use a second reference – at least.”

He told The Timesat the time of Seigenthaler’s attack that while he “worries a lot about how to make sure that articles on Wikipedia are right”, generally the site “is actually pretty good”.

That judgement was later backed up by Nature, the scientific journal, which reported that Wikipedia was as reliable as Encyclopaedia Britannica – the standard to which it aspires.

An online wonder

— 8.2 million articles have been contributed to Wikipedia since 2001, a total of 1.4 billion words

— The English-language version of Wikipedia has about two million entries – about 15 times as many as the largest edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the standard to which it aspires

— Specialist sites based on the “wiki” model include Wikible (the Bible) and Wookiepeedia (on Star Wars)

— Last month it emerged that many embarrassing Wikipedia entries had been edited by organisations mentioned in them. The Chinese Government erased information about China blocking Wikipedia inside its borders. The CIA tweaked entries on Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon

— The term “wiki” is derived from the wiki wiki or “quick” buses found in Hawaii

Currently, Citizendium does not have an entry for the JFK Assassination. Maybe one of our members should contribute one.

http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/John_F._Kennedy

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Article in today's Times:

http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/ne...icle2409783.ece

A project has been set up with the aim of usurping Wikipedia as the web’s leading reference work.

Like its rival, the Citizendium site will solicit input from the public. But in a departure from the standard “wiki” model, it will be directed by expert editors, and contributors will be expected to use their real names.

The changes are designed to stamp out the inaccuracies and mischief-making that have blighted Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia that “anybody can edit”.

The venture reflects a general revolt against unchecked user-generated online content, amid fears that efforts to tap the wisdom of crowds have unleashed a tyranny of the masses.

The movement’s champion is Andrew Keen, who argues in his book The Cult of the Amateur that free but substandard online content risks destroying entire industries. The idea that open collaborative projects can replace the work of professional individuals, he argues, represents an “extraordinary popular delusion”. Citizendium is led by Larry Sanger , a co-founder of Wikipedia, who left that website to become one of its most vocal critics.

“Wikipedia has accomplished great things, but the world can do even better,” Dr Sanger said. “By engaging expert editors, eliminating anonymous contribution and launching a more mature community under a new charter, a much broader and more influential group of people and institutions will be able to improve upon Wikipedia’s extremely useful, but often uneven work. The result will be not only enormous and free, but reliable.”

The pilot Citizendium project is invitation-only. A vetted group of editors, called “constables”, is developing a set of rules for contributors.

Gareth Leng, Professor of Experimental Physiology of the University of Edinburgh, has agreed to serve as a constable. “Public understanding of science needs scientists to help to explain, clearly and objectively, what science can do and what it can’t,” he said.

“At the Citizendium, our role will not be to tell readers what opinions they should hold, but to give them the means to decide for themselves.”

If it succeeds Citizendium may owe a large debt to Wikipedia, which was founded in 2001 and now has more than eight million articles in 253 languages – from Afrikaans to Zazaki.

It was proposed that the new project will begin life by “mirroring” – or reproducing – Wikipedia’s content, a process allowed under the site’s copyright conditions. “Contributors [to Citizendium] will then be able to edit articles,” a spokesman said. “The eventual goal will be to either improve or replace all Wikipedia-sourced content.”

Citizendium’s expert editors will then “bless” versions of articles as “approved” or trustworthy.

The aim is to stamp out the anonymous and sometimes malicious edits that have undermined Wikipedia’s reputation. In 2005 John Seigenthaler, the founding editorial director of USA Today, discovered that he had been linked to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy by a Wikipedia article. Attacking the site he called it an irresponsible haven for “volunteer vandals with poison-pen intellects”.

Last month it emerged that computers linked to politicians and large companies had made sweeping edits of Wikipedia to rewrite or erase embarrassing entries. Jimmy Wales, the site’s founder, has acknowledged Wikipedia’s limitations. “If what you are after is ‘Who won the World Cup in 1984’, Wikipedia is going to be fine,” he said. “If you want to know something more esoteric, or something controversial, you should probably use a second reference – at least.”

He told The Timesat the time of Seigenthaler’s attack that while he “worries a lot about how to make sure that articles on Wikipedia are right”, generally the site “is actually pretty good”.

That judgement was later backed up by Nature, the scientific journal, which reported that Wikipedia was as reliable as Encyclopaedia Britannica – the standard to which it aspires.

An online wonder

— 8.2 million articles have been contributed to Wikipedia since 2001, a total of 1.4 billion words

— The English-language version of Wikipedia has about two million entries – about 15 times as many as the largest edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the standard to which it aspires

— Specialist sites based on the “wiki” model include Wikible (the Bible) and Wookiepeedia (on Star Wars)

— Last month it emerged that many embarrassing Wikipedia entries had been edited by organisations mentioned in them. The Chinese Government erased information about China blocking Wikipedia inside its borders. The CIA tweaked entries on Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon

— The term “wiki” is derived from the wiki wiki or “quick” buses found in Hawaii

Currently, Citizendium does not have an entry for the JFK Assassination. Maybe one of our members should contribute one.

http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/John_F._Kennedy

Excellent news!

I hope the Citizendium has some integrity and standards, unlike the Propagandapedia, but I'll wait and see.

At least Wiki's richly earned bad reputation is starting to have repercussions.

And I agree that we should submit an entry on the assassination of the 35th President of the United States...

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As I understand it, first one whould have to be approved to submit such an article. In fact one could just copy what is in the Wikipedia and edit it, cutting down on the work to start with. John, you might have the clout from this website to get 'appointed' and maybe they'd let you select sub-selectees for certain portions..... What would be a dissapointment would be for someone to spend weeks of months on it, submit it, only to find they wouldn't accept it. How do they propose to handle differences of opinion or even opposite views on things as controversial as the assassinations? If any of us post or do a group post, McAdams will be right behind, if he isn't already working on it. And who is their 'constable' on this and related subjects? Lets hope not a 'Pozner', but a real historian. While they might have a policy of presenting both of multiple sides, they will need a wise and even-handed person indeed on this one. These are listed as the editors on 'history' at the moment: http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Category:History_Editors

I don't think they would accept me as I run my own website that is in competition to Citizendium and Wikipedia. They would rightly point out that any page I wrote for them would be a mirror image of the page on my website. My suggestion is that members who have had books published on the subject apply to be an editor of a particular section. For example, Larry Hancock. Once these people have been accepted as editors, they could sub-contract the work out to other members who are willing to write the articles. For example, I would like our members take over the section on the CIA.

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Guest David Guyatt

The downside, of course, is those "expert editors". Who selects the, who pays them etc. Will it just become another slanted propaganda outlet where real news is razored out in place of nonsense. I have always found wikipedia useful - not becuase I intend to rely on it'scontent - but it provides a starting point for research.

Basically the whole sheebang of Citizendium - including it's name (a misnomer if ever there was one) shouts ALARM.

David

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The downside, of course, is those "expert editors". Who selects the, who pays them etc. Will it just become another slanted propaganda outlet where real news is razored out in place of nonsense. I have always found wikipedia useful - not becuase I intend to rely on it'scontent - but it provides a starting point for research.

Basically the whole sheebang of Citizendium - including it's name (a misnomer if ever there was one) shouts ALARM.

David

Well we really won't know until we try.

And given the fact that they're promoting themselves as the un-Wikipedia, and Wikipedia is slanted to the right, there's no place for them to go un-Wiki unless they go left, or go neutral--which is exactly where they claim to be.

I ain't lettin' this opportunity slip away.

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Guest David Guyatt
The downside, of course, is those "expert editors". Who selects the, who pays them etc. Will it just become another slanted propaganda outlet where real news is razored out in place of nonsense. I have always found wikipedia useful - not becuase I intend to rely on it'scontent - but it provides a starting point for research.

Basically the whole sheebang of Citizendium - including it's name (a misnomer if ever there was one) shouts ALARM.

David

Well we really won't know until we try.

And given the fact that they're promoting themselves as the un-Wikipedia, and Wikipedia is slanted to the right, there's no place for them to go un-Wiki unless they go left, or go neutral--which is exactly where they claim to be.

I ain't lettin' this opportunity slip away.

I agree that time will tell, Myra. Neutral would be fine. That's where it should be.

Just my cynacism showing is all. That plus my inherent suspicions about promotional spin usually being at a distinct variance with eventaul reality.

David

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The downside, of course, is those "expert editors". Who selects the, who pays them etc. Will it just become another slanted propaganda outlet where real news is razored out in place of nonsense. I have always found wikipedia useful - not becuase I intend to rely on it'scontent - but it provides a starting point for research.

Basically the whole sheebang of Citizendium - including it's name (a misnomer if ever there was one) shouts ALARM.

David

Well we really won't know until we try.

And given the fact that they're promoting themselves as the un-Wikipedia, and Wikipedia is slanted to the right, there's no place for them to go un-Wiki unless they go left, or go neutral--which is exactly where they claim to be.

I ain't lettin' this opportunity slip away.

I agree that time will tell, Myra. Neutral would be fine. That's where it should be.

Just my cynacism showing is all. That plus my inherent suspicions about promotional spin usually being at a distinct variance with eventaul reality.

David

And cynicism generally dovetails with reality David.

So if this venture ends up being yet another propaganda outlet or time sink then we won't be terribly surprised or caught off guard. I don't mean to come off as some kinda deluded optimist.

But there's that slim chance that they are exactly what they advertise. And if so it'd be nice to get in early and write some good ol' neutral fact-based prose, which inherently gives most of us the advantage since we don't have to get all creative like the propagandists.

Worst case scenario we get practice at writing things that need to be written and recorded anyway. If our contributions prove to be unwelcome at Citizendium then there's always the forums, websites, books, magazines, carrier pigeons...

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