Back in August I wrote an article called “Is Wikipedia Corrupt?” which looked at the concerns caused by controversial editing in the popular Wikipedia online encyclopedia. In the closing section of that article I stressed that Google needed to move away from highlighting Wikipedia in favor of increasing the diversity of its encyclopedic references. In that regard I would like to introduce a great introduction to Citizendium written by Russ McGinn, a Citizendium Editor and former participant at Wikipedia.
We believe the world needs a more reliable free encyclopedia. We are creating a trusted general reference work by giving people a place to work under the direction of experts, and by expecting personal accountability, professionalism and by requiring the use of real names. Our goal is to capture humanity’s multivariate understanding of reality, and thereby to paint a maximally broad and detailed portrait of our universe as accurately as we understand it. An indispensable means to this end is the involvement of many experts who will help guide and, ultimately, approve many of our articles. We expect our approved articles to be, in the long run, as authoritative, error-free, and well-written as encyclopedia articles can be expected to be.
As to quantity, we hope to grow to hundreds of thousands of articles within a few years, and millions a few years after that. This is not the traditional goal of encyclopedias, which has been to offer up only mainstream views of the most important aspects of the most important topics. Cheap disk space and bandwidth, and the potential of participation by ultimately millions of people, means that we can capture humanity’s understanding of reality with far more nuance and detail.
We are also creating a new sort of online community. We welcome experts as well as the general public; we will be built not by top-down orders but as and where contributors wish to work; and we will be organized as a republic governed by a rule of law. This means that there will be no “dictators,” but a regularly changing group of people tasked to manage a public trust in conformity with a relatively stable code of rules. It also means that we will have very little tolerance for the sort of immature disruption, abuse and gaming that plagues so many other Internet communities.
On a personal note, I left Wikipedia, because whilst there are a number of competent editors there, the combination of anonymity, people gaming the system, an overemphasis of ‘style’ over ‘reliable content’, and a lack of interest in the management to manage, leads to endless unproductive arguments. In part, it’s success is due to exactly those factors - contributors start writing a few articles and are then seduced by the politics - see <this Wikipedia link> as just the latest appalling example - people either burn out become ‘wikidrama‘ addicts.
Not for me I’m afraid.
Thank you Russ for your detailed description of the Citizendium and your thoughts on Wikipedia. The establishment of a comprehensive community-written encyclopedia is no doubt an incredibly difficult task; one that I cannot even pretend to grasp. That said, the values that Citizendium is trying to uphold are extremely worthwhile and I wish you and your fellow editors all of the luck and assistance in the world.
I would also like to turn some attention to Wikipedia; the current forerunner in the online encyclopedia landscape. I understand Wikipedia continues to sort out some complaints and dissent but that kind of controversy is bound to come with the enormous success it has gained over the past few years. The editors at Wikipedia deserve a lot of respect for their hard work and for keeping their heads above water and their spirits high.
Ultimately the best option for everyone would be to have a wide array of resources to consult in order to prevent a single entity from controlling public opinion and knowledge within the Internet.
A Call for More Introductions
Again I request that any online encyclopedia contact me with a description of their site. Tell me why your site should stand out from the rest and I will be proud to post it for all to see. Mail me at ceo at stepforth dot com and I will review your submission for publishing ASAP.
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