In my recent article “Is Wikipedia Corrupt?” I asked other online encyclopedias to speak up and introduce themselves so that users could explore alternatives to Wikipedia. The lines had been silent until I received a kind introduction to an alternative site called Citizendium from the founder, Larry Sanger. Incidentally, and quite ironically, Larry Sanger is the co-founder of Wikipedia and another property called Nupedia.

Anyway, it is time for me to leave the stage. Here is Larry’s excellent introduction to Citizendium (opened in March 2007) which appears to be a worthy alternative to Wikipedia:

The short version is on our front page: We are an encyclopedia project, and more.

We are a different sort of Web 2.0 project:

* We aim at credibility and quality, not just quantity.
* We offer gentle expert oversight.
* We use our real names, not pseudonyms.
* We’re collegial.

We have added over 2,600 articles since November 2006.

More detail from our About page:

The Citizendium (sit-ih-ZEN-dee-um), a “citizens’ compendium of everything,” is an open wiki project aimed at creating an enormous, free, and reliable encyclopedia. The project, started by a founder of Wikipedia, aims to improve on the Wikipedia model by adding “gentle expert oversight” and requiring contributors to use their real names.
We have over 2,600 articles and hundreds of contributors. But we will avoid calling the Citizendium an “encyclopedia” until the project’s editors feel comfortable putting their reputations behind that description.

We believe this project is necessary, and justified, because the world needs a more reliable free encyclopedia. We hope to create one by giving people a place to work under the direction of experts, and by expecting personal accountability–including the use of real names. In short, we want to create a responsible community and a good global citizen.

What’s our goal?

As to quality, our goal is to capture humanity’s multivarious 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 also want to create 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 last 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 and abuse that plagues so many other Internet communities.

Lawrence M. Sanger, Ph.D. | Editor-in-Chief, Citizendium |