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GNU is Not Unix

GNUPedia Project Starting 165

Posted by Hemos
from the new-use-of-gnu dept.
Hector Facundo Arena writes: "The Free Universal Encyclopedia and Learning Resource (GNUPedia) Web page is online today. GNUPedia is a project for the development of a free encyclopedia. You can read more in the Richard Stallman's project announcement document. We invite you to participate in the project and join the mailing lists"
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GNUPedia Project Starting

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  • Why limit it to non-fiction!? Take a look at http://www.baen.com/library/ [baen.com] where you can download some great fiction for free. Make no mistake, Jim Baen and the authors want to make money off this little project, by spreading the word and getting the mid-list author's names out there, and they are bound to do better than the music industry, since they are embracing the web instead of denying its existence.
  • Why not just use everything2? It's a perfect medium to generate such a database.
  • But a traditional encyclopedia is written by experts in the field, or at least people who know how to research stuff. While existing encyclopedias may not be perfect, they are pretty close. The problem I see with gnupedia is that any kid can add some half-baked stuff and have that submitted as equally correct as something written by somebody who really knows that stuff.
    And I don't understand how pointing out an error in one article in another would be useful. First, you have to find all the articles that talk about the one you are currently reading. And second, which one do you trust? If I want to look something up, I don't want to start doing lots of research to decide which of the different articles is the correct ones. That's not what I use encyclopedias for.
    So in conclusion, I believe that an encyclopedia is about the last thing the open source idea is useful for. That's just a different kind of beast.
  • Dear Ben Crowell,

    Two points:

    • The GPL is not like a virus. A virus is something that is generally absorbed unknowingly, and something that is absorbed against your will. The GPL is neither absorbed unknowingly, nor against anybody's will. Thus, I do not believe that the GPL is a virus. Nobody has ever been forced to adopt the GPL against their will. If code is GPL'ed, it is GPL'ed because that was the intent of the author, and your quarrel should be with them, not Richard Stallman.
    • Often times, people pin RMS as a "lone" worker, who somehow makes terrible things happen. Realize that there are a whole slew of people who agree with most of what RMS says. Just because we aren't visible, it doesn't mean we aren't here. I once met someone, while volunteering with several others at a GNU booth at LISA (sysadmin conference), who had memorized the entire GPL and told us that he recited it once while he was drunk at a bar. There's deep mojo in the GPL.

    As for prohibiting linking to non-free articles:

    This rule will make sure we respect our own rules, in the same way that the exclusionary rule for evidence is supposed to make police respect their own rules: by not allowing us to treat work which fails to meet the criteria as if it did meet them.

    The idea of the World Wide Web is that links tie various separate pages into a larger whole. So when encyclopedia articles or courses link to a certain page, those links effectively make the page part of the encyclopedia. To claim otherwise would be self-deception. If we are to take seriously the criteria set forth above, or any criteria whatsoever, we have to base our actions on them, by not incorporating a page into our network of pages if it doesn't fit the criteria.

    Easy enough to understand. It's a self-restriction. It's so that we don't get lazy, give 3 details, and then say, "For the other 100 details, go check out these 15 web pages."

    It also ensures that it's Free, through and through. I really don't mind, all that much.

  • Again, no argument. What's your point? That ALL proprietary software is GNU derived? Because RMS is against ALL proprietary software.
  • A website called The Vines Network" [thevines.com] handles content control in a karma-like method.

    Users of their online encyclopedia rate the articles from 1 to 10. Articles are sorted in order of the authors' karma ranking.

    Seems like a pretty good way to keep trolls out of the encyclopedia without limiting their ability to post.

    Just like /.

    -----
  • You should hear my father's rant about the Encyclopædia Britannica. You won't hear the word "unbiased" in it. He'll tell you that while the current online version calls Albert Einstein a "German-American physicist", which I suppose is fair enough, his printed version just says "American physicist". (Can someone check their old E.B. and see if this is really true? As I'm writing this, it seems unbelievable.) I wonder though. If Albert had been a bad guy, would he still have been a "German-American physicist" or just a "German physicist"?
    --
  • Howdy, Lion,

    The GPL is not like a virus.
    I don't claim it's an exact metaphor, and I certainly don't claim to have invented it. Here (1 [slashdot.org],2 [geocrawler.com]) are a couple of discussions of the topic; you can find plenty more by searching in Google for "gpl virus."

    Often times, people pin RMS as a "lone" worker, who somehow makes terrible things happen.
    My beef is with his very unethical behavior toward the Nupedia folks. I couldn't care less whether he's a loner, or whether he's popular or unpopular. Unethical behavior is unethical behavior.


    The Assayer [theassayer.org] - free-information book reviews

  • What's the point in starting such a project if
    you allow linking to restricted materials? The
    point of the project is to make a free encyclopedia,
    and so it's necessary to do this kind of thing.
    It's not GNU-sanctioned learning, it's
    GNU-licensed materials. There's a difference.
    It'd be possible for someone to write critical
    materials of RMS, and make it GNU-Licensed. The
    same materials probably wouldn't ever be considered
    GNU-Sanctioned..
  • If this really remains "Free", as in anybody can contribute this project will fail miserably. As mentioned in other articles some form of editorial control is needed. In addition some form of fact checking needs to be done. An encyclopedia's quality is directly proportional to the judiciousness of the fact checking done.

    There will be a segment of the population who will endeavour to do what is done on public forums such as slashdot: Troll and destroy the integrity of the project. On slashdot it isn't that much of an issue. Sometimes trolls don't get moderated down but usually it's just inane banter which is easy to detect. I also don't put much stock in slashdot as an information resource. It's entertainment to me. There is some useful content on some subjects and some insightful commentary (and some inciteful commentary as well!) but I wouldn't be caught dead citing slashdot in any meaningful report.

    I've seen in other projects where credibility is more important, such as mindpixel (the projects thesis is that a system can be developed that reflects the average mind of an internet user) flooded with bogus information. Some of it may just be people answering outside of the area of their expertice, some of it was obviously malicious.

    I know I sound very negative, I really hope the project succeeds and I'm airing these observations in the hopes that they're already addressed. I will contribute to this project in the areas that I consider myself well versed in.

  • Actually I've worked...


    But honestly I'd work on a farm, for free, and give away everything I didn't need. I'm not a very good farmer, yet, but I know I can learn. And I know there are many people out there who feel the same way. Not everyone has to be a farmer or rancher. I think I'd rather be a rancher anyway...


    But my point is, if they need to make money to pay taxxes on the land they work and pay for supplies they can't make themselves, they can't possibly give away anything they work on. At least not on a large scale. But with web content we can... I am currently a Sr. UNIX admin, I started moving sand bags, but this makes me 10x what moving sand bags did. If I could afford to live moving those sand bags I'd still be doing that to this day. I know I felt a hell of a lot better after a day in the hot sun sweating and getting a good workout than I do sitting browsing the web all day. Its not hard labor that is the problem its the current pay scale and cost of living.


    Now maybe YOU would never do an honest days work if you didn't get paid. But for me work is work and I like to work. Helping people with computer problems is simple. I go to work at noon and leave early half the time, excellent benefits, excellent pay, etc, etc. But I'm not happy about this. I would much rather be living on my own ranch or farm. All I would ask is for a good net connection, supplies, seed, etc. and I'd still give everything I didn't need for myself away.


    PS. True I have never put in the amount of work a farmer does, but I current do a job that no farmer could. So what does that mean? We gotta give the farmers everything they want and hope they see things this way... or else you'll always be paying for your food. Hope you have enough money when the price of food increases, I know I will!

  • Its hard not to put words into Richard M. Stallman's mouth. I have to make sure these are my own opinions, although he is a very opinionated person, almost as much as me. But I think he understands the concept of freedom of information and what is required to keep information free from proprietary restrictions set by third parties.


    If you take a look at the content provided by universities, the movie or music industries or most software companies you will notice that most content is licensed under very strict terms that do not promote the freedom of information, but instead promote their own financial benefit at the cost of their customer's rights. Even today you will notice how the music and movie industries are working diligently to remove our rights to fair use of their content through the use of encryption, macrovision and other proprietary standards.


    There should be NO proprietary standards... This is an opinion I share with many techies. Joe user probably doesn't come in conflict with proprietary standards, but network and system engineers often have trouble getting various systems to communicate effectively because they only support their own set of protocols. Proprietary software and licenses are fine, but when something becomes mainstream enough to be considerred a standard, it should be open, no exception! Closed software leads to corruption via internal corporate politics. And I think we all know how much political bullshit happens on the upper management levels of corporations. These people have let the power of their position go to their head, much the same way government officials do, but at least the government is kept partially in check by the people. Who watches the corporations. Its almost illegal to write something bad about corporations today. What will it be like in 10, 20 years when more and more of your rights are stripped away by the standards you helped put in place? You don't ever have to agree with RMS, but I strongly agree after what I've seen in the valley in the last 3 years. I've watched people be bought and sold by corporations without ever asking what the people wanted, etc. We are nothing to these entities.


    So from what I've seen and what is happening now, no matter what we think. All proprietary software is conciderred the enemy of open source software based on its licensing restrictions and WILL be replaced by an open source solution. Since that is already happening if you have money you get a choice. Those who don't only get free solutions. My money is going to programmers, not lawyers and management.


    So RMS may be saying that all proprietary software is bad. And maybe he would like laws to give a little money back to the people... that's how I see open source software anyway. I feel like I own my copy of linux I burned at home for less than $2 more than I own my copy of windows I paid $50 for. I certainly can't browse the windows source code in my leisure. But the question the is it wrong to dislike proprietary software?

  • you have my vote for best sig of the year.
    awesome.
  • Lets see, anyone can create a page - about anything - there is no central control - people may later catalogue them and collate them its the. So its basically the web (well Internet) but with a GPL. (I wonder if it could be patented...)
  • There should be NO proprietary standards... This is an opinion I share with many techies.

    But it is not an opinion shared by general public. Getting back to the original topic, an article in GNUpedia written/edited by RMS that said "there should be NO proprietary standards" would be extremely biased.
  • Yes, but why do you think RMS would write such an article, and how do you think it could possibly be moderated to be of any relevant status? Wouldn't such an article, written by RMS or anyone, be discarded by the general public. Better than RMS being on some governing board overseeing which articles get published in this thing. Unless of course the only people using and moderating this encyclopedia are techies.
  • The problem is how to ensure the encyclopedia is relatively unbias. It's impossible to be completely unbiased, so let's strive for the next best thing. And RMS and his fans are not it. I dread to see the article on "freedom" that passes his muster.
    I'm don't adhere to a lot of RMS' ideals. I believe commercial software has its place, I believe patents have there place as well. I also believe that despite this, RMS' take on freedom is the least biased I've seen.

    At least RMS practices what he preaches, more than I can say for most advocates of anything else.

  • the current online version calls Albert Einstein a "German-American physicist", which I suppose is fair enough

    I suppose that "Encyclopædia Hebraica" could call him "an Ashkenazi physicist, born in Germany and dead in the United States". I won't dare to guess about "Encyclopædia Sovietica".

    It's all about your target audience.
    __
  • I'm beginning to think that DMOZ is sufficient. Anyone else?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you want to see hot steamy GNUpedia action, visit the GNUPedia page at http://www.teamslack.net
  • Isn't the internet already an encyclopedia of sorts? Whenever I need information, I just go to Google [google.com] and I'm able to find out what I need. The only thing that could be better is if the info was organized more efficiently, but doing that would be worthless effort in my opinion.
  • http://www.thereference.com/ [thereference.com]

    I like their copyright:

    Copyright © 1997 by TheReference.
    All rights reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Publisher.

  • by meta4 (4862) on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @09:21PM (#502536) Homepage
    Richard is famous for his lack of tact, but come on, GNUpedia? Why choose this name when the Nupedia [nupedia.org] project (same concept -- free online encyclopeida) exists and is already very well established? This seems like either (1) a blatent attempt to confuse would-be users and steal audience through confusion, (2) a remarkable failure to do the required homework before starting a project (remarkable because Richard is supposedly so bright), or (3) just plain insensitivity. It's enough to drive any feeling, thinking person as far away from GNU as possible. Geesh...
    --------
    meta4
    dw2-dont-spam-me-@opencontent.org
    http://davidwiley.com/
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The article speaks of quality control. What I want to know is if, just because the FSF is located in the USA, the whole thing will have the lazy 'incorrect' American English spellings (eg: 'color' over 'colour').

    English is a language from England. A country that 'steals' this language cannot make changes to it and then claim they are right. Color is incorrect spelling.

    The Internet is global. The English language is also global. Colour is how it is spelt in all but one nation.

    Will this 'GNUpedia' (which already has a spelling mistake in the title just due to ASCII issues) be biased towards one man's (RMS's) native flawed spelling, or will it be correct for a wider, if non-US, audience?

    Anonymous because this will come across as a troll to anyone that thinks I am wrong.

  • I couldn't agree more. Particularly the stance on "correcting incorrect information"...:

    We won't. It'll be up to other articles to point out inaccuracies.

    Forgive me, but WTF?!?

    An encyclopedia is meant to be a "comprehensive collection of knowledge", not information which is incorrect and left untouched, because (to quote RMS' announcement) "we dare not let any organisation have control over the content".

    This sounds ripe to be a disaster, or calamity. Imagine the slashdot trolls getting into it.

  • One of my favorites: Encyclopaedia of Integer Sequences [att.com]

    and http://www.zdwebopedia.com/, and hell, http://directory.google.com/Top/

  • That was supposed to be a joke. Guess I'm not as funny as I thought...
  • ENCYCLOPAEDIA

    Yes, with an A. Dammit. This bararism of the English language must stop.

    Stuii!

  • Do you also rail against the Italians and Spanish for constantly misspelling Latin words?

    They don't speak Latin in Italy or Spain. At least not any more. For a good two thousand odd years. Have you ever had the misfortune of spelling something in French incorrectly? They don't like it, and nor do we.

    Stuii!

  • Secondly, as another poster said, American English is the language of the Internet. Didn't you ever notice that the W3C's own recommendations use "color," not "colour?"

    Yeah, that's particularly ironic considering that the "father" of the web was a Brit.

    Does the word "hijack" spring to mind?

    Stuii!

  • Instead of beotching, go make it better. Memes have a habit of catching; maybe, just maybe, if you wrote a bunch of good, basic, informative, descriptive nodes, people would look, think "gee, that's not such a bad idea", and follow.
  • But honestly I'd work on a farm, for free, and give away everything I didn't need

    Ohhhh-kayyyyyy ... I grew up on a farm, and everybody except Cyno, just trust me on this one: Only a person who has ABSOLUTELY NO FUCKING CLUE WHATSOEVER what farm work is like could say that with a straight face. I'd accuse Cyno of trolling, but *sigh* I do routinely meet city-raised kids that actually are this utterly ignorant, so the chances are pretty good that Cyno probably means it.

    but I current do a job that no farmer could.

    *raises eyebrow*

    Ahhhh ... ok, you keep thinking that.

    Now, in the REAL world, everybody except Cyno, farmers are using software to optimize stock growth, calculate fertilizers needed, monitor soil conditions, pull down weather forecasts from the 'net, protect their incomes by hedge investing against the prices they expect to be getting down the road ... a modern farmer is more wired than probably two-thirds of the so-called 'geeks' on /.

    The difference is the farmers are using their software and their software-writing abilities as a TOOL, not as some pathetic attempted assertion of self-worth like the typical freak around here.
  • Didn't you just describe everything2? [everything2.com]
  • Real encyclopedias are controlled by editorial boards that provide unbiased, fair and reasonable content. Judging from slashdot, and RMS' personal opinions I would conclude that is encyclodepia would be quite biased. In order to be of any use, it will have to be unbiased. If stallman is any judge of why people write free software, contributors will not want to write for it unless they can influence others opinions. We can see this right on the page with the comment about the "GNU system", sometimes called linux. Is this really the type of encyclopedia that you would want?
  • Anyone ever read the Foundation series?? Maybe RMS thinks that he is Hari Seldon!! ;)
  • It's kinda like everything then...
  • by vsync64 (155958) <vsync@quadium.net> on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @08:36PM (#502550) Homepage
    Everything2 [everything2.com] is kinda like this. I refer to it whenever I hit a strange word or concept. Plus it has that wonderful encyclopedia-like concept when you look up a word, and see another word, and look it up, and suddenly it's 3 hours later. E2 adds the advantage (?) of human-generated sorta random links.

    --

  • I predict that if /.ers get involved with this pedia, the signal to noise ratio will be (1/oo). That works out to approximately zero.
    Also, there will prolly be a volume dedicated to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and yet another volume full of Katzian rantings.
    I can hardly wait.

    Explosive.

  • I expect England to immediately revert to the correct German and French spellings of, let's see, every single word in the language.

    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon [themestream.com]

  • screams for something more than html. are there any existing xml dtd's or schemas for organising such information?
  • The very first thing that popped into my mind when I read GNUPedia is a project for the development of a free encyclopedia. was Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. This sounds like it could easily become the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Earth. Start producing Don't Panic stickers to slap on the front of your Palm III.

    Edward Burr
  • by matrim99 (123693) on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @09:28PM (#502555) Homepage
    Ever try to get 10 experts to agree on a general thesis, let alone 100 or 1,000? Ouch!

    It's sure to have much more updated and technically accurate than any print encyclopedia I've personally seen, but the main point of an encyclopedia (IMO) is to concentrate knowledge of any given field of knowledge and give a solid, accurate portrayal. Sure, there can be many different points of view presented, but ultimately, it needs to wrap up conclusions and points in at least *some* manner. Ever seen a Usenet thread do this successfully?

    *Pictures Johnny 11th grader trying to write a HS paper with this encyclopedia, with every paragraph starting like this: "However, Professor John Doe believes that...", "Dr. Paul Denton disagrees...", "Laura Croft, PHD, flamed Paul, however, and..." *

    Anyhow, this is a really cool experiment.

  • Existing encyclopedias have a review process. Difference is, factual errors, once pointed out, will be corrected in the entry. Not by "corrective other articles" which will end up being someone's energy in going and verifying. Which is no more different than people to do. An encyclopedia is meant to be a collection of knowledge.
  • by aardvarkjoe (156801) on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @09:29PM (#502557)
    Real encyclopedias are controlled by editorial boards that provide unbiased, fair and reasonable content

    No person, or group of them, is completely unbiased. An editorial board is no exception. Since whether or not something is 'biased' is really based on the viewer's perspective, what may seem unbiased to you may seem biased to me. So that's not a reasonable argument for calling this 'not a real' encyclopedia.

    Perhaps what you meant is that their particular bias is somewhat less mainstream than that of the typical suit-and-tie editorial board. Probably true. I'm in agreement that RMS is a nut. But does that make the information any less valid? Personally, I think that the more different views of the same information we have, the better.

    Yes, this is the type of encyclopedia that I want. Or, rather, it's one of them.

  • by Robert S Gormley (24559) <robert@seabreeze.asn.au> on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @09:36PM (#502558) Homepage
    I hate to see the entries for Microsoft, Bill Gates, etc etc. Or intellectual property. Music Industry. Movie Industry...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Stallman has claimed dibbs on the chapter devoted to personal hygine and grooming.
  • In order to maintain editorial review & allow the authors some peer-review, why not setup a site running Slashcode or PHPNuke and post the incoming articles there? Separate them into 'volumes' (ala Gardening, AutoMechanics, SubParticlePhysics) separated into Topics or Sections. People who are interested in editing and 'fact checking' can surf by - at their leisure - and read the articles. If a person is knowledgeable in the subject they can comment on factual, technical or language problems in the 'proposed' article - the comments and the article are then sent back to the author for review/editing. Maybe a karma system could be developed where good reviewers/commenter/editors/fact checker types are rewarded so that they have some kind of increased 'voting' rights in 'approving' the article for inclusion. Meaning, the better you are received or recognized by your peers (through this karma hack) would empower these people to finally approve the articles.

    I really think this type of 'web-log' has allot of very valuable application -- without sounding like a twit, the idea that you can mechanize a 'karma' system and allow for open conversation where 'experts' are given proper weight is interesting....

    Ive said allot here on /. that the best thing to end the present IP grab is to simply make the Patent, Copyright and Trademark systems run the gauntlet on a Slashcode/PHPNuke site... the idea that a Patent, Copyright or Trademark application should be secret is absurd - their worth should be self-evident and with merit... otherwise they should not be granted.

  • This sounds like it could easily become the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Earth
    But h2g2 [h2g2.com] is already supposed to be that!

    Although admittedly they both stand the same chance, which is probably not very much.


    Hacker: A criminal who breaks into computer systems
  • Read the announcement: there won't be an editorial board and no organization will be in control. Nobody can decide what goes in and what stays out.

    Good articles bubble to the top by receiving endorsements of respected individuals and by being included into respected catalogs (which are produced by third parties). But even the bad articles remain part of the encyclopedia.

    --

  • Well, he does seem to be unaware that www.Britannica.com has been up and free for well over a year

    It's not free in the sense RMS and many others would prefer it to be: you can't freely modify or mirror the material. Basically, as soon as the corporate dickheads decide that some downsizing would be appreciated by Wall Street, the material vanishes from the web without a trace, just like Eric Weinstein's World of Mathematics.

    --

  • by PD (9577)
    Stallman has started the First Foundation to build an encyclopedia. Yah right.
  • *Pictures Johnny 11th grader trying to write a HS paper with this encyclopedia, with every paragraph starting like this: "However, Professor John Doe believes that...", "Dr. Paul Denton disagrees...", "Laura Croft, PHD, flamed Paul, however, and..." *

    This structure has indeed been tried, with some success, in a classic, 66(?) volume omnibus of information: The Talmud.

  • What RMS is doing here is incredibly offensive.

    I would like to believe it was #2 (didn't do homework) or #3 (insensitivity), but I'm sorry, I just don't buy it. He couldn't possibly have gotten to the stage of proposing this whole project without already knowing about Nupedia.

    What's really odious about his behavior is that he doesn't even acknowledge that Nupedia already exists.

    If he has a gripe against Nupedia's license, he should say so. If he has a gripe against Nupedia's structure (and the fact that Nupedia has editorial control), he should say so.

    The only reason I can think of for using a nearly identical name, and never referring to Nupedia at all in his proposal, is that he is trying to be deceptive and sneaky. Just how stupid does he think people are?

    I guess it's the destiny of every zealot to end up being his cause's own worst enemy.


    The Assayer [theassayer.org] - free-information book reviews

  • Most likely the license that will be used would be the GNU Free Documentation License [gnu.org].
  • I was just about to submit a post on how funny this is, and how their lawyers would be working around the clock suing everyone who goes to their site, when I went to the site myself and read the copyright notice. You left out an important bit:

    "The publisher allows the following exception: information may be retrieved and copied for personal use only, so long as the end result is not directly or directly for a business or commerce, or provides any gain, financial, material or otherwize."

  • You'd think they would have picked a different name. Something innocent sounding, like "The GNU Foundation", organized on a remote continent, where a bunch of scientists, researchers, and writers could work on it.

    They could have even set up a second one, but I'm not sure where that'd be or what they'd do... ;-)

  • Or get information? I understand the fact that people get more done when everybody has thier say then the person in charge take the information adn runs with it. This project will only succed if everyone contributes and if there is a strong leadership somewhere. I hope this projects succceds good luck.
  • I had this idea a while ago. Good thing somebody else had it and actually did something about it.

    Now, if I can just find the time to implement my idea for a whole new kind of porn site that will revolutionize the industry...

  • I've already sent an e-mail to Mr Hector Facundo Arena (hf@gnu.org) regarding this.

    I think it would be great shame if GNUPedia ended up to be a bunch of HTML files.

    Either use DocBook, that most everyone knows (and loves?) or use XML. Probably there is already a schema for encyclopedias, otherwise this project could do us all a favour and create one. They could also use various other XML goodies, like the W3C's newly proposed recommendation, MathML.

    In short, Hector should get a clue and do this right. HTML isn't a format suitable for this job.
  • by istartedi (132515) on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @09:49PM (#502573) Journal

    Perhaps someone could write an American English to Brittish English translator.

    Maybe they will add one to Babelfish, so that you can type in "I was smoking a cigarrette while pushing the pram" and get back "I was burning a fag at the prom"

  • Another super-sweet feature: XPointer [w3.org]. What modern encyclopedia is going to be of any use if you can easily find related information?
  • by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday January 17, 2001 @09:58AM (#502578) Homepage
    I was already pretty worked up about the misleading Nupedia/GNUpedia thing, but this really takes the cake. The GPL has a viral property: GPL'd software can't be combined with non-GPL'd software, so once you introduce GPL'd code into your project, the whole project has to be GPL'd. RMS apparently thinks this was a great strategy for software, and is trying to do the same with the encyclopedia.

    Allowing links to non-GPL'd sites would not dilute the freedom of the encyclopedia. Look, everybody knows that when they surf someone's web site, there may be outgoing links. I'm sure that I can start on my local PTA's web site and, within six clicks, wind up on a page about goat sex. Does that mean the PTA shouldn't have had outward links? Of course not. People can normally tell when they've left one site and entered another. As long as every page on GNUpedia had some kind of consistent logo or banner, this wouldn't be an issue. The only reason for trying to pretend it's an issue is because RMS thinks it's his destiny to make everybody else do what he wants.

    This policy has all the same ridiculous problems as the DeCSS ruling -- prohibiting people from linking is just plain stupid, and they'll just work around it. The announcement says:

    • If a page on the web covers subject matter that ought to be in the encyclopedia or the course library, but its license is too restricted to qualify, we must not make links to it from encyclopedia articles or from courses.
    In other words, an article on C# can't contain a link to MS's pages about C#? How pathetic!

    BTW, who's going to enforce this rule, and who's going to decide what sites are not free enough to link to ("too restricted to qualify"), or what sites "ought to be in the encyclopedia"? I suppose RMS will make pronouncements, and then there will be endless arguing with people who disagree with him, since there is supposed to be no central control.


    The Assayer [theassayer.org] - free-information book reviews

  • man pages!
    Oh, yeah. We wanna learn about our world using man pages...

    # man hallway
    HALL(1) &nbsp House General Rooms Manual &nbsp HALL(1)

    NAME
    hall - long room in a building

    SYNOPSIS
    hall [-benstuv] [-] [person ...]

    DESCRIPTION
    The HALL location accepts persons sequentially, presenting them with a standard hardwood floor support system. The persons may be dispatched to alternate locations in an arbitrary order. The person operands are processed in command line order. A single dash represents the standard input.

    DIAGNOSTICS
    The HALL utility operates continually, catching fire if an error occurs.

    BUGS
    Because of the selection mechanism used to perform input, not all visitors may be interesting or even initially invited.

    SEE ALSO
    porch(1), bedroom(2), park(1)


    Martha Stewart, "Your Inviting Hallway", _Better Homes and Gardens_, 1983.

    HISTORY
    A hallway appeared in a very deep cave.

    1st Snowfox Home Distribution October 13, 1999
    #
  • I'm sure the editors of Slashdot have never heard of this site [everything2.com], but there's a site called Everything2. The GPLed encyclopedia sounds an AWFUL lot like E2 while reading the description of what will go in to the encyclopedia. People submit articles about thier area of expertise. Sub-encyclopedias (meta-nodes), etc. make this sound like a souped of version of E2. I'm glad Nate already thought of this. Way to go, RMS
  • The famous 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica is not only in the public domain now, but it has been entered into ascii form as part of the Gutenberg project. They can't CALL it the Britannica, because that's still under trademark, but a comparison of the articles to the 11th edition on my shelf shows that's what it is. Good encyclopedia if a bit dated---and a great place to start.
  • Why choose this name when the Nupedia project...

    Yes, I agree. I favor the name Encyclopedia GNUlactica.

  • That just raises more issues. I can't legally gain from the content?

    So, I shouldn't read it unless I expect to gain nothing from it.

  • Damn...seems like the site's been slashdotted, so this is a rather uninformed opinion. But I will say this: Everything2 as an encyclopaedia has severe limitation, since that's not what it was meant to be. If you've hung around there for more than an hour or so, you'd realize this. You head on over looking for information on A.E. Housmann or cellular Redox reactions, and find the place filled with nodes with titles like 'DMan (or 'insert user here') sucks monkey balls' and 'why I started wearing dresses and tucking it under...). That's fine, but it means anything there is highly experiential and rather useless as a reference tool (look up the entries for Linux, RMS, and Microsoft...).

    I like the idea of a project for factual reference; it's nice to have a place to go to without sifting through pages of hot pr0n on altavista or yahoo (or, gasp!, even google), or random homepages with useless, self-aggrandizing drivel. Why not have an encyclopaedia online, readily available, with cursory descriptions of subjects that can constantly be updated? On the other hand, coding this in pure html seems foolish; the everything engine is perfect for this, and (though I may be wrong) even GPL'd. I'm curious how this will develop.

  • There is of course h2g2 [h2g2.com] -- Douglas Adams' famous guide. But it's more a practical encyclopedia. So maybe we really need something like a "free as in free speach" clone of Britannica.
  • by eries (71365) <slashdot-eric.sneakemail@com> on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @11:35PM (#502594) Homepage
    <i>
    Articles, and especially courses, will often include software--for example, to display a simulation of a chemical reaction, or teach you how often to stir a sauce so it won't burn. To ensure that the encyclopedia is indeed free, all software included in articles and courses should meet the criteria of free software (http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html) and open source software (http://www.opensource.org).
    </i>
    <p>
    Good for RMS, not launching into a rant about Free Software vs. open source software, but instead embracing both philosophies as acceptable in this case. Since every time he gest sidetracked, he gets massively criticized, let's see a massive groundswell of positive feedback this time...
  • I'm glad to see this. It has potential.

    I've pondered the idea of having Open Travel Guides. People that are familar with a given location can add all the details they can on cities, hotels, transportation, things to do, etc. It would all be stored in an open XML and all kinds of clients could be written to display and search and print relevant items.

    Sort of like Lonely Planet only better. :-)

    I'm not sure I have time to start this, but I wish I did. There are too many other things to work on. :-(
  • by Ian Bicking (980) <{moc.ydutsroloc} {ta} {bnai}> on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @10:24PM (#502612) Homepage
    I've been doing some work at an ecyclopedia publisher for several months now. All their employees are editors or people assisting the editors (and a few administrators, etc). All the research and writing, including the subject-specific editors, are freelance. Most come from academia

    In some ways this shows some promise for GNUPedia -- the real content is already coming from distributed individuals, usually people for whom writing is not a profession. OTOH, I think it shows the weakness as well -- what makes a bunch of articles an encyclopedia is the editorial influence. The web already has lots of articles, but it doesn't have the editorial influence.

    Most of what the editors do is bitch at the contributors who are late submitting their articles. This is because an encyclopedia that covers 90% of the necessary material is a bad encyclopedia. Who's going to do the bitching for GNUPedia? And how would they possibly have any authority to bitch? They aren't paying anyone anything...

    I think GNUPedia should place more emphasis on compiling and cataloging. Most of the content already exists. That's what OpenDirectory is all about... that's what the web is all about... and a lot of the content is from people who wouldn't mind giving up control, because they aren't receiving anything in return anyway. A little flattery could go a long way...

    If already-existing resources were compiled and editted, released under a copyleft-license, GNUPedia could really be successful. But as it seems stated, it feels like GNUPedia is just a rephrasing of what the web already is.

    Also, GNUPedia or some subset needs some exclusiveness. I think a lot of people who contribute to these encyclopedias do it because in a small way it makes them a published author. In academia the greatest rewards are things you can say about yourself, not things you have. If GNUPedia can make people rightfully proud of being contributors, then it can definately succede.

  • This certainly raises an interesting question - is it possible to be unbiased? Sometimes you cannot help expressing an opinion on something just by the language you use. Whether you refer to a group as "terrorists" or "freedom fighters", whether you refer to "open source" or "free software". It seems like it will be a real challenge to maintain reasonable impartiality with a collaborative development model.

    --

  • Add moderation and multiple entries,and it would basically be everything2 (www.everything2.com)

    The whole project should be rated -1: redundant
  • First, let me say that I think this is a REALLY great idea. An extremely high-quality encyclopedia made freely available through the GNU license would be a gift of immeasurable valuable to the intellectual heritage of the world. However, there are some serious problems with the described encylopedia that could seriously degrade its quality, and render it much less valuable as an intellectual resource.

    As you can see, the working method is very simple. People send us articles, and we add them to the encyclopedia. That's all.

    Really? No peer review? What about multiple entries? Who will determine which articles get published, and what criteria will be used? Who will check the validity of the factual information presented, and who will check the checkers?

    As best as I can tell, the only answer that the GNUpedia page gives is

    Although there are lot of things waiting to be defined. We want to hear from you....just send it to hf@gnu.org. He'll post it on the enclopedia.

    I tip my hat to Mr. Arena, who has taken charge of a potentially very important project. However, neither he nor any other single individual is qualified to judge the content value of the entire sphere of human knowledge. The world of the intellect is not a democracy, and not every writer's entry will be of equal value when it comes to mastery of the subject and ability to convey ideas. Without a moderation system, this project could be fatally doomed to posting poor, or worse yet, signficantly inaccurate material.

  • by gunner800 (142959)
    Finally, an encyclopedia with a techno-communist bias! I was getting so tired of my old Dead White Male encyclopedias, and the Revisionist History editions played hell with my self esteem.

    Seriously, how does the accuracy check compare to something released by Encyclopedia Brittanica? Will there be any sort of verification, or am I going to be sifting through a few thousand "First post!" articles doing research?


    My mom is not a Karma whore!

  • Also, the Linux kernel _is_ GPLed, so in an indirect way the FSF has actually "produced" an OS... The Linux kernel is GNU-licensed.

    Non sequitur. The licensing of software has nothing whatsoever to do with the classification of that software into projects. Not all GNU software is released under a GNU license, and not all software released under a GNU license is part of GNU. Just because I speak English does not mean that I am an Englishman.

    As I understood him, the GNU system is a _specification_ of an OS, or class of POSIX-compatible OSes, not one actual implementation.

    The original announcement and the GNU Manifesto called it a "system". It's description made it very clear that it was to be an implementation, and not a spec.

    Later documents made it clear that the goal was an actual operating system. Quotes from "The GNU Project" [gnu.org]: "The answer was clear: what was needed first was an operating system", and "The GNU operating system would include them too".
  • I'm will to write the html content in Microsoft Frontpage!
  • Does anyone really believe they can produce rational, bias-free entries for Microsoft and Linux? and who the hell will be able to write an entry about sexual intercourse?
  • Close, but not exactly. An encyclopedia is informative and factual, whist many of the most highly rated nodes on Everything are subjective, funny and contrafactual, creative, or personal accounts and fiction about human experiences. And lots of-meta discussion of E2.

    For instamce, cool nodes right now on E2 include "Step away from the fridge, lardass!", "just give him the damned fish", "How to annoy a fast-food worker on counter", "Could you please be more specific and less annoying?"

    Hardly encycolpaedia material.
  • The problem is how to ensure the encyclopedia is relatively unbias. It's impossible to be completely unbiased, so let's strive for the next best thing. And RMS and his fans are not it. I dread to see the article on "freedom" that passes his muster.

    The first step is to indeed create an editorial board. This should be populated by experts in their area as chosen by their peers. And all articles need to be submitted to a peer review. The next step is for RMS and the other project founders to publically distance themselves from the editorial process.

    The GNUpedia (aargh, I hate that name!) needs to be created exactly like any other encyclopedia. The only difference is that the content will be freely redistributable.

    I'm still unsure about the modifiability though. If I'm reading an article written by an expert in his or her field, I want to be confident that what I am reading is really what they wrote.
  • Sorry, but that was just silly. I wouldn't have modded it as a troll, but you seem to have trouble with the fact of U.S. dominance over the rest of the world.

    American English isn't incorrect, flawed, or whatever word you choose to use — it's just different. Do you also rail against the Italians and Spanish for constantly misspelling Latin words? Do you think that the English language just sprung up one day out of thin air, identical to the way it's used in the United Kingdom today? Perhaps you should castigate the editors of the OED for butchering the spellings of the words from which English evolved. See, language evolves.

    Secondly, as another poster said, American English is the language of the Internet. Didn't you ever notice that the W3C's own recommendations use "color," not "colour?" Besides, if you look at the countries where English is the native language and which have played the largest roles in the Internet (Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S.), the population of the U.S. easily doubles the combined populations of the rest of them (~280 million - ~120 million).

    Aren't there any more important battles out there that you could be fighting?

  • Most of what the editors do is bitch at the contributors who are late submitting their articles.
    To ammend my own comment to be fair to the editors they actually do a lot of editting. Every article is editted at least twice by the commissioning editor (from the publisher), twice by the project editor (an expert on the encyclopedia's subject), once by a copyeditor, once by a proofreader, is reviewed by a researcher, and also has freelance researchers compile bibliographic and other information.

    I think the editors just hate all the time they have to spend bugging contributors, so they tend to talk about it a lot.

    But really, it's a lot of effort beyond just the effort the authors put in. It takes them about two years from start to finish to compile a moderate-sized encyclopedia (these are encyclopedias like The Encyclopedia of Gardening -- a full-subject encyclopedia is never really finished, so it's hard to say how long that might take).

  • "As you can see, the working method is very simple. People send us articles, and we add them to the enclopedia. That's all."

    I hope this is just an oversight, but it seems they don't plan to edit/moderate the articles. I bet you end up with hundreds of submissions on hot topics and nothing on less well know subjects.

    Speaking of moderations, may they should use Bender [slashdot.org]! I think it is about time Slashdot contribute something to make up for all those sites we /.ed ;-)



    ====
  • I take it back : there is a proposed concept in place. I just noticed that on Stallman's summary of the project, he states

    But what happens if some pages are erroneous, or even deceptive? We cannot assume this won't happen. But the corrective is for other articles to point out the error. Instead of having "quality control" by one privileged organization, we will have review by various groups, which will earn respect by their own policies and actions. In a world where no one is infalliable, this is the best we can do.

    This seems like a community-based system similar to that used by slashdot. However, I think particularly for very detailed technical articles, allowing everyone in the world to decide who will earn their "respect" (quantified as a numerical value like slashdot kharma?) may be quite problematic at best, and fundamentally flawed at worst. The truth of the matter is that democracy does not work in polling the entire world about intellectual matters. Polling 10 million Americans about two conflicting articles about Elementary Particle Physics will not produce a more accurate result that polling 2 or 3 expert High Energy Physicists. Who decides whether those individuals are experts? A slightly larger, though still small, community of peers.

  • Perhaps, but a nice solution for this would be to allow multiple entries for subjects. You write one, I write one, RMS writes one, MS writes one. The reader has the opportunity to read them all and parse accordingly.

    Think this is crazy? That's how the Internet works *right now*. I know enough to take everything I read with a grain of salt; I research, I compare, I put facts together and compare motives. I make my own, informed opinion.

    You can't do something like this with paper books because it is cost-prohibitive and ineffective, but on the internet where expansion is not only easily compensated for, it is expected.

    Rami
    --
  • I think this idea is very good. I think that most of the comments agree on one thing though : Stallman's article doesn't give enough details on the practical side to make it seem real. He (as usualy) defends the ethical side of the problem, and rightly enough describes the way the content should be free (speech) but he leaves a huge blank area in the field of the practical (and technical) implementation of GNUpedia.

    I think that Internet and the Open Source community is somehow ready to start such a project (and I don't think it was the case anytime before).

    What we need to make it real is a deep deep thinking on the technical/practical side of it. And while we are here, why not talk about how you would technically do it ? I mean, /. readers are probably the most qualified to talk/think about this if not to implement it themselves...

    Here is how I would see it : I think that what we realy need in terms of encyclopedia is something that would sit between Shaslcode and QuestionExchange. Something where anyone could post comments, articles, pictures and all the shit, but where every willing people could also judge the pertinence of the content. Say for example that this article is a troll, this other one is "insightfull" and so on. People could also say "this article was usefull to my knowledge". So we would have two level of moderation : one on the "editorial scale" (troll/interesting), and one on the content quality/usefullness.

    Why ? Because I think that Stallman is right on one point at least : it needs to be completly free (speech) to be interesting. Doing else would be doing something that has already be done (say britanica [britanica.com] for example) and that perhaps doesn't need to be done again.

    Making GNUpedia [gnu.org] an "open to any post" system is a nice idea, but it also implies that we will have to face A LOT of content submissions. Even if we wanted to create an "editorial board" to decide what would be included and what would not (which we cannot if we want to remain free as in speech) it would be too much work for (volunteers) individuals to "separate the good from the evil" [missouri.edu].

    So what we need is a system that allows anybody to feed it with his/her particular bit of knowledge, and them let the individual reader make the content "worth reading" by moderating it up or down.

    Then, after a while, we might (might) have something interesting for anyone. In that case I'm sure it would be the greatest success of Open Source movment (aren't we talking about free knowledge, free information since the very beginning of Open Source ?)

    Another thought I have too : why make it web (http) based ? Any rational reason for it ? I think we have now in our hands a better technical way to do it : why not build it as a peer-to-peer network (based on this [sourceforge.net] or that [wego.com]) with a client/server program using Gecko [mozilla.org] to render the documents ? What do you think ? That was my 2 cents worth thoughts...

    PS : Please forgive the english, it's not my mother tongue.
  • Isn't asking for the general public to submit articles asking for trouble, all it will take is one or two pieces of plagiarised information to cause a possible legal problem for GNU
  • I went to the DFWUUG(Dallas/Ft. Worth UNIX User's Group) meeting tonight, where RMS was the keynote speaker. during Q&A he mentioned something about this project, and also the ideal he subscribes to where he believes all non-fiction technical knowledege should be free as in speech. While I think it is a worthy goal to attempt to write a free (as in speech) encyclopedia, it's much more difficult than writing free software. One of the things RMS mentioned tonight was the lack of quality documentation for GNU software; well, an encyclopedia is the mother of documentation, and it also needs to be constantly updated as well. Also, who/how will the correctness of information be verified? Encyclopedic knowledge is not like computer code, there is no litmus test to see if it works or not; computer code either compiles and runs, or it doesn't. It's a tough thing to undertake, both in terms of actually completing and general acceptance, esp. given the free (as in beer) encylopedias already out there i.e. Britannica.com [britannica.com].

    That being said, I would love to see it work :)

  • That's outrageous. This goes way beyond having bad people skills. Who does Stallman think he is?

    I haven't got the least idea why he is doing this to us.
    You mean, there was an exchange of e-mails, then he did this, and you haven't even heard from him why? That's insane. Did you know his announcement was coming?

    This is beyond the pale. How much antisocial behavior can the free information movement put up with from Stallman just because of his past accomplishments?

    I hope nobody with any self-respect goes anywhere near GNUpedia.


    The Assayer [theassayer.org] - free-information book reviews

  • You can write whatever kind of software you want and license it however you want, but if you want to call it "free" then it best be under an open source license that is similar to the LGPL at the very least.

    No disagreement with this. But it's not what RMS believes. He does not believe that people have the moral right to release "proprietary" software of their own creation. He makes this very clear on his website and in all his speeches. So long as he does not wish to use law to impose his wishes on others, I don't consider him an enemy. But he HAS advocated laws either restricting the development of proprietary software, or to subsidize Free Software. He has further stated on numerous occasions that those who use proprietary software are enslaved, subjugated or dominated. This is ridiculous. How can I be free if my choice of software is limited to only what RMS approves?

    You ensure freedom by protecting your own rights, not by restricting the rights of others. But RMS uses the opposite premise. It is in this area that a see a GNUpedia article on freedom to be potentially distorted by RMS.
  • Please refrain from using any term derived from ancient Latin(c). Latin Language(c) is copyrighted by Roman Empire, and only its certified descendands can use it or any work derived from it.
  • if they devise an agreed upon DTD that the XML should follow, it is essentially going to produce a new language that authors are going to have to learn
    I've never used docBook but your right. users would need an easy to use interface and it doesn't have to be web based.
    what I was trying to allude to was architecture. with a solid architecture you can do lots of neat things with data.
    here are a few things I'd like to see
    • supports heirarchy
    • extendable - so you can expand/grow
    • efficeint - if it grows real bit you've got to store be able to store it.
    • standards based - developers can hook into the data and write great tools to manipulate data
      • editors
      • trawlers
      • data mining tools etc...
      and so it can be pumped out to different interfaces
      • html
      • xml
        wml etc

    searching - needs a suitable search engine for searching. lots of data, a lot of users.
    multi-lingual support - dont just want english.

    it's important that anyone can add data, but it's critical that the underlying structure can handle the complexity and volume of the data required.

    for these reasons xml is a nice starting point.

  • Hm, yeah, I just e-mailed with the Nupedia folks, and they said they had just contacted RMS to discuss licensing issues and stuff like that.
  • There are several disadvantages of Everything2. Here are some, not all, I'm unimaginative today ;-)

    *) Lack of clear editorial layout, rules and standards.
    *) Lack of many properties which could easily automate knowledge searching, relationships, gathering and extracting. For instance using XML DTDs with one or more hierarchy structures.
    *) Lack of multiple front-ends, like database query-support.
    *) Lots of articles per entry, instead of one compiled article.
    *) Lack of version control and diff-manipulations.
    *) No pictures, no sounds, no videos. No tables, no graphs, no mathematic formula sheets.

    I hope GNUPedia will meet these shortcomings properly. Don't get me wrong on Everything2, it's a nice system. It's just not perfect. Try some advanced, non-geek questions and you'll end up with a nodeshell. Try a geek-question, and get a geek-biased answer. Say this is all up to the users of the system, but it's still what it is.

    - Steeltoe
  • No wonder you have problems with really big words like colour and aluminium.

    Or maybe you're referring to the spelling of people named Britt?

  • I was reading through, thinking "What a dammned great idea", thinking "This is suprisignly rational from RMS", untill I read the restrictions on linking outside of documents.

    Before I complain about the theory of it, here's the problem:

    Scenario 1: You can not link to pages that contain links to pages that aren't under the appropriate license.

    Result: You cannot link to anything, because nearly every site will eventually link out.

    Scenario 2: You can link to pages that aren't under the same restrictive license, as long as it's "free enough". This effectively makes the rule useless, and IMHO is the way to go (ie lose the rule).

    But why at all? Why does RMS feel it's his place to effectively censor the viewer from further non GNU-sanctioned learning? And yes, it's possible to find things without links, but it's a lot harder.

    Why oh why do you have to do shit like this RMS? Your zealotry gets in the way of your ideals, and their acceptance, which is a shame, because they are truly great aspirations.


    --Gfunk
  • by THB (61664) on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @09:02PM (#502675)
    Real encyclopedias are controlled by editorial boards that provide unbiased, fair and reasonable content. Judging from slashdot, and RMS' personal opinions I would conclude that is encyclodepia would be quite biased. In order to be of any use, it will have to be unbiased. If stallman is any judge of why people write free software, contributors will not want to write for it unless they can influence others opinions. We can see this right on the page with the comment about the "GNU system", sometimes called linux.

    Is this really the type of encyclopedia that you would want?
  • by Dr. Tom (23206) <tomh@nih.gov> on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @09:05PM (#502676) Homepage
    Well, last time I checked (about 30 seconds ago) http://www.britannica.com/ [britannica.com] still allowed full text searching of their encyclopaedia; it has figures and everything. Now, they still sell CDs and stuff, but compared to the $1000 I spent for the print version in 1980, the info is almost free (though not copylefted). Then there is http://www.encyclopedia.com/ [encyclopedia.com] which is also costless.

    But the real question is, whatever happened to the Interpaedia? Remember, the web-based, user-written, free encyclopaedia? Sound familiar? It's what RMS is proposing, and it's what failed before. What is different this time? The only links I could find to the Interpaedia were a gopher link and an old broken link to an archived discussion.

  • by tbo (35008)
    Will it be GPL'd? Does that mean that if I print out the article on Phylum Nematoda and hand it in for my Biology report, I have to GPL my report card?

    What if I just use a bit of the information in a report? Must it be GPL'd?

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