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Co-Founder Forks Wikipedia 382

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the brand-new-old-ideas dept.
tmk writes "Larry Sanger, first editor-in-chief of Wikipedia, plans to fork the project. In Berlin he announced the start of Citizendium — the citizen's compendium. Main differences: no anonymous editing, and experts will rule the project. Members of Wikipedia were not amused."
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Co-Founder Forks Wikipedia

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  • Hmm (Score:3, Informative)

    by Demanche (587815) <chris.h@rediffmail.com> on Saturday September 16, 2006 @10:40AM (#16120310)
    Too bad the second link is not english - I can hardly rtfa ;)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by SigILL (6475)
      Too bad the second link is not english - I can hardly rtfa ;)

      You must be new here...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by kripkenstein (913150)
      I used the Google translation tool [google.com] to read the last link. The translation is actually almost readable. Some funny quotes:

      "The project is not much too much the Amateurhaftigkeit" (said by Sanger)

      "Wikipedia is today one of the 20 to most called web pages in the Internet, over five million article in over 100 languages the unpaid Freiwilligen already gathered."

      As for the last line in the summary, of course they aren't 'amused'. But, a fork is legal, and legitimate. We'll see how it turns out.
      • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Lord Prox (521892) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @11:12AM (#16120437) Homepage
        They can be "Not Amused" all they like... A second point of reference can only be a good thing. Especially for topics like nuclear power. I have noticed how everyone becomes an expert as soon as the topic of "melt downs" or "nuclear power" comes up. Their fields of instant expertise vary from nuclear physics to statistics to medicine to environmental engineering to genetics.

        Having an Wikipedia alternative where a real (I hope) expert watches entries like this and provides good solid data and knuckle draggers are not allowed to correct the "expert" with pop culture bullsh1t can only be a good thing.

        Don't get me wrong, I still love the Wiki... I just don't understand why the bad vibes.



        $diety bless Wikipedia [i-bless.com]
        • Having an Wikipedia alternative where a real (I hope) expert watches entries
          Ahhhh... we all know the line, but who watches the watchers. There will always be a bias when people are involved. I guess however, that having a predictable bias is better than having the article change every few seconds... or will that still happen? Have to wait and see.
        • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Funny)

          by BeeBeard (999187) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @12:41PM (#16120808)
          I have noticed how everyone becomes an expert as soon as the topic of "melt downs" or "nuclear power" comes up. Their fields of instant expertise vary from nuclear physics to statistics to medicine to environmental engineering to genetics.
          As a nuclear physicist, statistician, medical doctor, environmental engineer, and geneticist, I too share your outrage.
        • I'd prefer if they improved the current Wikipedia by implementing an (optional) reputation system to identify experts in particular fields. That way the data would all stay in one place where all the people are and that all the people are using for research already, yet we'd accomplish the same thing of having known experts have more influence on an article.

          All they'd need to do is create a verification system where you could submit your credentials and identifying information (if you wished), then tag your
          • by Sage Gaspar (688563) on Sunday September 17, 2006 @06:14AM (#16124102)
            I'd really hesitate to denote myself an "expert" in anything related to my career, which is where most people probably center their expertise. I mean think about it: I send my credentials in, whatever they may be, and I'm putting myself on the line for zero gain. Wiki is already enough of a self-sacrifice in that regard.

            It also doesn't stop the most problematic areas. Who is an expert in Middle Eastern politics? Israelis? Palestinians? Iranians? Iraqis? A polisci prof in midwest America? Who's an expert on the famous person that keeps getting their page defaced? What credentials do I need to decide what the valuable sources are in an article about The Hulk?

            I don't want to say it's working well enough and I'd hate to mess with a good thing, but that's sort of how I feel. There's already enough bickering on Talk pages that it's hard to sort out interpersonal conflicts from legitimate disputes. I think an "expert" designation would only raise the ire of more non-experts who get off on challenging them. Look at all the trolls that arise whenever the "establishment" surpresses their whacko, uninformed viewpoints. Those tend to be the guys that get into revert wars.

            And even so, I don't really see that I'd read an entry differently even if it was by someone labelled by an expert. I'm still gonna verify it if it's important, and if it's not, the accuracy of Wikipedia is good enough for me right now.
    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Funny)

      by jalet (36114) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @11:26AM (#16120496) Homepage
      At least it's clear they are angry : they wrote all this in German !
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 16, 2006 @10:40AM (#16120313)
    I hate Anonymous Cowards!
  • by rbanzai (596355) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @10:40AM (#16120314)
    Wikipedia members were not amused... ... and neither were Slashdot readers who don't speak German!
    • I'm a Wikipedia member, and I'm amused. I'm very amused. Have lots of fun over there, Larry-boy! Three cheers if you make it work, but, haha, we'll see if it goes the way of Nupedia, eh?
      • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Saturday September 16, 2006 @11:08AM (#16120421) Homepage Journal
        Nupedia was the Newton.
        Now that Wikipedia has put the PDA market in the palm of everyone's hand,
        someone with clout can come along and try to make it a trio of products.
      • Nupedia (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bcrowell (177657) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @11:45AM (#16120592) Homepage

        haha, we'll see if it goes the way of Nupedia, eh?
        I tried working on Nupedia for a while, and got fairly far through the process of writing an article before giving up on it. After that, I spent several years as a Wikipedia editor. This new project seems to fix some problems with Nupedia, while failing to fix others. It also seems to fix some problems with Wikipedia.

        One problem with Nupedia was that articles were written by experts, but reviewed by non-experts. For example, I have a PhD in physics, and teach the subject for a living, but my article on physics was endlessly wrangled over by people who weren't physicists. Most of them were reasonable people, and made good comments; some weren't. The design of Citizendium seems to address this point by envisioning a community of experts on each topic, although it's not clear to me that they'll be able to attract the necessary number of people to have multiple experts per topic. It's also good that he states that everybody will be expected to give their real name, and a CV; in Nupedia, it was really annoying to have to deal with people who were set up as gate-keepers, but didn't give real names, and didn't seem to have any evident expertise.

        A major problem with Nupedia was that the browser-based software didn't work, so everything was basically done via e-mail, and that was very clumsy and time-consuming. Sanger seems to be starting off Citizendium with exactly the same problem, and, as before, he seems to have no real plan as to how to solve the problem, except to hope that it will fix itself. It remains to be seen whether Citizendium will attract programmers with enough spare man-hours to volunteer to create the software; it doesn't seem like the kind of project that would be exciting to most OSS programmer types, but I could be wrong.

        Citizendium's design does seem to address what I consider the main problems with Wikipedia: disorganized, low-quality edits by well-intentioned people. The design of Wikipedia basically wastes huge amounts of time. Most articles gradually rise to a certain level of quality, and then the pioneers lose interest in the topic because there's not much left to be done. After that, the article gradually decays in quality. You'll get hundreds of edits on an article, but the diff between the beginning and the ending version can be zero. The current system basically requires serious editors to have huge watch-lists, and check them vigilantly to keep entropy from having its way. That's no fun, and it's the reason why, after several years of heavy participation, I gave up on WP.

        • One problem with Nupedia was that articles were written by experts, but reviewed by non-experts. For example, I have a PhD in physics, and teach the subject for a living, but my article on physics was endlessly wrangled over by people who weren't physicists.


          Sounds like Wikipedia.
        • Re:Nupedia (Score:5, Informative)

          by Larry Sanger (936381) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @01:33PM (#16121008) Journal
          According to my proposal, only people who arrive on the wiki and claim to be editors have to give a CV, or link to information that constitutes evidence of their credentials. See this discussion [citizendium.org] for more. For everyone else (called authors), it will be recommended but not required. Also, if you read the FAQ (OK, I know it's long), you'll see that there is too a plan to solve the "problem" of organizing work via mailing lists. Citizendium will be a wiki! The hope and plan is to have the wiki and whatever network of servers might be necessary set up by Sept. 30. I hope we'll be able to attract support for this from any of a number of sources. I'll be very curious myself to see what sort of uptake this has among academics and scientists. As a natural skeptic myself, I don't know if it will work. But I think they'll probably have a more active interest than you had in Wikipedia precisely because they're empowered to make content decisions about their areas of expertise.
    • by owlnation (858981)
      aber für WikiGrammarNazis, Perfekt!
    • by mindriot (96208) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @11:46AM (#16120599)

      Here you go:

      Wikipedia Founder plans Competing Project

      In 2001, Larry Sanger helped creating the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Now, at the conference "Wizards of OS" in Berlin, he presented a competing project: The "Citizendium" is to be more reliable and correct than its great role model.

      The free online encyclopedia Wikipedia is a success: Only five years ago, Jimmy Wales and Lartry Sanger set up the website that every Internet user could contribute to - in the illusory hope that the website would turn into an encyclopedia. This illusion has for the most part come true: Today, Wikipedia is among the 20 most visited websites on the Internet. More than five million articles in over a hundred languages have already been accumulated by unpaid volunteers.

      But that isn't enough for Larry Sanger. He sees Wikipedia only as a prototype of what could be accomplished. "I am still a great fan of Wikipedia," Sanger ensures, "but at some point one has to have the courage to start a new project." He criticizes Wikipedia because in his eyes, the project is too focused on amateurism, leaving no room for experts. Sanger knows what he is talking about: He was the first editor-in-chief of Wikipedia but left the project after disputes.

      Dispute Over Contents

      In the recent months, the question of quality of the Wikipedia articles has come under discussion more and more: Indeed, the volunteer project was considered only marginally worse than the old Encyclopedia Britannica in a comparison in the science magazine "Nature" at the end of last year. But in the recent months, Wikipedia leader Jimmy Wales complained about the quality of its content more and more often.

      Among the reasons were several mishaps. Last year, a jokester created a scandal when he implied the esteemed US journalist John Seigenthaler as being involved in the murder of John F. Kennedy - for several months, the lie could be read in Wikipedia, undiscovered. Similarly, Wikipedia made the headlines on several occasions during US election campaigns: US politicians tried to denigrate their opponents in their Wikipedia articles, or to make their own biographies look better.

      A Race Against Wikipedia

      Wales is trying to counteract these developments. In the past months he has been increasedly campaigning for the involvement of scientists in the encyclopedia. But these efforts have stagnated. For months, Wales has been announcing the creation of "stable" article versions which should be more reliable than normal articles. The implementation is still not there. At the end of this year, initial experiments are set to start in the German Wikipedia.

      Sanger acts optimistic about reaching the goal earlier than his former employer: "I will show them how to do this," Sanger said in Berlin.

      Experts Instead of Amateurs

      The main difference to Wikipedia: There will be no anonymous contributions in the new project. Every participant is expected to sign up with their real name - in Wikipedia one usually does not even have to sign up to help writing articles.

      Another difference: Sanger wants to spend more time campaigning for experts in his online encyclopedia and give them more authority. Qualified editors are to decide authoritatively on open questions while in Wikipedia, some discussions and disputes last for months or even years.

      "You don't need a PhD to be accepted as an expert in Citizendium," Sanger says. On the other hand, the title alone does not suffice to attain the privileged Expert status. Whoever wants to apply for an Expert position in the Citizendium needs to present a resume on his user page. But people will be able to write articles even without special qualifications.

      Funding Still Unclear

      It is still unclear how exactly the project aims to obtain funding. Sanger is counting on potent sponsors. Years ago he had been hired for US millionaire Joe Firmage's "Di

    • So does this mean that slashdotters who don't speak german and didn't read the article were still amused?
  • Not a wiki? (Score:5, Informative)

    by AWhiteFlame (928642) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @10:41AM (#16120316) Homepage
    So, it's not really a fork of Wikipedia, because it's not really a wiki anymore. It's just...a controlled community database.
    • Re:Not a wiki? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Larry Sanger (936381) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @01:35PM (#16121020) Journal
      Well, it will run MediaWiki, and editors will be expected to work shoulder-to-shoulder with authors. The process I describe in the proposal is of a bottom-up, bazaar type process. It just has people with special rights in the social system. Why shouldn't this be called a wiki?
  • But... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cp.tar (871488) <cp.tar.bz2@gmail.com> on Saturday September 16, 2006 @10:44AM (#16120326) Journal

    ... what will teh Interweb do?
    Until now, Wikipedia was the first and last linke of research, and dismissed because it wasn't done by experts.

    How will people now dismis this Citizendium?

    Won't anyone think of the flamers?

    Seriously, it can't be bad.
    Another source is always a good thing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MuNansen (833037)
      "Another source is always a good thing." Agreed. We've got the traditional encyclopedias on one end, and wikipedia on the other. Now we can go a bit in the middle and see what comes of it. I like the idea. Admittedly, though, I am a bit of a technocrat.
  • Strange logic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by imsabbel (611519) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @10:45AM (#16120333)
    Looking at the concept (starting with a 1:1 mirror of wikipedia, adding all new articles from wikipedia, mirroring wikipedia changes in imported articles that havent been changed locally) it makes no sense.

    if the current base is really so bad and unreliable as he makes it look, this will result in taking over everything bad but shutting out the broad mass of eyes that could spot a error and correct it.

    Even worse, seeing the much lower editor/article ratio, i cannot see how he thinks to ever archive some kind of quality census. A random article browsed there will be with a very high likelyhood just a copy of the wiki article. So trying to get people to think its more reliable (and thus view it with less suspicion/ less "thinking") is a bit like cheating the user.
    • Re:Strange logic (Score:5, Interesting)

      by daeg (828071) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @10:56AM (#16120380)
      I agree that a mirror is a bad idea. Start over and appeal to experts from the start. While the amount of content would be dramatically less, the quality should be much higher.

      I don't contribute to Wikipedia as an expert simply because I don't want my edits to compete with wanna-be experts. Why should some bored 17-year-old be able to, without evidence, revert one of my changes? The edit process on Wikipedia seems to revolve around number of edits, too, and general popularity. If someone has edited 1,000 articles that doesn't make them more qualified to edit an article that is covered by my field of expertise just because it is my account's first edit.

      I hope this new resource will keep editors and contributors separate. Let the experts contribute as much as they can and let the editors sort out how to present it.
      • Scholarpedia (Score:5, Informative)

        by benhocking (724439) <benjaminhocking@y[ ]o.com ['aho' in gap]> on Saturday September 16, 2006 @11:03AM (#16120403) Homepage Journal
        Maybe you could call it Scholarpedia [scholarpedia.org]?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by maxwell demon (590494)
          The information on Scholarpedia is not free in the GNU sense. Since this sort of free content was from the beginning the main goal of Wikipedia (and of Nupedia before), and I guess is also a goal of the new Citizendium, Scholarpedia, as interesting as it is, cannot be a replacement.
          Note that freedom in the GNU sense is orthogonal to the "Wiki freedom" of anyone being able to edit in-place. Free Software projects are usually handled in a very "unwiki" way. OTOH, "true" Wikis can have a very restrictive licen
          • Of course, as others have said with Citizendium et al., it still makes an excellent addition to the wiki-verse. Well, at least for those of us with an interest in computational neuroscience, dynamical systems, and/or computational intelligence. Presumably, additional scholastic areas will be added as demand calls for it. (If you are interested in these areas, you might also enjoy NeuroJet.net [neurojet.net]. It, too, has a wiki, but it's only helpful if you're planning on using the neural network simulator that is NeuroJe

            • by interiot (50685)
              Scholarpedia isn't really that wiki. Sure, it's based on Mediawiki wikitext, but each article has a single author, and usually a single maintainer. The information is available under standard copyright [scholarpedia.org] only, so it can't be integrated or improved by other sites using different processes like the Wikipedia/Citizendium symbiosis.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by ozbird (127571)
          I'm waiting for Centipedia; it'll be a hundred times better than Wikipedia.
      • Someone who edits 1,000 articles about comic book characters may be an "expert" in that category.

        But that same person may have only limited "knowledge" of world history or any of the hard sciences.

        The problem is how to identify the "experts" as opposed to some bored school kid.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cyclop (780354)

        I don't contribute to Wikipedia as an expert simply because I don't want my edits to compete with wanna-be experts. Why should some bored 17-year-old be able to, without evidence, revert one of my changes? The edit process on Wikipedia seems to revolve around number of edits, too, and general popularity.

        If you back your edits with references, I'm sure you can beat anyone else. Being myself a Ph.D. student and a Wikipedia contributor, I can affirm that there's noise from "wanna-be" experts, sure, but goo

      • It seems like both the Wiki-approach and the "scholar"-based approach have their merits. However it's tough or impossible to combine the two approaches in one project. As you point out, it would be frustrating to spend your time writing an article you know to be true, and have some 'idiot' revert it; however it would also be frustrating to have an article which represents a wide body of consensus opinion thrown away because one self-described "expert" disagreed.

        These things need to be done separately. What
      • by Dun Malg (230075)
        I agree that a mirror is a bad idea. Start over and appeal to experts from the start. While the amount of content would be dramatically less, the quality should be much higher.
        The problem is, you can't attract an audience with a blank slate, and you'll never grow out of the "blank slate" depending upon volunteer experts alone. They tried that with Nupedia. Better to start with a huge database that's 90% correct and fix its errors than start with nothing.
      • by chazwurth (664949)

        I hope this new resource will keep editors and contributors separate. Let the experts contribute as much as they can and let the editors sort out how to present it.

        That's not how they're doing things. 'Regular' contributors will be called authors. They can be anyone -- just like a Wikipedia editor today -- but they can't be anonymous. They can edit whatever they want. 'Expert' contributors will be called editors, and they will need to meet certain criteria of expertise. They can edit like normal authors, bu

      • Pure ego (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Angst Badger (8636)
        I don't contribute to Wikipedia as an expert simply because I don't want my edits to compete with wanna-be experts.

        This really sums up 95% of the opposition to Wikipedia. (The other 5% comes from people who actually contribute to Wikipedia and whose opinions, therefore, actually count for shit.) It's petty egotism.

        The contents of any given article are either factually correct, well-organized, and well-written, or they are not. And as far as Wikipedia goes, there are some really excellent articles and some r
    • Re:Strange logic (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Secret Rabbit (914973) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @11:04AM (#16120407) Journal
      """
      Looking at the concept (starting with a 1:1 mirror of wikipedia, adding all new articles from wikipedia, mirroring wikipedia changes in imported articles that havent been changed locally) it makes no sense.
      """

      This is true, IF this is the way that they first launch it. If they are smart, they'll snag and fix (a lot of it if not all), then launch.

      """
      but shutting out the broad mass of eyes that could spot a error and correct it.
      """

      I think you're missing the point. That being that it _is_ the broad mass of eyes that have produced that peice of crap in the first place. I cannot tell you how many articles I've found on wikipedia that are completely full of crap. And since I don't have the time to sit around and watch for when someone comes along and changes it back or to something equally false, the few that actually know something can't make things right.

      """
      Even worse, seeing the much lower editor/article ratio, i cannot see how he thinks to ever archive some kind of quality census.
      """

      1) The editing ratio is moot if things are correct.

      2) Experts of a field can output quality much more readily than non-experts. So, who cares if fewer people are looking at it? The people that _are_ looking at it actually know something.

      """
      So trying to get people to think its more reliable (and thus view it with less suspicion/ less "thinking") is a bit like cheating the user.
      """

      1) It is/will be more reliable b/c experts will be going through and fixing the errors.

      2) People (in general) do NOT go through the wikipedia with suspicion but take it as absolute fact. Furthermore, wikipedia is do little if anything to change this perception. So, it isn't really this guy who is/will be cheating the user, but wikipedia. It is this guy that's making moves to _fix the problem_.
    • by Jack9 (11421)
      I believe you have chosen to ignore the benefits, due to some bias toward Wikipedia.

      Starting with the articles that people have put effort into viewing and correcting in the past, you have overcome the main hurdle of a resource intelligencia - practicality. Why not start with the subjects that you know people want to know about (and care about) rather than trying to guess what human knowledge is important to chronicle, first? Because you rather defend the mess that is Wikipedia, I guess.
    • It makes sense if you want to improve over something instead of starting from zero.
    • if the current [Wikipedia article] base is really so bad and unreliable as he makes it look, this will result in taking over everything bad but shutting out the broad mass of eyes that could spot a error and correct it.

      You are missing the point - which is that, despite the broad mass of eyes, errors aren't being fixed in the Wikipedia.

      So trying to get people to think its more reliable (and thus view it with less suspicion/ less "thinking") is a bit like cheating the user.

      And the Wikipedia'

    • by Denial93 (773403)
      > if the current base is really so bad and unreliable as he makes it look, this will result in taking over everything bad but shutting out the broad mass of eyes that could spot a error and correct it.

      Editor/article ratio will not just be low, it will quickly flatline for the following reason. The relatively few editors Citizendium wants to have are supposed to register under their real names with a working e-mail address in order to participate. Even today, wiki admins who make the stupid mistake of u
    • Re:Strange logic (Score:4, Informative)

      by Larry Sanger (936381) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @01:54PM (#16121089) Journal
      This is interesting, but upon analysis, not persuasive: "if the current base is really so bad and unreliable as he makes it look, this will result in taking over everything bad but shutting out the broad mass of eyes that could spot a error and correct it."

      It's going to be a progressive or gradual fork, which means that articles people haven't worked on in the Citizendium will be refreshed on a regular basis with the latest Wikipedia article. So, for the articles that aren't being worked on by CZ, the CZ copy will benefit from whatever WP work is done.

      Eventually, who knows, maybe we'll change the color of links to pages that have been changed by CZ, so that people know to maintain and work on those copies (on CZ) more carefully. In the long run it'll be like a game: how many Wikipedia articles have you cleaned up and substantially improved? Here's my list...

      We might have a rule, too: don't edit a WP-originated article unless you make some very substantial changes. Otherwise, if you change too little, then the CZ copy might become "stale," i.e., substantially worse than the corresponding WP article.

      Generally, the number of articles from WP edited by CZians will be proportionate to the number of CZians. There's no reason to think we'll bite off more than we can chew.

      More from the parent post: "Even worse, seeing the much lower editor/article ratio, i cannot see how he thinks to ever archive some kind of quality census. A random article browsed there will be with a very high likelyhood just a copy of the wiki article." The former does not logically follow from the latter. Since the unchanged articles will be copies of Wikipedia articles, if the articles that CZ has worked on are better than the corresponding WP articles (and that's the hope), then the CZ will at least be better than WP to that extent. That's nothing to sneeze at, is it?

      Finally: "So trying to get people to think its more reliable (and thus view it with less suspicion/ less "thinking") is a bit like cheating the user." Please, rtfw [citizendium.org]. Besides, we aren't going to try to make claims about reliability; our claims will be even more modest than Wikipedia's. We're going to call it a compendium, not an encyclopedia. We won't vouch for anything, even for the articles that editors have placed "approved" tags on.

      Another project, the Digital Universe Encyclopedia (of which the also wiki-based Encyclopedia of Earth [earthportal.net], not yet publicly launched, is the first installment), can have the fun of actually officially approving and "publishing" advanced-version CZ articles (if they want to, and if licensing doesn't get in the way).

  • Finally! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tentimestwenty (693290) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @10:45AM (#16120334)
    There's no problem in having two free encyclopedias on the web and I want the option of having a moderated, somewhat accountable one. Wikipedia is just not reliable enough for certain topics.
    • I think it would be better if the content of Wikipedia was read through by experts in each subject, and any errors fixed, and then added to a WIkipedia 1.0 .
  • So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RyanFenton (230700) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @10:46AM (#16120336)
    Other than the usual "intellectual property" considerations of making a copy of the some of the images/other data currently in Wikipedia, what's the big deal with someone forking it for any reason?

    The guy isn't using the information to crush opposing opinions, he's just offering a different filter, without destroying the original. That's creative, additive, not destructive. There are a lot of definitions of freedom - some of them involve having the capability to make informed decisions. It looks at the offset that having this new Wikipedia fork will increase at least that kind of freedom, rather than subtract anyone's freedoms.

    Ryan Fenton
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @10:49AM (#16120351)
    Germans are never amused.
    • by amper (33785) *
      Oh, really? Then explain this [wikipedia.org]...
      • by ScentCone (795499)
        Look, my wife was born in Germany. And we she saw that I was sitting on a Saturday morning commenting on slashdot, she was not amused. Especially when she realized I was cracking on Germans. QED, or close to it. I believe she said something along the lines of, "If you're trying to make a humorous point, how about I just put one your head with that iron pot. You know, the one I use for Hasenpfeffer. Idiot." Or something similarly nuanced, and softened by years of süsse, leichte Verbindung.
  • by LordZardoz (155141) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @10:50AM (#16120354)
    Edit wars are going to take on a whole new meaning.

    Wikipedia has gained a reputation for being a somewhat less than reputable source of information, due to edit wars, vandalism, and outright inaccuracies. But the intent is unquestionably been good, and while not a perfect source of information, for all non research uses, its usually good enough. And the way that the information is not controled by any one interest is seen as being good in that it prevents censorship.

    Forking the project will cause alot of noise and debate, but in the end, I think the final result wont have any great signifigance. Forked or not, Wikipedia is probably not going to disappear.

    END COMMUNICATION
  • by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @10:54AM (#16120373)
    If it's a reputation or moderation system, it might not be bad.

    However, experts have also known to be wrong. In the sciences, there are great debates. Einstein turned the world upside down afterall, and none of the previous experts would have had it right. In history, there are debates, and theories that are hotly contested - such as the thought that Egypt didn't have iron tools to make the pyramids, even though iron has been found in the great pyramid insitu (in place).

    And different experts have different biases.

    How will different viewpoints get across? In the wiki, at least, as an informed user, I can look up the discussions and history of pages. I don't have to depend that the latest page is 100% correct nor do I expect it to me.

    It seems to me that any furhter chase for perfection is like chasing a rainbow for that pot of gold.
    • by joe 155 (937621)
      People on wikipedia will erase the original and place their views - I would expect an expert to respect another experts view and add his own view after the original
      • I would expect an expert to respect another experts view and add his own view after the original

        Obviously, the "experts" you know are a lot more polite than the ones I'm familiar with. I think that if anything, someone who thinks of themselves as an expert is more likely to wipe out information which they perceive to be 'incorrect;' intellectual debates can get pretty heated, after all.

        I think the only way that an expert system could work is if edit rights are restricted to certain individuals, allowing each person to basically have their own article about a particular controversial topic. For instance, if you looked up string theory or evolution, there would be several different articles to choose from on string theory, written by several distinct "experts," each with different backgrounds and expressing a different perspective on the issue. It's a big mistake to let one expert have edit rights on content written by someone else whom they disagree with, and expect them to just play nice.

        Maybe the string theorists would get along and let each others' work be; perhaps the evolutionarians would as well. But how do you think the article on Islam is going to work? I could think of people who might both be well-described as "experts," who nonetheless might have little tolerance for the opinions or work of the other. People kill each other over philosophical disagreements, where religion and politics are involved -- do you really think that they wouldn't revert each other's stuff online?

        I think it's a mistake to try to cram too many different viewpoints into one article. This is the trademark of an encyclopedia, to be sure -- one article per entry -- but it's one of the reasons why encyclopedias traditionally aren't used for real research. It's just not possible to have one monolithic article for each topic and still preserve the context and flavor of each argument; to have an honest discussion of a contentious issue requires that you give each of the different viewpoints a separate space in which to express their argument, and then read them each in context.

        Any 'expert system' which lets one 'expert' overwrite another is probably going to have just as many revert wars as the layman's Wikipedia; the only difference might be the grammar level used in the ad hominem attacks in the discussion pages. Being an 'expert' doesn't instantly make people respectful of dissenting views; if anything, my experience has taught me the contrary. The more developed someone's opinions on something are, the less likely they are to accept the dissenting point of view as valid. There are exceptions to this, but they're somewhat rare.

        My ideal system would be one where I could go to a topic and see a consensus-based general introduction, which would be publicly editable and have a tracked history. This would allow me to get an idea of the "man on the street" perspective -- it might not be correct, and it might be totally at odds with what scientists or experts think at the same time, but that doesn't mean it's devoid of value. (E.g., it would be helpful to know of the wide gap today between the scientific consensus on global warming and the hoi polloi; the latter is important even if it's wrong, just because it's widely held.) Separate from this would be the 'expert articles.' The expert pages would each have a single author (which might be a real person, a psudeonymous entity, or a group of people acting as author -- for example a committee), and express a particular viewpoint. I would be free to agree or disagree with these, and they might contradict one another. That's the nature of knowledge.
    • by CRCulver (715279)

      However, experts have also known to be wrong.

      Wikipedia is not meant to present "true" information. It's meant to present sourced information. To seek to portray something in a way contrary to published scholarship is considered original research, see the Wikipedia page at [[WP:NOR]]. Experts, however, at least know something of the bibliography of their subject. Preparing a doctoral thesis consists in discovering thousands of publications that can be used to support an assertion. Experts are also aware t

    • How will different viewpoints get across? In the wiki, at least, as an informed user, I can look up the discussions and history of pages. I don't have to depend that the latest page is 100% correct nor do I expect it to me.

      The widespread belief that you can judge the accuracy and completness of a Wikipedia article by edits or discussion is nonsense.

      Reviewing the discussion page assumes that the folks taking part in the discussions themselves have a real clue about the topic under discussion. I kno

    • by madro (221107) *
      The process of science is one of a long-running debate between theories that have more or less support from evidence.

      I think the members of academia by and large have enough integrity to acknowledge in articles that they write that different viewpoints exist. A writer for a conference or journal needs to demonstrate basic command of the breadth of debate (lit review), or else a reviewer would likely reject the article. Many journals have occasional articles that are nothing but long literature reviews that
  • I don't think so... they didn't even bother to vandalize the guy's wikipedia page!
  • reliability? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mabu (178417) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @10:56AM (#16120379)
    Considering it's probably virtually impossible to find any media or reference source upon which someone may not challenge its reliability, I've always wondered what the basis of the often ambiguous claims that are spewed around the net and other media on Wiki's supposed inaccuracies?

    Personally, I think 99% of the claims are bullshit. You have political people out there who claim Wiki is bogus because the articles don't match up with their agenda. I think the majority of the claims probably have to do with subjective, delusional interpretations of that nature.

    That notwithstanding, I've still never really found Wiki information to be significantly inaccurate. Maybe I am not looking in the right places, but even when an entry is defaced, it's pretty obvious and often it's quickly corrected. I still don't think there is any encyclopedic source anywhere that is as dynamic and comprehensive (and probably willing to be updated based on consensus discussion among a wide variety of participants).

    So is this notion of Wiki being a questionable information source warranted? Or is this some ambiguous claim that seems to be passed on and on without much substance behind it?
    • Re:reliability? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by swb (14022) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @11:37AM (#16120554)
      My guess is that the claims of inaccuracies are based as you say around either political viewpoints on items subject to a political analysis, or nitpicking by experts over details that are meaingful to other experts but likely lost on non-experts in that particular field. The general information, which is what 99% of the people walk away with, is accurate enough to make the average person feel well informed even if some of technical details or claims might be wrong.

      There may be variations on this theme where enough details are wrong to call the article into question, but it seems like an article would have to be really, really wrong for it to fail in the encyclopedia's mission -- to provide a general background on a wide variety of subjects.

      Grammar and writing quality is a bigger problem, IMHO, and that really can't be solved without an army of copy editors.
  • Abandon Ship? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theStorminMormon (883615) <theStorminMormon&gmail,com> on Saturday September 16, 2006 @10:57AM (#16120384) Homepage Journal
    I'm an outsider to the Wikipedia community. I read the site avidly - looking up everything from gas-turbines to the history of afghanistan - but I only rarely post to articles and when I do I'm generally just fixing typos. I do have an account on wikipedia, but I've never started my own entry or contributed significantly to one that already existed. Nor do I go to conferences, or know any of the serious wikipedia contributors.

    It does seem to me, however, that this is an overreaction to some of the bad press that Wikipedia has gotten over the last year or so. If you listen to the news media, wikipedia is an untrustworthy haven for trolls, flamers, liers, Colbert-elephant vandals, and so on. While it is true that Wikipedia isn't perfect and no one should base a research paper on it, in my experience the quality of information has actually been quite good. So I don't think there's really a huge problem to be addressed. Which means there's not much to gain by forking it. (I assume by "fork" they mean "we're going to steal all the hard work that's been denoted so far so that our new product doesn't have to start from scratch.")

    On the other hand, what do we have to lose with the new version of wikipedia? To my mind, the most important aspect of Wikipedia was transparency in contradistinction to authority. Instead of being based on authority (e.g. if it's in Britannica, it's in true because it's Britannica and presented with a set of polished, edited, and reviewed "facts", when you look up something on Wikipedia you get the whole process. You see the front page, the article itself, but also have access to the discussions that go into that page. If something is controversial you see the controversy. This affords a kind of meta-information every article that opened up a whole new kind of information from enyclopedias. No longer just a static repository for authoritative information, it became a dynamic view into the process of cataloging information.

    The new citipendium or whatever (clumsy name) threatens to reverse all of that. What made wikipedia revolutionary was it's rejection of "experts" (e.g. authority) in favor of democracy. Clearly the initial anarchy had to be toned down. Instituting onymity may be a great advancement. But closing it to "experts" is a huge step back.

    It seems like a repudiation of the very heart of the open philosophy. Isn't this move akin to someone taking Linux and "forking" it into closed source OS? No matter how good the resulting OS could be, haven't you torpedoed the philosophical basis of Linux by doing so?

    If you only care about a good OS (or, by analogy, a good encyclopedia) then I guess there's no reason to be worried. But if you care about the open source movement, then this is cause for grave concern indeed.

    -stormin
    • by kv9 (697238)

      (I assume by "fork" they mean "we're going to steal all the hard work that's been denoted so far so that our new product doesn't have to start from scratch.")

      if the license permits it, it's not stealing (it wouldn't be stealing anyway, perhaps you meant copyright infringement). a fork [catb.org] is a common thing.

      • I meant stealing, but I didn't mean it in the legal sense. I wasn't making a judgment one way or the other about the legality of what they were doing.

        It does seem to have the spirit of theft, however, to the extent that the new citipenium (or whatever) will be a closed system instead of an open one. It's kind of like making a closed-source "fork" of linux. Which, come to think of it, probably would violate the license.

        -stormin
      • by interiot (50685)
        The license (GFDL) does allow it. Just like anyone can fork Apache or Debian... if this lets the new group bypass some problems with the old group's model, or helps fill a new market niche, then everyone wins. If they don't actually provide anything new, they won't be successful, but trying out new ideas is always a good thing.
  • Wikipedia itself has several language versions. They're not translations; they're separate systems, run by different people. The German version already runs under somewhat stricter rules than the English version. Often, articles are translated from one language fork to another, but that's for new article creation. An update to one won't be translated and propagated to the others. So they're forks.

    Then there's Wikinfo [wikinfo.org], a true Wikipedia fork branched off in 2003. It's not very popular.

    And, of course

  • by creimer (824291) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @11:11AM (#16120435) Homepage
    In the land of the edited, the anonymous coward is king.
  • Fascinating (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater&gmail,com> on Saturday September 16, 2006 @11:24AM (#16120484) Homepage
    The tone of the comments so far are quite amusing - for quite some time, people have been saying "the beauty of GPL is that you can fork - if you don't like the Wikipedia, fork it!". Now that someone is doing so - all the comments revolve around why it's a bad idea to do so.
    • by Raindance (680694) *
      Interesting comment.

      I do think this fork is a mixed bag. On one hand, it's another editing model, and that's great. The more the merrier, because it allows us to see what works. Any a priori theory of what results a new editing model we have is probably going to be flawed: just look at what people were predicting for wikipedia back a few years. And if this project draws new experts into the online encyclopedia fold- people who wouldn't be involved save for this project- that's great too.

      On the other, this i
    • Well, it's the same old scheme as it has been all time everywhere: "It's good when people have free choice, as long as they choose the way I want."

      BTW, Wikipedia is not GPL, but GFDL.
  • This edit [wikipedia.org] on Wikipedia's Citizendium page demonstrates what citizendium's all about:

    The new project will stop uninformed people (such as myself) from randomly editing articals (like this) and filling them with crap.
  • Waa! Waa! Waa! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bonker (243350) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @11:26AM (#16120499)
    Wikipedia doesn't work like a regular encyclopedia. Stephen Colbert is making fun of us. The modern media hates us because we're not Encyclopedia Britanica.

    Wikipedia is a wonderful thing. On top of being an incredible source for information, it's an excercise in damage control and chaos theory. Wikipedia works, not despite page defacers and fact monglers, but *because* of them. Without the constant controversy surrounding things like politicians changing their own wiki entries, innacurate or false information would tend to sit in the pool and stagnate.

    Wikipedia is not a traditional encyclopedia. It's not meant to be one. It's not meant to work like one. Trying to treat it like one is foolish. Trying to base a traditional encyclopedia off of Wikipedia is foolish.
    • by owlnation (858981)

      Stephen Colbert is making fun of us.

      Yes, you are right! The strength of wikipedia is in its anarchy. Stephen was not simply making fun, he was warning that moderators choose to become thus because they have an axe to grind, and because there are factions in society that seek to control information, and that both things are dangerous; much more so together.

      Anarchy and lack of moderation is the way to ensure that ultimately the truth can win. It also ensures that visitors have to continue to think, and n

  • After copying Wikipedia, delete all stubs, fancruft, lists of pr0n stars, album descriptions and metal waffle (the articles on obscure metal bands of the 80s in Scandianavia, for example).

    That should reduce the database by 90%

    Next, put ratings on all articles. Those which are rated crap, get deleted and new submissions requested.

    That should halve the database again.

    Now add.
    • After copying Wikipedia, delete all stubs, fancruft, lists of pr0n stars, album descriptions and metal waffle (the articles on obscure metal bands of the 80s in Scandianavia, for example).

      Why? Someone, somewhere, cared enough to create that content. Don't like it? Don't read it.
      • Why? Someone, somewhere, cared enough to create that content. Don't like it? Don't read it.

        Because the point of an encyclopedia is the distillation of quality scholarship, not the preservation of crap. By the way, do you never throw anything away because its outlived its usefulness because "someone, somewhere, cared enough to create it"?

        I'd be more impressed if that person who cared to create it a) signed their real name b) vouched as to its accuracy and c) could actually write an article in English.
  • by rspress (623984)
    I still prefer my hitchhikers guide to the galaxy.
  • Many members of wikipedia are very much amused. This fork was needed just so we could shut up the critics when this project fails. It's not that I wish it to fail, it's just that there is no other way. It's been tried from the start with Nupedia, and without the openess it won't work. Not to mention that Wikipedia has a lot of momentum now and it's not going to be easy to turn that into another project.
  • All that is happening is that Larry Sanger -- who knows a lot about the Wikipedia -- is going to set up a new project that addresses some of the problems that he believes affect the Wikipedia. I don't think Larry was ever entirely sold on the anyone can contribute anytime aspect of the Wikipedia. But that didn't stop him from doing a fine job of herding the project off on a course to success. Presumably his new project addresses what he sees as problems with the Wikipedia -- I'd guess he will attack the
  • First off, there's a well known story that Larry Sanger originally bailed from the Wikipedia because he was submitting poor-quality edits that didn't fit to the standards the community had hashed out, and Larry Sanger got really angry that they weren't being accepted. His logic was, how dare you, I am a professor of philosophy at somewhere or other and I helped found this project etc. The community response was, whatever, but you're putting things into philosophy articles which are not only not very clearly
  • I'm a big believer that Wikipedia is great because it is so radically open. The word "wiki" derives from the Hawaiian word for "quick", and I think that is a good word to use when describing Wikipedia. Citizendium was announced yesterday. There's already an article on Citizendium [wikipedia.org] in Wikipedia today.

    But in my opinion there's no way to completely separate quick from dirty. Hopefully Larry Sanger realizes this, and isn't just in disagreement with Jimmy Wales over the details. If so, and Citizendium becom

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