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Digital Universe a Wikipedia Alternative 241

Augustine J writes "A new alternative to Wikipedia called Digital Universe is the brainchild of, USWeb founder Joe Firmage and Larry Sanger, one of Wikipedia's earliest creators. This new site differs from Wikipedia by inviting acknowledged experts in a range of subjects to review material contributed by the general public. "The vision of the Digital Universe is to essentially provide an ad-free alternative to the likes of AOL and Yahoo on the Internet," said Firmage. "Instead of building it through Web robots, we're building it through a web of experts at hundreds of institutions throughout the world.""
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Digital Universe a Wikipedia Alternative

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  • I don't get it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ginza ( 940575 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:23PM (#14313945) Homepage

    If someone has intel on this, please provide it. They say it's "based on Wikipedia" but will be like an "add-free AOL or Yahoo". AOL and Yahoo are not Wikipedia. So is it an encyclopedia? Or a new search engine?

    At least this will make people happy as when Digital Universe posts an article with incorrect information, someone can actually sue a corporation with money that has a static location.

    Also, I don't watch PBS, so I don't know what the hell that means. They should have used a reference that people actually understand. Like "It will be the Slashdot of the Information World." Of course what is meant by that?

    • Re:I don't get it (Score:3, Informative)

      by jzeejunk ( 878194 )
      If u did some google search you would have found the following

      http://www.digitaluniverse.net/experience/ [digitaluniverse.net]
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Universe [wikipedia.org]

      I won't consider Digital Universe an alternative to wikipedia. The content is more interactive in nature. I doubt that it'll be as vast in scope as wikipedia though. Let's see.
    • Re:I don't get it (Score:3, Interesting)

      by trelayne ( 930715 )
      Actually, last I heard, the founder of Wikipedia is closely involved in this project. So let's not waste bandwidth on why Wikipedia is better.

      Also, the people behind this Foundation have been working on other, possibly revolutionary (in a REALLY BIG way) physics research. Check it out: http://www.calphysics.org/ [calphysics.org] .

    • Re:I don't get it (Score:2, Insightful)

      by shrewd ( 830067 )
      when they say like "AOL and yahoo" i think they just mean theyre going to send you hundreds of CD's (and when that becomes obsolete blu-rays etc) and also have an annoying sound bite....
    • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Informative)

      by Larry Sanger ( 936381 ) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @02:15AM (#14315328) Journal
      I'm just going to correct some items of fact in some of the posts here. "So is it an encyclopedia? Or a new search engine?" Neither, exclusively. It will be a comprehensive web portal that will include an encyclopedia. It has been loudly billed as an encyclopedia (not by us) for reasons that might be obvious. But it will be more than that. "...someone can actually sue a corporation with money that has a static location..." Well, the Digital Universe Foundation has filed for nonprofit status, so it's a little misleading to call it a corporation. But you're right that it will have a static location. Or rather, several static locations, because the so-called information coalitions (each devoted to a different branch of knowledge) will be more or less independent of the DU.
    • Also, I don't watch PBS, so I don't know what the hell that means.

      It means animal sex and human boobies on video. Also, you can see all of the breasts that you want but they must either be old ones (preferably diseased or mid-surgical procedure!), or, more often, saggy ones from some aborigine wiculture.

      Nice boobs cause quite a rucus with those who don't have them anymore and leads to lots of phone calls and letter-writing campaigns.
  • by otavo ( 929315 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:23PM (#14313949) Homepage
    Larry Sanger, a co-founder of Wikipedia, plans to launch a project called Digital Universe that will take advantage of public input for its content but rely on acknowledged experts to edit the submissions. Material will be free, with subscription fees for access to copyrighted materials. Sanger has raised $10 million in start-up funding. This strikes me as a silly idea and a move in the wrong direction. Wikipedia was found to be mostly accurate compared to its closed brethren [miami.com]. Wikipedia in my view is fine as it is. It has its issues and as time goes it will evolve and get better.
    • by Azarael ( 896715 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:37PM (#14314032) Homepage
      Not only that, but why start from scratch when there is such an enourmous body of good source material? A better project would be to gather acknowledged experts, and get them to contribute to Wikipedia instead.
      • Not only that, but why start from scratch when there is such an enourmous body of good source material? A better project would be to gather acknowledged experts, and get them to contribute to Wikipedia instead.

        It seems likely to me that "acknowledged experts," at least the ones contributing to this new site, think that Wikipedia is NOT an enormous body of good source material, and do NOT want to contribute to it.

        It especially seems likely in light of the fact that Langer Sanger, who left Wikipedia bec
      • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @10:55PM (#14314446)
        That would only work if Wikipedia also made fundamental changes to it's editing structure. Nobody is going to take Wikipedia any more seriously if a bunch of experts start contributing to it as long as any yahoo with a login can go in and change the articles they write.

        Wikipedia would have to develop what is essentially a caste system so a user could only edit what has been written by people in the same or lower level as them, protecting expert knowledge from armchair scholars.

        Experts already contribute to Wikipedia, and many have left because of edit wars with other users who really don't know what they are talking about. Until Wikipedia begins to show offical recognition of authoritive sources, this will continue.
        • Wikipedia has a policy for dealing with assessing the veracy of information. If there's a question about the accuracy of information, you first and foremost do not get into an edit war. You make a request for comment or page protection, perhaps call for a vote on the article's talk page, cite your sources and either your peers or The Wikipedia Powers That Be assess who's correct. If the editor putting up incorrect information persists in spite of a decision from the "higher-ups", they may be suspended from
      • Even better would be to get acknowledged experts to edit Wikipedia entries, and publish the results as a separate encyclopedia (not editable by the masses). I am pretty sure the Wikipedia license would allow and even encourage such projects. I think we will see more of that in the future -- bound and online versions of Wikipedia entries that have been vetted for accuracy and improved upon by experts. Considering all kinds of possible specialized encyclopedias, the possibilities are endless. Really I thi
      • Most experts have the sense to take a look at the "discussion" pages for a given article and realise that it's much, much, much more trouble than it's worth.

        I am a working academic in a particular area of literature with a number of respected articles to my name. This is not hypothetical, it's true. When I look at the articles on one of the best known literary works in this area -- and I mean well-known enough that I am sure over 50% of readers of this page will have read one of them -- I cringe at how abo

    • by belmolis ( 702863 ) <billposer&alum,mit,edu> on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:44PM (#14314070) Homepage

      I suspect that this study over-estimates the accuracy of Wikipedia because it was limited to natural science topics. My impression is that Wikipedia is pretty accurate in this area because people tend to know whether they know what they are talking about or not and people who really don't know anything aren't very likely to write about something like chemistry. Where Wikipedia seems to me to have more of a problem is in areas that people who really don't know what they are talking about think that they do, which is more common outside of the natural sciences. My own field of linguistics is like this. Pseudo-experts seem to be particularly common in historical linguistics. I'd be interested to see a study like the one cited but covering areas like linguistics and psychology.

      • I have no clue what I was talking about when I wrote this article on Priaprism [wikipedia.org]. I wrote a page about myself, and learned that that wasn't a good idea. I figured others would go in and change things for the better on my Priaprism article, but it never happened.
    • by typical ( 886006 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:55PM (#14314125) Journal
      This strikes me as a silly idea and a move in the wrong direction.

      Why does there have to be a wrong direction?

      It's trying something new. Either it will work out or it won't (and if it does work out, there will probably have to be revisions to the idea).

      There is an *incredible* number of incredibly useful information systems that do not exist that have the potential to exist, now that we have the Internet widely available. They could be the next most important way to exchange information -- someone just has to come up with the system and nurse it. We haven't yet scratched the surface -- we don't have any idea what can be done.

      In the past few years, I've seen the rise of:

      * MMORPGs -- "virtual reality" with huge numbers of people actually existing in real life, playing, exploring and talking together, without regard for physical location. I have a number of friends that have fanned out across the United States, but can still spend more time together than people they live next door to, just because they have forums to do so now.

      * Instant Messaging systems -- A system that grants the ability to contact most people with almost zero delay time, collaborate (pasting text and links), carry on masses of real time conversations at once, etc.

      * blogs -- A way to rapidly publish, identify, and propagate new memes, with a reputation system built in (if someone has written good articles before, perhaps they will continue to do so). CNN isn't my sole (or primary) source of interesting information any more, which means that control of information channels is *much* weaker than it was even recently.

      * reddit -- collaboratively rated "blog". A truly adaptive "content of interest" stream. IMHO, the next generation beyond just reading RSS feeds of blogs.

      * del.icio.us -- collaboratively rated bookmarking, useful for researching a topic quickly.

      * Wikipedia -- whether you call it an "encyclopedia" or not, there's no denying that this store of overview-level knowledge on many, many topics is incredibly valuable.

      * Freenet -- we have (abeit still not in a particularly Joe-Sixpack-usable package) truly anonymous interaction offered us.

      That's just off the top of my head. There are new ideas just bubbling up all over. What's the cost of trying something wrong? Maybe someone insults your idea and you pay some server fees. The Internet is a *long*, *long* way from being a mature environment -- there are new, completely untapped things coming into being every day.

      I don't think anyone thinks that Digital Universe is going to be unilaterally better than Wikipedia, but who knows? Maybe it will work, and maybe it will be better in some ways than WP. In any event, is has the ability to feed off Wikipedia, and provides a mechanism to access copyrighted content (whereas WP is limited to public-domain and free-use content).
    • by Larry Sanger ( 936381 ) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @12:40AM (#14315003) Journal
      Just a correction: I did not raise $10 million for new Stewards, as The Register [theregister.co.uk] quite absurdly reported. Rather, something like that is the amount that mainly Joe Firmage raised (or himself gave) toward the development of the platform. Moreover, I am working as just one member of pretty big team; it's hardly just my project. Please, please, wait a couple of weeks and we will be in a position to talk a lot more.
  • by Spazntwich ( 208070 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:25PM (#14313962)
    "Digital Universe - The sort of free encyclopedia. Editable by some, and only after approval."

    It sounds like they're basically going right back to the old model of encyclopedia authoring, and the only real difference is it's online.
    • by Bogtha ( 906264 )

      What's this "sort of free" you are talking about? From TFA:

      The problem that Firmage and his colleagues are trying to solve is finding a financially viable way to back up an endless supply of no-cost and ad-free articles written by the general public with review and certification by subject-area experts.

      This is basically Wikipedia, except with articles that are vetted by experts before being published. Which is exactly how Free Software works - with the maintainer being the "expert" vetting everythi

      • Actually, it's not that either. Some articles will be written by subject experts, and some will be written by the general public, and each will be labeled accordingly.

        Slow down cowboy! It's been 7 hours and 16 days.. since you gave your lovin' away.. (oooh oooh oooh oooh.. oooh)
      • Obviously the GP was referring to the license of the published material? Will it be CC, GFDL, some other free license, or copyrighted with all rights reserved?
      • Not everybody gets to choose what goes into the Linux kernel - Linus has final say in that - but I don't see anybody calling Linux "sort of free".

        You just gave me a shudder as I imagined a wikilinux kernel...
      • by Petrushka ( 815171 ) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @04:10AM (#14315661)
        Nonsense, balls, and ptooey. Of course anyone can put what they like into the Linux kernel: that is precisely what free means. Where do you think contributions to the kernel come from? That they appear out of thin air? That they're found under a gooseberry bush? That Linus commissions them? The point is, Linus is equally free to ignore such additions.

        Digital Universe is gratis and most definitely not 'free'. Shame on the people who modded you up.

        Important addendum: 'free' does not equate to 'better'.

    • by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @10:22PM (#14314258)
      Yes, but...
            The old model isn't really the old model. There was a time, that ended around World War 1, that the best enyclopedias tended to have articles by really top experts in their fields, i.e. Thomas Edison writng about his own inventions, or Woodrow Wilson about European geopolitics. That didn't necessarily eliminate bias (sometimes far from it), but it did often greatly boost quality in other ways.
            Here's an online version of one of the best examples - the "Love to Know" encyclopedia, based on the Britanica 11th edition, for those interested in seeing what encyclopedia meant once:

      http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/ [1911encyclopedia.org]

        By 1940 or so at most, the overwhelming majority of new encyclopedia articles were by staff writers, who were generally not known for any original (as opposed to synthetic) contributions to the fields they addressed, who sometimes interviewed really primary sources directly, but were often at third remove or more. For articles updating older entries, there was almost never new deep research done. An update on Relativity, for example was likely to involve taking the opinion of an easily accessable local college professor as to how an older version should be rewritten for modern readers.
            Digital Universe could be very similar to the late era print model, and have entries mostly by academics for 'major' subjects and hobby writers for 'minor' ones, or it could deliberately leverage the hypertext-like online model, the ease and speed of modifying flawed entries and seeing the corrections propagate, the easing of editorial space restrictions for 'minor' subjects, and other net-typical advantages to go back to the older old model, which (IMHO), would make the results much more tolerable.

    • You're right. The "editable by some" is a big thing against Digital Universe. Wikipedia has grown enormously in a very short period of time. I doubt if this new fangled Digital Universe will be able to demonstrate such growth.

      Joe User can search for an article, see that it's missing and write one. Or if an article has mistakes or errors or missing information, s/he can contribute. Of course, it does take some time for the article to mature, but the basic idea remains that anyone can contribute. Now, as a Jo
      • Anyone being able to edit is *not* an advantage of wikipedia. It's a major disadvantage.. I've lost count of the number of articles I've seen that contained downright wrong information, with a flamewar on the talk page between people trying to correct it and self appointed moderators deleting every edit citing things like 'it's a point of view' if they don't agree with it.

        I basically look at wikipedia as a source of amusement, *not* information, because the only thing you're getting is the prejudices of th
        • Well, that would depend on how you look at Wikipedia. Is it a definitive source? Nope, it is a starting point. Is it the only source? Nope, it's one of many other sources.

          So, you can take the occasional mistake for a wider coverage, and a better chance of finding the information you need. If you are entirely dependent on Wikipedia, you must be nuts.
      • So, to your mind the quality of a source lies not with the accuracy of the information that it provides, but the number of topics it covers?

        I'd rather have a smaller reliable source than a huge source where I couldn't rely upon any particular claim it makes. Wikipedia is definitely in the latter category.
        • Nice strawman argument there - I made no such claim. Merely that all things being equal, the ability to contribute and correct by more people would result in more information. The quality of information, like everything else, is dependent on the "experts" who write, correct and edit the content.

          However, the growth and evolution of a more flexible entity like wikipedia is faster than one that is not as flexible, owing to the fact that people can contribute quite easily.

          Obviously, that is a double edged sword
          • Erm, no strawman. You're deliberately ignoring the quality that expert editing adds.

            By saying "all things being equal" you're implicitly making the argument that a random person's feedback is going to be as good as an expert's.

            That's just silly, all things aren't equal. Random people are just as likely to degrade the quality of an article as increase it, especially on topics where ill-informed people with political or religious axes to grind are likely to want to edit.
    • by Geoffreyerffoeg ( 729040 ) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @01:41AM (#14315223)
      Actually, they're going straight back to the model of Nupedia [wikipedia.org]. It didn't surprise me at all that Larry Sanger was involved in this. Nupedia's problem is that they couldn't convince enough experts to join. I don't think Digital Universe will fare much better. Part of the attraction of Wikipedia is that if you make a change, it occurs immediately. If we wanted our changes to take effect later, we'd all be submitting information to Encarta's editors.

      Moreover, Wikipedia has a network effect slash brand recognition: I remember Fred Bauder's Internet-Encyclopedia (now called Wikinfo [wikinfo.org]). It was a great idea, but people were using Wikipedia already, so meh, why bother? The original premise was to make the main article sympathetic-POV, and allow other POVs and other authorships in parallel articles. Nothing wrong with the idea, but he couldn't convince people to switch from Wikipedia.

      I don't think Digital Universe will attract many seasoned Wikipedia contributors, and its design seems to make it worthless without a good public user base (since we know from Nupedia's story that experts-only contribution won't work).
  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bishop, Martin ( 695163 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:25PM (#14313963)
    This idea isn't horrible, only problem is just WHO gets to decide who is an 'expert'? Some would argue that Daryl McBride is an expert in lawsuits, because he's filed so many...but you know...
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by afree87 ( 102803 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:28PM (#14313976) Journal
      Exactly. Wikipedia is known for its long and annoying debates, but these debates do something important: they create a neutral point of view that presents all the important facts. If you have, say, a Turkish scholar write an article about Turkey, there's a good chance that the resulting article will skip over the less wonderful things Turkey has done.
      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by irc.goatse.cx troll ( 593289 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:46PM (#14314084) Journal
        No, it waters down the facts so that both sides can both concede. When talking about stuff thats highly debatable (conspiracies, politics, wars, etc) the truth is sometimes shocking and far from a "neautral point", and once you water it down to the point that the other half stops editing, its not always even worth reading anymore.
        • Facts, not Truths. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @12:10AM (#14314846) Homepage
          Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. It does not intend to be a repository of truth, but of facts. If it's truth you're after, Dr. Tyree's philosophy class is right down the hall.

          If there's some outrageous claim, or some hotly disputed and debated topic- say, take your pick of sides on the topic Intelligent Design- Wikipedia's job is not to state who's right and who's wrong, endorse one side or another, identify what's really true and false, or anything like that. Its job is to state that claims have been made, one way or the other, who made those claims, what sort of support the claims enjoy and what criticism they suffer, and other stuff relevant to the claims. That's all. I think that's a far more attainable goal for a volunteer encyclopedia project than Truth.

          • by njyoder ( 164804 )
            You missed the point. Those arguments result in compromising on what is NPOV. This means that the zealots' views get disproportionately represented, especially if they're a very vocal fringe minority. Not just that, but POV phrasing ends up getting inserted because they are forced to compromise on how to phrase and organize the article.
          • Given the following open statements:
            p(x): x is a fact
            q(x): x is a truth

            If x is a fact, then it is a truth, so p(x)->q(x).
            If x is a truth, then it is a fact (opinions are never always true since they vary from person to person), so q(x)->p(x).
            Therefore, p(x)<->q(x), so "fact" is equivalent to "truth".

            Are you telling me that somehow "fact" and "truth" are not the same thing?
          • By 'fact' many mean 'widely propagated information'.

            For scientific and technical matters this approach works because the very publication leads to an efficient peer review, and anyone can refute or rebut.

            But outside of these categories some things presented as "facts" are pure and simple bullshit, for example because their authors deliberately omit important data, use distorted ways to relate or plainly lie. Therefore a pure 'fact' must be described by a witness, not by simply copy/pasting 'publish

          • Its job is to state that claims have been made, one way or the other, who made those claims, what sort of support the claims enjoy and what criticism they suffer, and other stuff relevant to the claims.

            Isn't that just journalism, not writing reference material?

      • besides, just because he's an "expert" doesn't make him always right at every single moment. Even experts make mistakes.
      • POV (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rodentia ( 102779 )

        . . . these debates . . . create a neutral point of view that presents all the important facts.

        This statement is so staggeringly devoid of value to this discussion as to beggar description. Such debates may or may not result in a consensus regarding what constitutes a fact and its relative significance. Scholarly debate, whether or no sanctioned by the academy, whether by encyclopaedists professional or amateur, whether electronic or carbon-based, is scholarly debate, friend.

        Debate, by its nature,
    • I agree. According to the latest National Adult Literacy Survey [ed.gov] which was released last week, less than half of all PhD's in the US are able to read proficiently. You would do well to ensure that the authorities you would surrender your power to are really as authoritative as they claim.
  • by brian0918 ( 638904 ) <`brian0918' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:29PM (#14313988)
    Sanger said this [wikipedia.org] in 2001 about Nupedia [wikipedia.org]:

    "The reason Nupedia is having trouble right now is that we've had trouble convincing academics that it is indeed a bona fide cathedral. If we were to convince them of that--which I think we will, eventually--you'll see just how wrong you really are (that Nupedia is a failure)."

    Well, he was wrong. Experts have little time to waste on stuff like this, and Nupedia died. Will this die? Who knows.. but Sanger has been wrong before.
    • Britannica has dozens of layers of fact-checking and proofreading, and they still have about 3 errors per article (from Nature). How many layers will the Digital Universe have? One good thing about the Digital Universe is that their content, at least if it's copied from Wikipedia, will be under GFDL, and so can be copied back to Wikipedia (hopefully, their versions will be minus a few errors).
    • Well they got some funding to pay for it ($10M I think), so there might be some author compensation involved.
    • I've gotta say, this looked like a weird chain of projects: Nupedia (experts) -> Wikipedia (masses) -> Digital Universe (experts).

      That said, it's possible that, especially with Wikipedia's high profile right now, the circumstances are different enough that it could work.
  • What makes an expert though? I've got a huge knowledge of many things which is really far beyond "normal" knowledge. Does this make me an expert or just someone who reads a lot of stuff?

    What one person calls an expert someone else calls them an idiot.. so what defines it in this case?
  • by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:32PM (#14314004) Homepage Journal
    You know, the ones Joe saw in his hotel room one morning?

    http://www.infoworld.com/cgi-bin/displayStory.pl?9 90111.eifirmage.htm [infoworld.com]

    • "As I snoozed, something amazing happened," Firmage wrote. "A remarkable being, clothed in brilliant white light, appeared hovering over my bed in my room. He had dark hair and a beard, I believe.

      Ah, the alien formerly known as Jesus...
    • that "remarkable being, clothed in brilliant white light" was actually Larry Sanger. see the first version of the story was that Larry is an alien who helped him build a remarkable new website. the second version of the story is "Digital Universe is the brainchild of, USWeb founder Joe Firmage and Larry Sanger". the third version of the story (due out in a couple years) will be "Joe Firmage conceived and founded Digital Universe, after previously managing a website devoted to space flight"
  • The Internet batches of relatively free information is really surprising to me. Not only is the information available freely, but it was created freely. As a blogger and a newsletter writer, I find that I make more money the cheaper my product gets -- even when it hits the limit of zero (my newsletter may actually become a newsletter that pays its readers, though). My question is, how will these things last in the long run when people start realizing their time preference makes writing freely costlier th
  • Wikipedia's stregnths lie in the fact that it's editable by everyone. These stregnths or the merit of these stregnths are debatable, but if wikipedia has an edge, it's through this.

    Digital Universe is simply an online traditional encyclopedia. I am of the opinion that Wikipedia is a great place to get started or to learn about relatively non-controversial topics. No one source should be used for anything, and that goes for Wikipedia as well.

    But for Digital Universe to compete with Wikipedia, or vice versa,
  • Alternative... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TheUncleD ( 940548 )
    The internet is the alternative, not this one site. It seems people get so narrow-viewed as to how to access information. It started as "AskJeeves" didn't it? Then it became, why ask jeeves when ALL the information ever is on wikipedia. The US government provides an interesting set of links as well Right here [ed.gov]

    And if you wanted medical journals for example, wikipedia doesn't do those, these guys do: Medical Journals [freemedicaljournals.com] So sure, there are many sites offering you ways of posting/sharing information, but they ar

  • ...how many times did the founder edit his biography?
  • we're building it through a web of experts at hundreds of institutions throughout the world.

    Like St. Wonko's Institution for the Criminally Insane?
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:45PM (#14314075)
    It seems to me that "acknowledged experts" is both the key to respect and the bottleneck for any on-line encyclopedia. The question is how does a online content system get acknowledge experts. One solution is to hire experts from the meat-space world -- those vetted by traditional academia, etc. Unfortunately, I'd argue that it's simply too costly to hire enough "real" experts to maintain 800,000 articles.

    In contrast, wikipedia seeks to create content without this overhead to officially-hired experts. The greatest strength of wikipedia is that anyone can add to it. This encourages content generation. The greatest weakness of wikipedia is that anyone can add to it. This encourages vandals and idiots to add errors into entries.

    What projects such as wikipedia need is a mechanism for creating experts and signaling expertise within the context of a corpus created by an open network. This means a better karma system and mechanism for filtering/de-editing entries. Perhaps the easiest mechanism would be a text color-coding scheme. Edits made recently by editors with no track record for stable contributions would be color coded red to caution the reader. The longer the edit lasts, the darker it becomes. Edits that we're made by those with a long history of non-edited additions would see their text quickly become normal black. Done well, such a system could even track contentious frontiers of knowledge -- showing both variants of contested facts in red until one side marshals enough evidence to induce stability.

    Readers might even be able to pick which rendering of the wiki to view. They might ask to see only the content that has survived X viewings without an editorial incident (retraction or rewrite) or see only content written by contributors with some threshold level of expertise karma.
    • by johansalk ( 818687 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @11:25PM (#14314591)
      "The greatest strength of wikipedia is that anyone can add to it. This encourages content generation. The greatest weakness of wikipedia is that anyone can add to it. This encourages vandals and idiots to add errors into entries." How it works out in the real world is that the "vandals and idiots" will usually have plenty more time on their hands to make sure their errors persist than the "experts" will have patience to make sure the article remains as correct as possible. The "experts" usually have better things to do in their schedule than to butthead to perpetuity with persistent "vandals and idiots". It's easy for "vandals and idiots" to invite their friends over to a wikipedia edit and revert war, not so easy for the "experts" whose friends would not appreciate the ludicrous invitation. I think from my experience with the Arabic numerals page on wikipedia that, as things stand now, without editorial control, Wikipedia is a lost cause for any topic in which strong biases are a potential issue.
    • From my own viewpoint, I think a website that culled from Wikipedia and was the "Best-of" Wikipedia would do very well. The current list of proposals has huge inconsistancies and in most cases requires a huge amount of CPU bandwidth to deal with... something the Wikimedia servers are seriously short on anyway. That would include article rating systems and metrics to show who is a valued editor and who is the latest troll to sack pages real quick.

      On the whole I like your idea... the problem is mainly how d
    • Your color coding system is interesting. A similar proposal which would be interesting would be to have the system keep track of who contributed each portion of text, and for every edit made, the one editing would have to choose whether they are enhancing, modifying, or contradicting previous content. Then this could be used to produce rough automated scorings of which editors produce content which can be convergently built upon, and which editors produce content which is controversial and inflamatory (an
  • Pokemon (Score:2, Funny)

    by minus_273 ( 174041 )
    Ok, who is the expert who will catalog all the pokemon?
  • by martinX ( 672498 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:54PM (#14314117)
    For further information, see the wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Universe [wikipedia.org]
  • Space Aliens (Score:2, Informative)

    by paulm ( 37073 )
    Joe Firmage? As in "we got all our technologies from space aliens" Joe Firmage?

    Think I'm joking?

    link [com.com]
  • This sounds similar to DMOZ in that experts are in control of their field. DMOZ was built by the people for the people and the system provides a lot of value, particularly for SEO. Unfortunately DMOZ is ripe with corruption. Editors realize their power to approve or deny submissions have value so they sell their once free service to approve links under the table. I wonder how Digital Universe will avoid the same problem.
    • DMOZ corruption is far from simply selling link approval. There is the whole heirarchy aspect of levels of editors which is nasty, and there is even more problems within due to the approval process of getting accepted into new categories, where you have to do some serious buttocks kissing just to get a chance. That and the rules change so much that if you try to follow what is happening in the public forums it becomes a full-time job.

      DMOZ was a good idea, but poorly implemented and even more poorly admini
  • Nupedia (Score:3, Insightful)

    by goofyheadedpunk ( 807517 ) <goofyheadedpunk@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @10:01PM (#14314157)
    How is this different from Nupdedia [wikipedia.org]?
  • This is great except it doesn't scale well. As soon as it gets big, they have to get more experts...and they might have trouble finding experts to do it for free. Then....how do you verify they are experts?

    For some reason I don't see this as being NEARLY as large as Wikipedia, especially since it is going up against the existing giant.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    For an outsider it may be difficult to see why someone would start such a project that is so similar to Wikipedia. That is because Wikipedia claims to be written from a "Neutral Point of View" (NPOV). What that means is that Wikipedia is not supposed to have any ideological slant in any of its articles, instead all major viewpoints are to be represented fairly. In theory thats good, in practice it means that all Wikipedia articles have a laymen average American Joe slant, since Wikipedia is mostly edited by
  • ...are there actually any experts on He-man [penny-arcade.com] ?
  • The problem with Wikishitia is not that it's tremedously wrong, it's that it's tremendously fragile to agendas and spamming. If you don't make it accountable then it's critics are right and it's shit.
  • This new site differs from Wikipedia by inviting acknowledged experts in a range of subjects to review material contributed by the general public.

    As opposed to Wikipedia, who expressly bar experts from contributing or reviewing material.

    Ummmm.... no.

    Actually, what's happening here is that DU will bar the public from contributing further, after the experts have their say.
  • Let's Compare (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pHatidic ( 163975 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @10:45PM (#14314381)
    Wikipedia: 850,000 articles, roughly $500,000.
    Digital Universe: 0 articles, 10 million dollars.
  • I'll put my faith in the Uncyclopedia [uncyclopedia.org] any day. With in-depth and thoughful articles like the rise of Dino Jesus [uncyclopedia.org] I'm always in the know!
  • I sometimes contribute on wikipedia. Will I contribute here? No. I do not expect to have to wait while my proletarian prose is vetted by some presumably second- or even third-rate "expert." (Who else are they going to get to watch each little tweak?) If I see something wrong on wikipedia, I'll fix it; I'll even start articles. But if you want me to invest my time, don't treat me as a second-class citizen.

    For background: I am nearly finished with a doctorate in the sciences. I respect expert knowledge, pe
  • Objectivity? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KFury ( 19522 ) * on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @11:09PM (#14314512) Homepage
    I'm interested in seeing how objective Digital Universe will be, considering Firmage's strong beliefs in alien intervention [zdnet.com] and that major innovations in microprocessor designs were actually gifts from intelligent and benign extraterrestrials.
    • Objective or Bias (Score:3, Interesting)

      by queenb**ch ( 446380 )
      Who has no bias? Seriously, we all have them. It's just that when we get together the more extreme ones tend to cancel each other out and we end up with something kinda sensible in the middle.

      I'd be interested in seeing who they get to do the editing before I make any judgements. I know that I'm often frustrated with Wikipedia because it says "stub found" gives me a bunch of options for adding on. Well, DUH!, if I already knew the answer, I wouldn't be searching for it.

      Seriously, I'd like to see some of
      • I wonder if a democratic editorial policy would be less factually accurate than Wikipedia's model (democratic in this sense means truth via moderation).

        How can you get an encyclopedic-quality entry on medieval weaponry without waiting for an expert on medieval weapons to come by? Do you really think we all have enough cultural knowledge to get by?

        In this example the wisdom of crowds would probably result in an article that has more in common with the D&D Player's Handbook than historical fact. (Wait, yo
  • The experts should write the original articles so that they are complete and coherent, and then the public should edit out the bias and add alternative points of view.
  • I went to their download page and they listed Win2k and WinXP as the only 2 environments that they supported.

    I own an ADM64 Linux box, a couple of Mac and a lonely old Windows machine.

    I am also a 52 year old published author, a blogger and a podcaster. I figure after 25 years of doing OOP, I've figure that I've earned enough 'street cred' to tell them that a Windows only environment is not a smart move for an academic exercise.

    I don't trust them.
  • I'm sure this will be addressed and who knows exactly what the ManyOne browser will be used for (if it will be required to view all pages, or just certain content or what), but this Digital Universe page [digitaluniverse.net] talks about the browser.

    Looking at the link they provide [earthportal.net]:
    "Minimum System Requirements: ...
    * Microsoft® Windows XP or Windows 2000 ..."

    Ewww. It almost sounds like a custom Mozilla + Macromedia Flash browser:

    ManyOne Application Suite

    Mozilla Public License
    The ManyOne

One can't proceed from the informal to the formal by formal means.