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A Look Inside Citizendium 153

Raindance writes "I've posted an in-depth look at Citizendium, Larry Sanger's new project and Wikipedia's new competitor. In a nutshell, Citizendium isn't just about building a better encyclopedia (though that is their goal) — it's also a pilot project for a new model of expert-guided radical collaboration with implications for things from open peer review to genome wikis. If you'd like to help out, they need both volunteers and donations."
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A Look Inside Citizendium

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  • ...before there's a Wikipedia entry on this?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Duh [wikipedia.org]. Net turnaround time from event to Wikipedia article chronicling said event is usually measured in seconds.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Xichekolas ( 908635 )
        Actually, pretty sure that Wikipedia leverages the collective foresight of humanity to write the articles BEFORE the event happens... and if you don't believe me, I'm sure I could stick that 'fact' in the Wikipedia article on Wikipedia... creating a paradox in the space-time continuum and destroying the universe... don't make me do it!
  • Hmmm... (Score:4, Funny)

    by GammaKitsune ( 826576 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:22PM (#16417253)
    How long before we get a fanboy war between Wikipedians and, uh... Citizendoids?
    • Re:Hmmm... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Das Modell ( 969371 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:28PM (#16417317)
      Future generations will come to know the coming struggle as The Great Edit Wars.

      Or something.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Will the Wikipedians settle on emacs, or vi?
        Will the Citizendoids reflexively assume the opposite editor?
        Will the fresh reinforcements tip the balance in favor of either editor in Teh Eternal Struggle?
        Anything to save us from the crap on cable news...
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by chkMINUS ( 910577 )
        Future generations will come to know the coming struggle as The Great Wars.

        Or something.
    • by Ruff_ilb ( 769396 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:18PM (#16417845) Homepage
      Look at how meticulously researched and accurate the article on the Citizendium is. Read the first sentence: "Citizendium, whose name is a portmanteau of citizen and compendium, is a project proposed by Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger on September 15, 2006, intended to begin as a "progressive or gradual fork" of the English Wikipedia.[1] The Citizendium project will be carried out under the auspices of the Citizendium Foundation.[2]"

      Notice: A fancy french term, a nice quote, precocious diction, and TWO citations just in the intro.

      This seems to be quite a little passive-agressive/bullying hint from the wikipedians.
      • by mykdavies ( 1369 )
        Portmanteau isn't a fancy French term, it's an English term based on a French word. From Wikipedia: The word was coined by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871). In the book, Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice words from Jabberwocky, saying, "Well, slithy means lithe and slimy ... You see it's like a portmanteau-- there are two meanings packed up into one word." Carroll often used such words to a humorous effect in his work.

        Brunch, netizens, animatronics, Brangelina and
        • by Peyna ( 14792 )
          The word was coined by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)

          My dictionary disagrees. "Origin: 1575-85; F portemanteau lit., (it) carries (the) cloak;"

          And if you think hard enough, you'll realize that Carroll didn't even give it a new meaning, he just adapted its already existing meaning to a new realm.
      • Citizendium, whose name is a portmanteau of citizen and compendium

        Maybe it's just me, but wikipedians seem to be obsessed with portmanteaus. I swear to god, every article tangentially related to a portmanteau just has to mention it. Like it's some secret that only nerds on the internet know about and just need to educate everyone else about.

    • by lawpoop ( 604919 )
      How about Citizendiumianiters?
    • by pilkul ( 667659 )
      Citizendroids?
  • Still no wiki? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This project was announced a month ago, and they still don't have a wiki of their own set up... not very fast movement for an Internet project. The only movement is a bunch of people talking [textop.org] about setting up a large scale wiki hosting infrastructure, and begging for free/discounted hosting.
  • Vaporware (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:29PM (#16417325)
    What is interesting about citizendium is they don't even have anything actually running yet.

    One of the nice things about wikipedia is that it has nearly 1.5 million articles in the english language version.

    There a lot of knocks against wikipedia in the article, but the reality is that it is running and extraordinarily useful already to many people.

    My impression is citizendium are going to copy wikipedia articles (and likely even use wikipedia's software), then edit them to be better and then try to stay in sync if they can with wikipedia.

    I think it'll be worth checking back in 3 years to see how they've done, but at this point way way to early to tell. I personally am not to optimistic, but do wish them well.
    • Well, Rome wasn't built in a day...

      I'd say it's far from vaporware though, since an outline of policy exists, and at least a pilot will be up in 10-14 days. Recall that Larry hadn't told anyone about the idea until 9/15, so it went from an idea to waiting on a server and funding in a matter of weeks. We already have the first 100 people in the community, and we already have 3 part-time technical volunteers. It's nowhere near ready, but that's sort of early to expect something.
    • I am logged into the Vaporware(tm) Dedicated Box at the moment. I'll see you in a few weeks, not a few years. :)

      Dr. Sanger will be announcing more details in the next week.

      The vapor is evaporating.

      -Jason Potkanski
      Member Citizendium Core Technical Staff
    • I am logged into the Vaporware(tm) Dedicated Box that was setup today.

      We are finally moving from "talk" to action. The Vapor you speak of will evaporate very, very quickly.

      Dr. Sanger will be making an official announcement next Friday. I'll see you in a few weeks, not three years. :)

      -Jason Potkanski
      Member Citizendium Core Technical Team
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by doubtless ( 267357 )
      If you care to RTF (which no real slashdotter is proud of), Citizendium is going to do what they called "Progressive Fork [citizendium.org]" by first copying everything from Wikipedia. If the articles are changed in Citizendium, they will stay that way, but if they aren't and the same articles in wikipedia is updated, Citizendium will sync to the new version
      • by topham ( 32406 )

        So they create a term which in any other context would be equivalent to 'steal' and give it a positive spin. cool.

        Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with them using articles from Wikipedia. but coming up with your own phrases to describe it? Talk about spin!
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          This is not even close to stealing. If it is explicitly allowed by the copyright terms of Wikipedia, then they are choosing to pursue an option that the creators agreed to. How is this different from the open source community where Ubuntu takes a lot of Debian source, makes some modifications, and then releases their own distribution? As long as both distributions are useful and have enough community support to function, what exactly is the problem?
        • I gather that you don't know about Answers.com?
        • So they create a term which in any other context would be equivalent to 'steal' and give it a positive spin. cool.


          Not only are you an idiot for not knowing Wikipedia's copyright terms, but you contradict the standard Slashdot mantra that copying isn't theft.
      • Re:Vaporware (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Eivind ( 15695 ) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Friday October 13, 2006 @03:32AM (#16420051) Homepage
        Yes. But that still means they retain most disadvantages of a fork:

        • Their improvements are not back-ported to Wikipedia. (though if the licensing allows, I suppose they could be)
        • Once they touch an article, even in a trivial way (fix a single typo) they stop receiving benefits from improvements made on Wikipedia. (they could perhaps be *manually* integrated, but that's still a maintenance-nigthmare)
        • Over time, as more and more articles are touched by them, they'll have to maintain a larger and larger fraction of articles themselves. (since improvements on the WP side is no longer auto-imported after they touch them).
        • It puts them in a bind with regards to articles which are currently improving rapidly in WP. To not miss out on the improvements that will happen in the following weeks, they'll have to *deliberately* keep their hands off. (because move a single comma, and you stop benefiting from the work of the wikipedians.)

        I'd much have prefered a system where all contributions go to WP, and they merely maintain a system where they attach a quality-score to a certain version of certain wp-articles. That way you could have a view of wikipedia which included only those articles that are scored atleast "good", or atleast "excellent". This view would show only rated articles, and only the precise version that was rated.

        Wikipedia is already working on such a project though, blessed version [wikipedia.org]. This will allow anyone to form a group, and approve certain versions of certain articles.

        Thus you could get together with a group of math-experts, review and bless a certain set of math-related articles, and then publish (automatically) a version of wp consisting only of those precise versions of those precise articles.

    • Actually, because of the GFDL, every single page taken from Wikipedia will have to have a nice, big notice somewhere on it that says, "Original content courtesy of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Heh.
    • I don't mind so much that it's vaporware, but I don't like the way Wikipedia is slammed in the article.

      It really sounds like someone's got a bit of a microchip on their shoulder to me.
    • One of the nice things about wikipedia is that it has nearly 1.5 million articles in the english language version.


      As a fork of the current Wikipedia database, so will Citizendium.
  • by Ignorant Aardvark ( 632408 ) <cydeweys&gmail,com> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:32PM (#16417353) Homepage Journal
    As a Wikipedia admin, I wish Larry Sanger the very best of luck. Any new free content is a good thing, and hopefully Sanger gets his expert model working and we can import his peer-reviewed articles back into Wikipedia. Everyone wins!
    • I really think it would be easier to just modify Wikipedia to do what he wants.

      Give every modification a "verified" bit. Give viewers the option of looking at either "latest" or "verified" pages. Put any modified pages into a queue to be re-verified. That way you don't have to waste time rewriting everything when most of Wikipedia is dead-on already.

    • Except that your articles will be subject to vandalism and editing by anonymous amateurs while Sanger's will remain pristine.
  • I think that Wikipedia is good as it is. Most of the "vandalism" is pretty minor that I have seen, such as someone posting an unimporant history of forum drama and messsageboard wars on the entry on some website that has to be deleted. The quality of most academic articles is excellent, and I have been able to use them for researching some of my papers. But some like to say it is "Wicca-pedia" because it is "liberal."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Wikipedia isn't necessarily liberal, it just reflects a worldwide perspective. Internationally the United States is considered rather conservative; thus, Wikipedia, which is truly neutral, is perceived as being too liberal in the United States. And yes, other countries have the opposite perception. The Dutch, for instance, generally consider Wikipedia too conservative.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Kuciwalker ( 891651 )
        Wikipedia doesn't represent a worldwide perspective; it represents a perspective that is the sum of the perspectives of every country, weighted by number of internet users. That includes a significant bias towards the US + Europe.
        • by mgblst ( 80109 )
          Don't forget, you are probably just looking at the English Language branch as well, so really just USA, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and a few other places.
  • by CTho9305 ( 264265 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:38PM (#16417425) Homepage
    From TFA:
    Sanger (and others) believe this atmosphere alienates many academics and experts who find their contributions mangled, reverted, or trivialized by a clueless, faceless mob...

    It's definitely frustrating to have technical edits reverted [wikipedia.org] or messed up by someone who doesn't understand the subject matter as well as you do. There are many cases where there are just too many people who believe something with no evidence [wikipedia.org] to keep it out of the article for long. Wikipedia is great for finding out what most people interested in a field think, but it's not always a good way to get facts or for more in-depth explanations and finding less well-known facts, especially when they're contradictory to "general knowledge".
    • by ZachPruckowski ( 918562 ) <zachary.pruckowski@gmail.com> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:45PM (#16417523)
      That's one of the things we're aiming to change. Certified experts will have the power to "approve" sections or pages, and those pages will be shown to unregistered users even if there's a more current "unapproved" version. That, combined with the requirement that you log in to edit, should prevent the need to babysit pages.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by mdwh2 ( 535323 )
        And what happens when you get into a disagreement with an "expert"? For many academic areas, and certainly for non-academic subjects, there are still differences of opinions and disagreements.

        Deciding whether that bit about overclocking should be there or not shouldn't be a case of "It's true because I'm an Expert", but "Here's a reliable source which says that".
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by Jessrond ( 954908 )
      I've found it frustrating when my pages are given an AFD (articles for deletion) marking simply because someone that isn't from the US hasn't heard of something and assumes it is "non-notable."
    • So we're supposed to believe you're right without evidence, or what? You should've included reliable sources for those statements.
    • The good thing with such edits is that they encourage pople to add references for any controversial claim. Sometimes a comment too.

      It is of course annoying not to be believed just based on your personal autority (like you would in a paper-Encyclopedia), but any true academic will understand and appreciate the need for references.
    • Any section dealing with religion, politics, and the environment should be a hoot!

      After all, which experts are they going to determine are the real experts?

      The one thing about experts is that are too many of them for a given subject and they rarely agree. Oh, a degree, PhD, or more doesn't mean your the expert they are looking for or the one anyone else wants.

      Peer review == community bias.

      Who forms their community will be interesting.
  • Remember h2g2 ? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gopal.V ( 532678 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:41PM (#16417463) Homepage Journal

    Does someone remember BBC's h2g2 [bbc.co.uk] ? It had some excellent articles (like the link in my sig).

    I met Jimbo Wales recently, on his visit to India. He was very very clear about one thing - wikipedia is not a technical innovation. The technology for wikipedia has existed for the last 10 years, but it has come of age with the checks & balances recently. H2g2 died out because it didn't really focus on the editors, but on the content - Mediawiki is somewhat heavily editor oriented, with easy ways to watch pages, revision history and all that - which provides no value to the "user". Editing community is what makes wikipedia run.

    Merely starting off with a copy of the current wikipedia does not automatically provide it with crowd of editors.

  • Wikipedia with a New Bigger Fuller Ego!

    Self-appointed editors; someone controlled / elected by the contributors at large?

  • If you read some of the high physics definitions then it gets very esoteric -not for the layman.

    Example - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_relativity [wikipedia.org]

    It would be nice if there were some translations.

    • Has it perhaps occurred to you that special relativity itself is in fact rather esoteric?
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Did you bother to read the introduction linked from the top of the page you referenced?
    • That might be because Special Relativity is... y'know... esoteric?

      And the first line of the article:

      For a non-technical introduction to the topic, please see Introduction to special relativity. [wikipedia.org]
    • by bigpat ( 158134 )
      It would be nice if there were some translations.

      Maybe someone can give it a go on the "Simple English" version of the article:

      http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_relativit y [wikipedia.org]

      I discovered the simple English version of wikipedia a few weeks ago and after a few chuckles, it seems like a good idea for kids and others that aren't ready for all the details and simply want a broader understanding in some subject area. Though as it says on this page "Someone thinks that this page or section does not use Simp
  • If peer reviewed experts can't come up with a better name than "Citizendium," I think they are going to have troubles writing a whole encyclopedia.
    • Ever buy a book at "Amazon?" Do a search at "Yahoo" or "Google?" Buy a domain name via "GoDaddy?" Read an article at "Wikipedia?"

      How about this for humor. I was on a call with Dr. Sanger as this slashdot story hit. A common early abbreviation for Citizendium is CZ. If people involved with Wikipedia are Wikipedians or Metapedians...are Citizendium folks CZers (caesars)? There was a roll of laughter and I remember saying sarcastically "Sure...that will fly!"

      Hail CZ-er!

      -Jason Potkanski
      Citizendium Core Tech Tea
    • A shame you're modded as Funny and not Insightful.

      Reading the reply above mine from Jason Potkanski, Citizendium Core Tech Team, turned me off the project. Geez, accept some feedback graciously. My reaction in reading his reply was "what an ass". Best of luck with that project - you won't get my patronage, ever, for one stupid, signed comment. Not that I matter, but I'd think in start-up mode, every eyeball counts.

      Bottom line, if you can't say it, and can't easily spell it, you cut out a lot of peop

      • by Peyna ( 14792 )
        It doesn't take long to figure out how to say or spell Yahoo

        I think I have heard Yahoo pronounced about 10 different ways.
    • I wrote to Larry to voice my concerns about the name - hard to say, too long, hard to spell, overthought - and suggested something shorter such as "Citi" which could take on the character of the encyclopedia. His response:

      "Exactly the same things were said about "Wikipedia," another name I coined."
  • by Phat_Tony ( 661117 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:50PM (#16417575)
    I tend to think that a better development model could improve Wikipedia. A moderation system, like Slashdot's, could assign "reliability" ratings to edits, based on the quality of a person's previous contributions. It could rank the priority of changes up for review using the reliability of the person making the changes. Contentious articles that get locked down could only be locked down to people below a certain reliability score. The system could also keep track of contributor's quality as judged by topic. I'm interested in the collaborative plans they have. There are a lot of things I think could be done better.

    But I wouldn't start over from scratch. Wikipedia's too far ahead. I'd copy the content of Wikipedia, and then let the copy diverge.

    Aside from not having to start from scratch, there's also the benefit that people could do a careful analysis of various articles to see how they evolved, and see which system seems to be yielding the highest quality encyclopedia.

    It is free to copy, redistribute, and modify Wikipedia, isn't it?
    • That's sort of the plan. It's a "progressive fork", which is to say that during the pilot project (which is invite-only for a bit and starts in 7-10 days), we'll be importing most of the Wikipedia articles off a database dump we got from mid-September-ish and working on getting them up to snuff while we work on the software modifications (and there are several).

      Overall, the plan is to have editor-approved versions shown to readers first, and have the un-approved versions a few clicks away.
      • Sorry, I misunderstood. I skimmed the linked page and only read certain parts thoroughly, and I thought you were starting from scratch with new content. Well, congratulations, then, good idea. I think I'll be moving my contributions/lookups to Citizendium. I've been thinking something like that could improve upon Wikipedia a lot.
    • by Hachey ( 809077 )
      I tend to think that a better development model could improve Wikipedia. A moderation system, like Slashdot's, could assign "reliability" ratings to edits, based on the quality of a person's previous contributions. It could rank the priority of changes up for review using the reliability of the person making the changes. Contentious articles that get locked down could only be locked down to people below a certain reliability score.

      The whole point of wikipedia is trust. Users don't have to be 'reliable' j
      • I didn't suggest preventing anyone from editing anything they can not currently edit. In fact, I suggested allowing more people to edit more things.

        Wikipedia currently locks down certain contentious articles. I proposed allowing people with high reliability ratings to edit those articles.

        Otherwise, anyone can edit anything. My suggestions were to use reliability scores to prioritize the review of edits. People with continually low-rated or frequently revised edits could have their edits put in higher
    • I'm looking forward to using both Wikipedia and Citizendium.

      I expect to continue to use Wikipedia as a first line resource, because it has excellent performance in providing background for new discoveries and developments. I need it because I refuse to try to remember the differences between a boson and a lepton when I don't have to, even though once every few hundred evenings I find that sort of thing intensely interesting for a few hours. It usually happens when a lot of other people also have the same

  • Larry Sanger (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dadio ( 1002122 )
    This is the next step from wikipedia. It's like writing a paper, first you write down absolutely everything (wikipedia) and then you revise, (citizendium. What suprised me was at the very bottom of the page when Larry Sanger, the leader of citizendium responded Fred Bauder's attack. Sounded a little emotion-driven whereas I would want a critical thinker or thought-driven thinker founding this project. My intepretation might be wrong but does anyone know anything else about Larry Sanger's credentials?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      He ran Nupedia, co-founded Wikipedia, and has worked with the Digital Universe Foundation. He's got the relevant experience to start and lead this sort of a project.
    • His doctoral thesis was called "Epistemic Circularity: An Essay on the Problem of Meta-Justification."

      'Nuff said.

  • Will there be silly articles about anything? For example, Wikipedia has pretty much every internet fad out there, and every restaurant that anyone has taken the time to look up. Is this going to be the same, or will it be more academic?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grapeape ( 137008 )
      Its going to be mostly academic, Larry has stated that it will start as a fork of Wikipedia and will be maintained by "Intellectuals". Frankly that is the primary reason why I dont see this amounting to much, maybe im alone but the "silly" articles on Wikipedia are part of the attraction to me. It's nice to have a place where I can lookup information about obscure pop culture and trivial bits, without that wikipedia would just be Encyclopedia Brittanica online and we already have that.
  • Perhaps I am somewhat partisan to the workers movement, or left of center or whatever you might call it, but when I read the political and historical articles on Wikipedia, I feel they are just a regurgitation of the same nonsense I get from the corporate media. I hear about how the press is free in the US, but when I go to my local bookstore I am hard-pressed to find, say, a book about Russia which isn't written from a perspective that denounces the Russian revolution (the one exception is Five Days that
    • I think Wikipedia is pretty free and unbiased compared to the US media. As far as I can tell, it only preaches neutrality.
      • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:07PM (#16417751) Journal
        The neutral point of view advocated by Wikipedia gives undue prominance to nutcase theories. For example giving Geocentric Universe Theory and Heliocentri Universe Theory equal weightage is completely unfair to HUT. Everyone agrees with this. But then why should everyone agree that Intelligent Design Theory should get equal treatment compared to the Theory of Evolution?

        Equal time to unfair arguments is unfair to fair arguments.

      • by br00tus ( 528477 )
        Well let's take a look at FSLN [wikipedia.org].

        "According to Cambridge University historian Christopher Andrew, who undertook the task of processing the Mitrokhin Archive, another competing group, the FSLN, was formally organised in 1961 by Tomás Borge Martínez and Silvio Mayorga and recent KGB recruit Carlos Fonseca Amador. According to Andrew, this was one part of Aleksandr Shelepin's 'grand strategy' of using national liberation movements as a spearhead of the Soviet Union's foreign policy in the Third World

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by patio11 ( 857072 )
      >>
      There have been thousands of books about the Russian revolution, how come I can't walk into a library or bookstore and read alternative views on it?
      >>

      One quick stop over to any bookstore in Berkeley or Amazon and you can get all the pro-Commie rubbish you can stomach. Better bring your credit card though -- socialism can be very intellectually satisfying but its hard to eat it (hard to eat if you're living under it, too). You can find Communist propaganda in America everywhere you'll find a
      • by Animats ( 122034 )

        you can get all the pro-Commie rubbish you can stomach.

        After the USSR tanked, the Stanford Bookstore had a sale: "All Communism 40% off". I still have a copy of Gorbachev's last address to the Central Committee. I regret not buying a copy of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia in English; that's now a collector's item.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shaper_pmp ( 825142 )

      Perhaps I am somewhat... left of center or whatever you might call it, but when I read the political and historical articles on Wikipedia, I feel they are just a regurgitation of the same nonsense I get from the corporate media.

      Oddly enough, Wikipedia is always getting lambasted for perceived "liberal" bias by right-wingers, too.

      I'm fairly left-wing, and I've never noticed overt bias in Wikipedia (at least, none that's not obviously quickly-removed vandalism). OTOH, I've heard legions of very, very left- o

      • "Neutral" is "in the middle of the scale"

        No, that is centrist. Neutral is not taking a bias. e.g.

        Neutral:
        Political Party A is a political party in Elbonia that was formed by Joe Average. It's platform includes x and y, with a strong opposition to z. It is generally considered a reltist party in Elbonia, although from a worldwide perspective it is more light of center. It currently holds 40% of the Elbonian legislature.

        Centrist:
        Political Party A is an okay party, with some disagreeable views. It has good po

        • I was using "left" and "right" in terms of "directions of bias", not literally as political metaphors.

          I was trying to explain that if you aren't leaning in any particular direction, that's neutral... as opposed to "wherever I stand, that's the unbiased position", which seemed to be the parent's assumption.

          But have ten pedant-points anyway. ;-)
  • Not niche enough (Score:2, Insightful)

    by deuist ( 228133 )
    I don't see this project taking off to become what its creators dream of. Having an overly broad encyclopedia written by numerous experts is going to be tough to sustain. A better idea is to follow the trail of eMedicine [emedicine.com], a niche group of medical articles, written by doctors, for doctors. I could envision O'Reilly developing a similar system for computer users...
  • Update (Score:5, Informative)

    by Larry Sanger ( 936381 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:06PM (#16417739) Journal
    Hi all, yep we've been making progress. The big news is that, after a few weeks of negotiation with many different possible hosts we've chosen one today and they instantly put up a server for the pilot project [citizendium.org] for us. We didn't exactly plan for this Slashdotting, but you should know that we will have a pilot project wiki up in a few days. There's lots of other news. We've got three very experienced sysadm/network admin guys making up the lead technical team, we've got a commitment of significant support from a foundation, we've formulated a Statement of Fundamental Policies [citizendium.org], we're gearing up for a major recruitment drive, etc. I could go on but I'll save it for the press release which should come out Friday next week.
  • Slashdot AFD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stalyn ( 662 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:23PM (#16417895) Homepage Journal
    Slashdot trolling phenomena [wikipedia.org] is up for deletion for dubious reasons. For those of us that have been around /. for a long time, it is hard to separate Slashdot's infamous trolling past from Slashdot itself. And also this type of article is what makes Wikipedia great. It's just in-depth secondary knowledge about an online community that would be excluded from a paper encyclopedia.

    However several wikipedians believe that the information is not notable or such claims are unverifiable. When it's obvious that the source is Slashdot itself which keeps a written oral history. It would be silly to delete an article about Beowulf* because the sources are dubious or self-referential.

    Anyway this just highlights one of the problems of the Wikipedia community. They have self-knighted themselves to be the guardians of knowledge. Anything that does not fit their worldview of what is "Wikiesque" will be removed. The official Wikipedia policies are malleable and can be interpreted to fit their conclusions. It reminds me of what happened in Bolshevik Russia; whatever does not fit the Party line does not exist.

    *Yeah I know it's silly to compare Beowulf to the hot grits guy but you get the point.
    • "Consensus doesn't scale."

      There are certain philosophies that have developed on Wikipedia. Inclusionists vs. Exclusionists. Anarchists vs Progressives. Immediatism vs. Eventualism. If you design a community where everyone wins...no one wins either.

      "Policy is not one size fits all."

      No Original Research is not good in the scientific realm...but for a Slashdot Trolling history is probably acceptable.

      There is plenty of active discussion on defining both problems and solutions for Wikipedia.

      -Jason Potkanski
      Citiz
    • Re:Slashdot AFD (Score:4, Interesting)

      by WWWWolf ( 2428 ) <wwwwolf@iki.fi> on Friday October 13, 2006 @11:21AM (#16423777) Homepage

      Remember, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia with specific goals. It doesn't intend to be a catch-all repository of facts. Think for a second: Would this be a good topic in an encyclopedia? Yes! Would Britannica take this article as it is? Heck no, no, no.

      And the most important question of all: Is Wikipedia the end of all knowledge? Can't we do some stuff outside of Wikipedia too? Heck, Wikipedia seems to quote a lot of stuff from outside, don't they...

      Instead of "My favourite topic doesn't fly with Wikipedia, their methodology apparently sucks, therefore Wikipedia sucks", you didn't think of doing the constructive thing: "My favourite topic doesn't fly with Wikipedia, as it conflicts with their goals and policies; How could we rebuild this article in a way that it doesn't conflict with their goals and policies, and generate an external source that could benefit not only Wikipedia, but Slashdot community as well?" It's entirely understandable to get mad if you get slapped. It's prudent to get up and think of what to do to repair the damage.

      The reason the article is up for deletion is not "dubious" at all.

      This article (and other Slashdot culture articles that were up on AfD lately) was basically formed like this: A bunch of Slashdotters visit Wikipedia, someone gets the bright idea "hey, it would be cool if we had an article on Slashdot trolling." They begin working on the article, adding random bits of troll-lore.

      Which is all fine with regular Slashdotters. They know it's right. They won't challenge a single word. I mean, I wouldn't.

      But then comes the problem: Someone who's a bit skeptical. Someone who's probably new to Slashdot and don't know a lot about what's going on here. They want to know if this stuff is really true. They can come to Slashdot and read (Score: -1, Troll) comments all day; They can conclude that the article may be basically right, but they can't find an authority that says so. They can't tell if all these people who have been editing the article are "authorities" or not. Other articles have sources that can easily be used to verify that stuff. Stuff written by experts and journalists. Good enough.

      I can't remember if I edited this particular article, but I think I edited the "recurring jokes" article (how silly of me, considering I was in favour of deleting it): A curious user can check that "Hmm, User:Wwwwolf added something about Evil Bits;" (pokepokepoke) "Yep, this is WWWWolf (#2428) on Slashdot, he's probably been there long enough to remember the pain and blood and suffering of that fateful April Fools Day, 2003." But can they do the same research on all "experts"? Even the ones behind an IP addy? (As a side note, I really hope Citizendium folks have an answer to this problem!)

      The article doesn't point to three-digit-UID user's peer-reviewed work that explores the trolling in a conclusive way.

      That's what Wikipedia demands; It doesn't demand the users to be experts, it demands the users quote or paraphrase or summarise an expert's work, as "expert" is defined by society at large. If you're an expert of some field and editing Wikipedia, that does help, because you probably have a good idea on who taught you.

      [I'm supposed to be an "expert" on computer science, and I can easily say: "I'll write something about some design pattern. Hmm, didn't Martin Fowler write something about this?" ...or "Hmm, someone doesn't have a good source on this claim about shell sort. Hey, Knuth's TAoCP had something about this..."]

      Don't get me wrong: The way this article was built was marvellous. I like it a lot. However, it's not a good way to build a good Wikipedia article according to Wikipedia's policies. It's a good demonstration on how wiki concept can accumulate information. It's a bad example of an article according to Wikipedia's standards of research.

      So what's my recommenda

      • by Stalyn ( 662 )
        There is nothing explicit in Wikipedia's policies that would prohibit such an article. The only thing that has changed is the trends in Wikipedia admins and how they interpret the policies. The article itself has lasted 4 years with just one AfD (which was recent with the consensus of keep). It just strikes me as "dubious" because it has nothing to do with Wikipedia policies or the article itself but personal opinion.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @11:11PM (#16418361) Homepage

    Wikipedia's anonymous editing is a huge headache. It takes the constant efforts of several hundred people just to deal with the vandalism and incoming junk. At least you now have to register to create an article.

    Having 1.5 million articles is a bug, not a feature. There are several thousand articles on Star [Wars|Trek|Gate]. There's one for every Pokemon. There's one for every episode of South Park. There's one for every city alderman of Calgary since the city was founded. One for every station on most subway lines of the world. A sizable fraction of Wikipedia is dreck like that. It's so easy to add.

    Then there's stuff for which Wikipedia is just the wrong tool for the job. There are articles for a huge number of CDs, but they're not organized into a useful database like Gracenote. There are articles for musicians, actors, and movies, but they're not in a database like IMDB with all the proper connections. There are articles for books, but they're not catalogued as a library would catalogue them. There are articles for most US state highways, but they're not organized into a map or atlas system. It's an "if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" problem.

    In time, Wikipedia will either have to tighten up who can edit, or the thing will sink under all the dreck and vandalism. Actually, Wikipedia probably peaked in quality a while back. It's rare today that anyone adds an article that matters. Look at the last 50 new articles added [wikipedia.org]; perhaps one or two actually belong in an encyclopedia.

    • I've noticed that in the uber-parent's blog link, the author says he's never seen any vandalism on Wikipedia. Why are we posting links to blogs from people who for some reason are pretending to be experts on Wikipedia when it appears he's never used the thing?
    • by Electrawn ( 321224 ) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `nwartcele'> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @11:26PM (#16418511) Homepage

      Then there's stuff for which Wikipedia is just the wrong tool for the job. There are articles for a huge number of CDs, but they're not organized into a useful database like Gracenote. There are articles for musicians, actors, and movies, but they're not in a database like IMDB with all the proper connections. There are articles for books, but they're not catalogued as a library would catalogue them. There are articles for most US state highways, but they're not organized into a map or atlas system. It's an "if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" problem.

      This is an underlying design/usability problem with Mediawiki and not necessarily Wikipedia itself. Building a proper database framework to be more encompassing (if not all encompassing - damn close) is a Citizendium design goal.

      Thanks for the perspective, it helps define the problem better (in a way I hadn't thought of yet).

      -Jason Potkanski
      Citizendium Core Technical Team
      • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday October 13, 2006 @12:52AM (#16419147) Homepage

        This is an underlying design/usability problem with Mediawiki and not necessarily Wikipedia itself. Building a proper database framework to be more encompassing (if not all encompassing - damn close) is a Citizendium design goal.

        For most of the categories mentioned, the obvious tool for the job is a relatively conventional forms-driven database. Most proper names belong to some well understood category (people, places, companies, books, movies, songs, audio recordings), and those should be handled by some form-based input mechanism which captures the appropriate information for the category. In some cases, it may be possible to obtain data sources to populate or check the database entries. Such entries might also have an associated wiki-type free comment area, but the finding and linking mechanism would be more structured than that of a general wiki. As with IMDB and Gracenote, it should be possible to ask questions like "what films was this actor in" and get a useful result.

        From the reader perspective, the output could look much like Wikipedia with subject matter templates. But from the editor perspective, it would be form-based for common article types. This allows for much more input validation. Disambiguation and spelling problems can be caught and corrected during input validation, rather than after the fact by someone else.

        With proper names handled separately, the main less-structured wiki space becomes focused on more general concepts. This should reduce clutter substantially.

        I'd definitely encourage a division between proper names and other material as a basic organizing concept. It's an easy to understand distinction.

    • Lets not forget the pointless cross linking in articles.

      Taking, at random, the article for Avril Lavigne [wikipedia.org] we find that it has cross references on Canadian [wikipedia.org], singer [wikipedia.org], singer-songwriter [wikipedia.org], actress [wikipedia.org], persona [wikipedia.org], French (language) in the introduction alone. These cross references are pointless - it's not meant to be a dictionary and the terms are so generic that I would be gobsmacked to find someone following the link contained in "Although her surname is of French [wikipedia.org] origin, she does not speak French" out of anything othe
      • Jason P is one of the lead techs who's in the project. What we're looking at (and I'm not a tech) is using PostgreSQL and optimizing for better searches and collisions, so that we can cut down on silly categories like "French-Canadian singer/songwriter/actresses".
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by colfer ( 619105 )

      The articles about individual movies can be a lot more interesting than the corrresponding IMDB page. I start with IMDB and maybe go to Wikipedia (or MRQE or Google, etc.) if I have time.

      Wikipedia's popularity is snowballed by its high Google ranking for many searches.

      Citizendium is hard to pronounce. It doesn't sound like a baby word (Yahoo, Google, Wiki, EBay).

    • I'm just wondering how long it is until some spammer programmer writes a bot to flood wikipedia with selected crappy ads from their botnet. At that point, they will have to switch off anonymous editing pretty smartly.

      Vandals could also do it just for fun, filling wiki with garbage.
    • ...There are articles for musicians, actors, and movies, but they're not in a database like IMDB with all the proper connections. ...

      As a Wikipedia editor, I just hate the way they insist on using "the most popular" common names instead of scientific names whenever possible for all their articles on biological organisms. It makes it all that much more difficult to organize. The usual complaint is that the average visitor would be confused, but I don't see that this has to be a problem if redirects are mad

  • Fourth, copyright and libel abuses will be handled quite differently. There will be a zero tolerance policy toward such abuses. Moreover, the living subjects of Citizendium articles will receive much more courteous treatment than they have sometimes received from the Wikipedia community. Among other things, this might mean that they would be able to request removal of biographies about themselves-

    I think this will make it more sanitized and much less informative. They also are going against a lot of "mi

  • I think my time and money are better spent on wikipedia; just like I didn't appreciate the rashness with which enciclopedia libre forked off wikipedia.
  • There is really no need for this. Wikipedia works. It isn't perfect, but nothing will be.

    They should use the resources to work on Wikipedia v1.0 for those who need a stable source of information.

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