Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Citizendium Editor-Based Citizens' Compendium to Compete with Wikipedia

Via Candace Lombardi at ZDNet we learn that Citizendium, an acronym for this "Citizens' Compendium of Everything", is set to compete with Wikipedia as a wiki-based alphabetized storehouse of knowledge. Citizendium was started by Larry Sanger, who was involved in the founding of Wikipedia.

Citizendium will be governed by an editorial board and will be open only to contributors who post under their real name in order to encourage personal accountability for posted materials. Contributors will be reviewed by "CZ Constables", volunteers who are required to have a bachelor's degree [ one of every four US adults, e.g., has such a degree] and be "at least 25 years old." Citizendium is starting out inter alia by taking Wikipedia articles and cleaning them up. It all looks quite complicated and time-consuming so that we imagine that the main people that Citizendium may initially attract will be people who are already authors at Wikipedia. Still, Citizendium wants to go beyond that stage.

Citizendium writes:

"We also want to create a new sort of online community. We welcome experts as well as the general public; we will be built not by top-down orders but as and where contributors wish to work; and we will be organized as a republic governed by a rule of law. This last means that there will be no "dictators," but a regularly changing group of people tasked to manage a public trust in conformity with a relatively stable code of rules. It also means that we will have very little tolerance for the sort of immature disruption and abuse that plagues so many other Internet communities." [emphasis added by LawPundit]

Whether Citizendium will be successful remains to be seen, but as can be seen from the editorial attention required at Wikipedia against disruptions and abuses, Citizendium directly attacks the main weakness of Wikipedia, which is its reliability. Citizendium will probably never replace the Wikipedia, which not only has quite a large head start, but which has an army of contributors who will be difficult to match and who will unlikely consent to being watched over by constables. However, if Citizendium establishes itself initially as the "clean" version of the Wikipedia for the entries that Citizendium posts, then they have a good chance of taking a good market share, since people such as I will look to them for Wikipedia articles which I plan to use and/or cite. Of course, if Citizendium also presents original material, then all the better.

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