[Citizendium-l] Nature article about the Citizendium

Larry Sanger sanger-lists at citizendium.org
Wed Oct 4 15:10:02 EDT 2006

[Thanks to the person who forwarded this to me.]


Nature 443, 493(5 October 2006) | doi:10.1038/443493a; Published online 4
October 2006 Wikipedia rival calls in the experts

Jim Giles

Encyclopaedia aims to recognize status of academic editors.

The current incarnation of Wikipedia is both phenomenally successful and, in
the eyes of some critics, fundamentally flawed. The online encyclopaedia now
includes more than a million entries in English alone. Although anyone can
edit any article, its accuracy, at least on science topics, is surprisingly
high. But Wikipedia has never given experts special standing when it comes
to determining content. And that, critics say, deters the people who ought
to be contributing from doing so.

Just how big a drawback that is will now be tested, with the launch of an
online encyclopaedia that will give privileged status to scientists and
other experts. Citizendium, a pilot version of which is due to go live in
the next week, will use all of Wikipedia's content but will host it at
another website (http://citizendium.org) and edit it differently. Editors
with appropriate academic qualifications will have the power to settle
disputes about wording, for example, and stamp articles they perceive to be
accurate as 'approved'.

"One reason we are setting this up is to give scientists and other scholars
a new organizational framework to clean up and improve on the work started
by Wikipedia," says Larry Sanger, a philosopher and co-founder of Wikipedia,
who is the driving force behind Citizendium. "Wikipedia is now the first
stop for many people in their search for information on scientific topics.
Many scientists would like to help make sure this resource remains accurate,
but they have no desire to navigate the treacherous waters of Wikipedia's
editorial system, which accords them no official role."

Reactions from the many bloggers who track the progress of Wikipedia have
been mixed. Some say Sanger will struggle to define what constitutes
expertise, and that arguments about content will be replaced by arguments
over who is or isn't an expert. Others think Citizendium will find it hard
to attract regular contributors, as the prospect of having an edit overruled
by a higher power will not appeal.

But scientists who contribute regularly to Wikipedia say Citizendium has
promise. "I like the idea notionally," says Vaughan Bell of the Institute of
Psychiatry in London, who contributes to Wikipedia's schizophrenia page,
among others. William Connolley of the British Antarctic Survey in
Cambridge, UK, who updates Wikipedia climate entries, adds that some
scientists have become frustrated with Wikipedia because of the difficulty
in agreeing edits, although both he and Bell agree that conflict can
sometimes result in better articles.

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