[Citizendium-l] Citizendium launch plan as of September 26

sanger-lists@citizendium.org sanger-lists at citizendium.org
Wed Sep 27 02:59:58 EDT 2006




I have proposed a discussion topic for Citizendium-L for the week of
September 24:

"How should the Citizendium launch?  Should we fork Wikipedia piecemeal
or all at once?"

So I'd like to kick off a discussion (under the new
eight-message-per-day regimen) with a revised and much more detailed
launch plan, for your review.  In a few days I'll give a detailed
examination of the question of whether Wikipedia should be forked all
at once or not.

Here's the launch plan as of September 26, 2006.  A lot of this is going
to be quite practical, as it should be, and not really theoretical or
philosophical at all.  I will conclude with some deep and difficult
questions though--which are also practical questions, as it turns out.

Clearly, there's no way we'll be launching even a beta version of the
wiki by September 30.  But the fact that we have three active forums
for planning and discussion--

The lists

The forums

The planning wiki pages

--makes me view this as a trivial failing.  Many of us have been *very*
busy indeed, and I certainly have been.  The dumbfounding amount of
discussion has made it pretty clear that a few more weeks to hash out
some still-contentious issues wouldn't hurt us a bit.

Tomorrow I'll be writing a brief proposal to a foundation director who
has already more or less guaranteed funding for a technical consultant
position, a person actually responsible for installing and configuring
the wiki and working with a hosting service.  Also, we've talked a bit
by e-mail and by phone with what appears to be a serious, reputable
hosting service, which has offered the Citizendium project its services
at a discount, and perhaps gratis to begin with.

The technical consultant (not yet chosen) will work with us ("us" I hope
to include some volunteers) on actually setting up and configuring the
wiki and servers.  When that happens depends entirely on how quickly we
can find a suitable person, and how negotiations go with the hosting

Please don't spread the following bits of news too far, but I've asked
Bernard Haisch to be our acting managing editor.  He is a distinguished
astrophysicist with whom I've been working closely at the Digital
Universe Foundation.  He is presently helping me to get the Citizendium
project started in his spare time, not as part of his DUF work.  In that
connection, we can also let you know that I have taken a leave of
absence from the DUF in order to set up a fully independent Citizendium
Foundation, and have commitments of personal support from two different
individuals, for which I and my family are grateful.

Anyway, this morning, our new managing editor (I'll have to introduce
him properly soon) sent out invitations to nine people to be subject
editors.  We've decided that we won't select "chief subject editors"
yet because there is really no need to ask for chiefs, per se, yet. 
The managing editor will be working with these people (and me) on a
draft description of the minimum credentials required for editorship. 
(That is one reason why that question, what the minimum credentials
should be, is the topic of the week for Citizendium-policy.)  Their
work will be posted for open review, and once the community has had a
period of review, or within a week or two, we will post the amended
result as "provisional requirements" which will be in effect until
revised or until officially adopted as part of the Charter.  At the
same time, we'll be working on the precise procedures for how someone
becomes an editor, how editorship claims may be contested, and how
someone who does not meet the objective requirements is permitted to
become an editor by official decision.

We'll probably want to deliberate with the same group about the
formation and functions of editorial workgroups.  (See questions on
this below.)

I would like to go through a similar process of requirements writing and
vetting for constables as well, but the person I have asked to be Chief
Constable has not yet agreed to take on the role.  She is very right to
recognize that it is not a trivial task to take on.  Plato said the best
archons are the reluctant ones, so this is a good sign.  If she says no,
I hope I'll be able to find someone else suitable.

Within a few weeks, then, I hope to have the requirements and initiation
processes for editors and constables in place, and then we'll start
taking on as many suitable editors and constables from within the
present community as possible.  I say "as many as possible" because I
am pretty sure we should err on the side of having too many editors and
constables, rather than too few.  (As far as *editors* are concerned,
anyway, there can't be too many, because they will be expected to
collaborate anyway.  We can have a dozen editors for same very narrow
topic, if that's how many show up.)  We should err on the side of more
rather than fewer simply because we need to be prepared in case things
get going with a bang.  We are going to want to have a lot of good
people in place from the start.  This was one reason Wikipedia didn't
simply crash at the start: we started with a lot of good people
borrowed from Nupedia, who set the tone for the new project, for a
little while at least.

By the time a greater number of editors are coming on board, I hope the
technical consultant will have worked with the hosting service to have
the servers properly networked and configured, and MediaWiki installed.
 The next step will be for the editors, constables, and perhaps some
trusted others to work together on crafting the *initial* versions of
the Citizendium policy and process pages.  I hope that next step can be
completed in about a week; and then we'll do a broader launch, either to
the entire world, or to a largish but still limited group of authors
(e.g., all the subscribers to citizendium-l and citizendium-policy).

Given the course of events as I describe them, there are certain
questions that require an answer in the next few weeks.

* What are some of the more important MediaWiki settings options, and
how should they be set?

* Should we make a mirror of all of Wikipedia's articles at once, or
none of them, or something (somehow) in between?  Why?  If something in
between, how?  That is, technically or operationally, how will a partial
set of WP articles be included in CZ?

* What are the minimum requirements for different editors in different

* Should we allow editors to self-identify, as planned?  In that case,
how should editorship claims be challenged?  Should it be possible to
get editor privileges without meeting the requirements, and if so, how?
 If we should not allow editors to self-identify, why not, and what
alternate process is not easily politicizable?

* We need to have a dispute resolution process, for disputes among
*editors*, in place at launch.  In addition, the editors (and others)
in a given discipline will have plenty of reason to communicate with
each other about standards and other matters that, on Wikipedia, are
handled via ad hoc "WikiProjects."  Both of these functions can be
handled by the same groups of people--provisionally, "editorial
workgroups."  First, is it really advisable to form editorial
workgroups?  For what precise functions, and how should the workgroups
carry out those functions?  At what level of granularity should
editorial workgroups be formed?  And how can we ensure that the
workgroups do not become the sort of burdensome, top-down bureaucracy
that would threaten to grind work on the wiki to a halt?

* What are the minimum requirements for becoming a constable? 
Obviously, constables will not be able to become constables by
declaring themselves such.  Who makes the decision, and how?  What
precise functions will they have, and under what rules should
constables carry out those functions?

I think we need to think hard about these issues, either at length here
on Citizendium-L, or on the forums.  But I would urge you not to be
worried.  I am confident that, with all the brainpower and experience
in this community already, we'll make the right decisions.  Better to
be excited than worried, because we have the opportunity to start
something with the dynamism of Wikipedia from scratch--but to do it
right this time.

Anyway, we've got our work cut out for us!


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