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wah... waall-eee
written by Magnulus on Mar 27, 2007 11:15
So Citizendium, the new alternative to Wikipedia, has launched in beta form at http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Main_Page

It's supposed to be a more tightly moderated alternative to Wikipedia. Anyone can be a writer, but the system is a more hierarchial one than that of Wikipedia. They call it "gentle expert oversight" in that everything the Authors write will have to be approved by Editors, who in turn are being watched by some kind of a Citizendium Police, whose job it is to make sure the Editors are genuine experts in their fields, and all attached authors and editors are required to use their real names, something that I guess will deter random sabotagers.

It's nice, but I can't help but feel that this is something that could easily get corrupted. The moment you add a hierarchy, you open for corruption through all ranks. A corrupt "cop" could allow several fake experts entry and these, in turn, could allow a lot of false documents to pass. And since it's not up to just anyone to fix things, it can be much more difficult to correct mistakes.

I'm not saying that these issues are a given. They have probably given all of them a good think-though and figured out ways of negating many of the concerns I have about this kind of a project. Heck, I can think of several failsafes even now while typing this post, so it'll probably be all right. They've got a good stab already, and it's only going to grow, so I suspect it could get to be quite big by the end of it. It'll be a while before it reaches the 1,7 million articles of wikipedia, though.

In any case, Noctis needs to be added. And Linoleum. Who's up for it?
hello there
written by Duskesko on Mar 27, 2007 11:37
nice to see that the war against lies and bullshit is being waged with new weapons. *nods*

so, who's up for it? (not me)
(maybe, if no one else does it, i will. but let's just consider me to be super unreliable for the time being. ok?)
written by Cryoburner on Mar 27, 2007 12:48
Citizendium said:
To get on board the wiki, please send a mail to constables@citizendium.org providing three things:

Your real name. This is a strict policy that we take seriously. See below if you require a pseudonym
Your endorsement of the Citizendium Statement of Fundamental Policies. A statement that says not only that you've read and understood it, but that you support and endorse it.
A biography of 100-500 words, 50 words absolute minimum. This must, of course, be accurate. It should include information about your educational background and interests. This will be posted on your user page, and so should be written for public consumption. Can be written in either first or third person.

Also helpful, if at all possible:

A Web link or two that tends to establish your identity. E.g., a link to your CV online.
Send your request through a non-free email address that bears your name or a portion thereof.
I don't really see how that would prevent anyone from registering under an alternate name, or even using another person's identity as their own. Writing up a false biography would only take a few minutes, or even less if one was copied from elsewhere. It also wouldn't be difficult to whip up a couple fake web pages supporting your identity, and a non-free email address bearing any name is easy to create. My ISP allows for having up to 10 email accounts at once, and it only takes seconds to register a new one online.

If anything, I think that those looking to generate misinformation would be more attracted to a site that proclaims its content to have greater credibility. Also, there's no guarantee that all editors will be unbiased toward content, even if they hold a degree in that field of research. I can imagine a professor or research scientist who would simply not approve additions to an article that point out discrepancies with their own theories or line of scientific reasoning, while only allowing those that side with them.

I don't see why Wikipedia couldn't add similar functionality to their site, perhaps in the form of a secure subsite. It could utilize a similar approval process, while not impeding the openness of their main directory. An article with a secure counterpart would include a link to it in the main article. The secure version might not be as up to date or include as much information, but it could be more verifiable.

As a side note, "Citizendium" is a terrible sounding name. : P
wah... waall-eee
written by Magnulus on Mar 27, 2007 13:13
Yeah, it doesn't quite roll like Wikipedia, does it? Ah-haha!

I'm going to assume that while their system is hierarchial, it will be with a very open build, so that it would be easier to report falsehoods, etc. That's what they really need, at least. It needs to have a rigorous quality control scheme inward, but it also needs to be open for the public (or at least authors) to report erroneous information and repeat offenders of such as well as seemingly biased posts.
written by Zixinus on Mar 27, 2007 14:56
The thing is, there is nothing as such as objective when it comes to summing up information.

That said, there is less likely amount of bullshit if an expert supplies this information. Even if the expert has bias, we will have access to information that is more accurate.

Scientist, by philosophy anyway, will not edit and edit the page over and over again, but tell what is this and why is this flawed. And as more experts are hired, some will disagree, and rather then to try persuade the other, they much rather list up arguments for and againts, say, a particular pheonemon.

For example, cold fusion. Technically, there is something that is cold fusion, that is when small partilce fuse together at low temperatures. Problem is that it requires mns that have a half-life less then a minute, and to artificially generate mns, you'll need more energy then generated by the fusion.

One can mention the history and controversy of cold fusion as well.

And this is indeed needed. Vandals run rampart in Wikipedia: look at the Critism of Greenpeace. Every critic of Greenpeace is mysteriously ALWAYS under the payroll of the very corporates Greenpeace has an (usually negative) effect on.

Especially Patrick Moore, that was a founder of Greenpeace, and later quit, as he claims that Greenpeace has started to wage into politics, and often does act misinformed.

As someone who has heard a bit and two of what environmentalist did and are doing in my country, I think that's just flattering.

But that's not my point: my point is, that Wikipedia is just too easily vandalised. An article has to be rewritten several times until it is acceptable and at least appears to be objective.

There are misinformed people, people that want to express their propaganda, people that want to rewrite history and people that just want to hamper and sabotage Wikipedia's mission because they think its cool.

Citizendium (trust me, I heard worse names) attempts to give a blockade to these vandals and the like, by forcing editors and members to show their face and who they are.

After all, its not that fun anymore to vandalise and rewrite someone's carefully constructed article just for the fun of it, when the person knows who you are and where do you live.

Let's face it, Wikipedia is a chesspool where everyone wants to give validity to their opinion and want that opinion to be enforced.

The author of the site also gives argument for why will Ctizidium will be better then Wikipedia:

http://www.citizendium.org/whyczwillsucceed.html
http://www.citizendium.org/roomforexperts.html
written by Barebones on Mar 27, 2007 16:52
As I see it, the 'problem' (if it is) with a hierarchical system of authorities is that it will tend to concentrate on 'prestigious' branches of knowlegde. Let me know what kind of CV you need to add Star Trek characters or information on manga. IMO there is content in Wikipedia which is to knowledge as the Urban Dictionary is to language, which has a certain 'consensus value' rather than authority value, and you won't find all that in a single, cross-linked place, together with more 'respectable' knowledge.
who needs titles?
written by Pomelos on Mar 27, 2007 20:06
Never gonna work. They're just unable to understand the very principles why Wikipedia is succeeding and try to mimic it.

The "experts" thing is a common mistake: with Wikipedia, the worst pain comes precisely from experts who aren't able to abide by the rules.

A person I know is used to answer this to french media: in France, hollocaust negationists are mostly historians and university teachers, well established in the teaching system and very well educated in that matter. It doesn't prevent them to say pretty much what they want.

The strength of Wikipedia comes from everyone being able to edit everything. Restraining it is more than stupid. Experts won't do anything any better: There're just not enough of them.
written by Zixinus on Mar 27, 2007 21:52
What the hell are you talking about? That the random masses know more and better about, say hydrodynamics, then someone who dedicated his life to the study of it?

I don't know, but I think that argument is somehow flawed.

And you people are missing the point: experts are given more special role; they still have to work with non-experts and you don't have to have CV's or certificates of any kind to work on Citizendium.

The hierarchical system isn't there to allow experts more rights and to disallow non-experts to have a say in matters: its there to force information to be more authentic.

Pomelos said:
The "experts" thing is a common mistake: with Wikipedia, the worst pain comes precisely from experts who aren't able to abide by the rules.
The way I see it, Wikipedia has the worst pain from people who CLAIM to be experts but do not show that they are.
I can claim to be an expert of nuclear engineering. I can make outrageous claims, most obviously not true , but will that stop me from rewriting everything based on episodes of Teenage Ninja Turtles? No.

The founder actually adrasses this claim:
Founder of Citizendium said:
Objection. (From Cory Doctorow, citing Clay Shirky again.) "...as Shirky shows, an expert-focused Wikipedia would likely devolve into interminable pissing matches over who was and was not qualified to be called an expert, because expertise isn't a measurable quantity, but rather something that is socially constructed."

Reply. It hasn't so devolved yet. While we've had many a polite dispute, I'm not sure I can recall a single "pissing match" between editors over expertise. This isn't surprising to me. Most experts are pretty comfortable in their expertise; they don't have to prove it to anyone. It seems Doctorow assumed that editors would often try to settle disputes by citing their credentials, as Wikipedia's Essjay infamously did. Few actual tenured professors would say things like, "This is a text I often require for my students, and I would hang my own Ph.D. on it's [sic] credibility." True professionals rarely say such things, and that Essjay did should have been a dead giveaway that he was a fraud.
Pomelos said:
A person I know is used to answer this to french media: in France, hollocaust negationists are mostly historians and university teachers, well established in the teaching system and very well educated in that matter. It doesn't prevent them to say pretty much what they want.
We have holocaust deniers here too. They are regularly embarrassed and discredited. I heard of several fiascos where teachers were fired precisely because of this.

I don't know about France, but Holocaust "negationists" I heard about are mostly fascists and neo-Nazis.


If you want to hear more arguments for why giving experts a special role is a good thing, then read the two links I given in my previous post. I don't feel like quoting the entire thing.
who needs titles?
written by Pomelos on Mar 27, 2007 22:00
Zixinus said:
What the hell are you talking about? That the random masses know more and better about, say hydrodynamics, then someone who dedicated his life to the study of it?
Unfortunately, I didn't even begin to say that, which is why I stopped reading your post there.

Yup, I'm pretty much fed up of people saying this when I'm talking about something else.
written by Chad on Mar 28, 2007 00:34
Well if they want to take over Wikipedia they need to stop using there code. Maybe if they made there own site they might get somewhere.
there's science to be done!
written by Yash on Mar 28, 2007 01:21
My thoughts exactly, Chad. The whole thing's going to come crumbling down, I reckon.

Also, Zixinus. Even though you accidentally misunderstood Pom, I don't think the badgering is justified. Stop being mean. Put your point across, but don't be an arse about it. Yes? Be nice.
written by Cryoburner on Mar 28, 2007 03:50
Zixinus said:
Citizendium (trust me, I heard worse names) attempts to give a blockade to these vandals and the like, by forcing editors and members to show their face and who they are.

After all, its not that fun anymore to vandalise and rewrite someone's carefully constructed article just for the fun of it, when the person knows who you are and where do you live.
The problem is that it's still relatively easy to fake an identity on Citizendium, as I pointed out in my last post. Imagine a student who is angry at a professor for giving him bad grades, and makes a fake account in that professor's name, then proceeds to submit a bunch of erroneous content. Even if much of the content didn't get through, he could make the professor look bad among other professionals in his field. Since the site attempts to convince people of its credibility, and uses what are supposedly real names, people will be more likely to believe that it was in fact the professor who wrote that content.

Barebones said:
As I see it, the 'problem' (if it is) with a hierarchical system of authorities is that it will tend to concentrate on 'prestigious' branches of knowlegde. Let me know what kind of CV you need to add Star Trek characters or information on manga. IMO there is content in Wikipedia which is to knowledge as the Urban Dictionary is to language, which has a certain 'consensus value' rather than authority value, and you won't find all that in a single, cross-linked place, together with more 'respectable' knowledge.
That's a very good point, since a lot of topics don't really have experts to cover them. While the system might work well for fields of study like science, it won't be as effective with general topics found in popular culture. Currently, Citizendium doesn't even come close to offering a fraction of Wikipedia's content. As of now, Citizendium has a little over a thousand entries, while Wikipedia has over 1.7 million articles in the English language alone. That's not to say that the site is poorly designed or anything, just that it's difficult to make any justifiable claims that it will "otherthrow" Wikipedia while it's still at such an early phase in its development.
hello there
written by Duskesko on Mar 28, 2007 06:44
i can't see any community contributed source being 100% reliable. EVER. (not even close to 75%)

i just don't think it's worthwhile to put TOO much effort into making such sources more reliable.

wikipedia, citizendium, and the like will always be a wonderful place to learn and share information. however, as always, check the sources and consult professional sources as well when it counts.

there comes a point when revising the system isn't worth it.
just be a smart researcher.
written by Zixinus on Mar 28, 2007 14:23
Cryoburner said:
The problem is that it's still relatively easy to fake an identity on Citizendium, as I pointed out in my last post. Imagine a student who is angry at a professor for giving him bad grades, and makes a fake account in that professor's name, then proceeds to submit a bunch of erroneous content. Even if much of the content didn't get through, he could make the professor look bad among other professionals in his field. Since the site attempts to convince people of its credibility, and uses what are supposedly real names, people will be more likely to believe that it was in fact the professor who wrote that content.
Good point, but I don't think that such an event would happen often. I'm pretty sure that the real proffesor would post an e-mail of such a thing if he found out, and the student could become in a very uncomfortable position in the school. Especially, if the school's rules regarding such events are taken seriously.

Cyroburner said:
That's a very good point, since a lot of topics don't really have experts to cover them. While the system might work well for fields of study like science, it won't be as effective with general topics found in popular culture. Currently, Citizendium doesn't even come close to offering a fraction of Wikipedia's content. As of now, Citizendium has a little over a thousand entries, while Wikipedia has over 1.7 million articles in the English language alone. That's not to say that the site is poorly designed or anything, just that it's difficult to make any justifiable claims that it will "otherthrow" Wikipedia while it's still at such an early phase in its development.
Citizendium isn't trying to be competitive with Wikipedia. Atleast not in the near future.

The idea is to take the idea and method of Wikipedia, just to have editing and article creating a bit more on a leash. There were several scandals in wikipedia, regarding accuracy and false information.

Some of its flaws are obvious: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2005/12/16

This claim in addrassed as well:

Founder of Citizendium said:
Objection. You can never overtake Wikipedia. It's growing at a staggering rate and has a head start. You'll never be able to catch up. As long as Wikipedia remains so much huger, why should anyone contribute to the Citizendium?

Reply. First of all, it is a huge mistake to think that as long as Wikipedia remains bigger, nobody will see a need for another resource. Plainly, our many supporters and growing roster of contributors see the need. Second, we can become more useful and more reliable than Wikipedia with fewer articles. Success is not directly tied to quantity of information--and many of our writers implicitly understand this. But, third, the real question is how many people will want to contribute to the Citizendium after a few more years, once we've grown more and the project has been better publicized--once the word has gotten out better to our potential contributors. This is an empirical question. If you ask me to give an answer a priori, I'll hazard a guess that, in the long run, there will be more people who will want to contribute to a free encyclopedia under our rules than under Wikipedia's. That's just because our system is likely to be more civil and pleasant and actually focused on the work of creating a credible encyclopedia.

Objection. Citizendium articles right now are often short, or derivative of Wikipedia, or in other ways unimpressive. Wikipedia is actually of higher quality than the Citizendium!

Reply. Well, make sure you make the correct comparison. You should have seen Wikipedia after its first few months! The quality of its articles, at the time, was laughable. Besides, in our new "article checklist" that tracks various statistics, almost half of our articles are either approved, developed, or developing articles, which means they are beyond the (very short) "stub" stage, and they are not merely copies of Wikipedia articles. That is way better than Wikipedia was after its first few months. Our most active editors tend to put enormous amounts of effort into relatively few articles, with excellent results.
Pomelos said:
Unfortunately, I didn't even begin to say that, which is why I stopped reading your post there.
You were certainly suggesting so.

Yash said:
Even though you accidentally misunderstood Pom, I don't think the badgering is justified. Stop being mean.

If I wanted to be mean or insulting to Pomelos, I'd be much more obvious about it.
If I did insult Pomelos, then I'm sorry. I was not trying to be an asshole, merely arguing his point.

Duskesko said:
there comes a point when revising the system isn't worth it.
just be a smart researcher.
No information can ever be truly accurate, as even experts can be wrong in their fields. Having 100% validity and accuracy is clearly impossible, Citizendium just tries to be LESS wrong or incorrect by forcing authenticity.
wah... waall-eee
written by Magnulus on Mar 28, 2007 16:27
I expect the school/ uni WOULD take it seriously, as it's a criminal felony to impersonate others. They'd most likely press charges AND kick that little brat out of school. That being said, it's not that difficult for me to create a fake identity for myself online.

Zix: He was not at all saying that they didn't know as much as the everyman authors, but that they have trouble adhering to the rules of Wikipedia. Professionals tend to be very absolute in their beliefs. I know a psychology professor who insists on breastfeeding her children until the age of five. Is that healthy for a child? SHE thinks so, and since she's a psychology professor, she'll be sure to have some strong point for it, too, although in a discussion, she'll ignore all points AGAINST it, which is usually the issue. I'll say that, based on my layman's knowledge of the human mind's inner workings, I think that she's batshit crazy, but I would never transfer that to a publication like Wikipedia because I KNOW that my knowledge is limited, and before I made any kind of a contribution to Wikipedia regarding breast feeding, I'd check a lot of sources, and I'd look them up indiscriminately instead of using solely the books I have in my study for source material, meaning that I would quite possibly have a more nuanced view of the issue.

One good point against wikipedia is an edit-war a friend of Marit (the GF for those who don't know) is engaged in on Wikipedia. There's some kind of Black Metal band that has a member who has been or is a member of a nazi group or something. It's simply a bit of factual information, but some people on wikipedia are going to great lengths to make sure that information stays off the band's page. Eventually, the article will be locked and researched, but how long will that take? On Citizendium, that is a non-issue.
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