My 10/10/10 Missoulian column:
Before I got sidetracked last week covering the “e-waste” event that took place Saturday, I was planning on taking a look at Citizendium, a relatively new online encyclopedia with some important differences from Wikipedia, the well-known encyclopedia website.
While Wikipedia is huge (with more than 3.4 million articles), a common criticism is that it’s too open. At Wikipedia, anyone can start and/or edit 99 percent of the articles – change or add or delete information – and that brings forth many questions on the accuracy of the content.
Who really knows the facts about a historical event? Who is correct on the details of organic chemistry? Who is an authority on pop music?
One of the possible answers to the authority and accuracy of online encyclopedias is Citizendium, started in 2006.
The FAQ of Citizendium describes the site as “a wiki encyclopedia project aiming to create the world’s finest free encyclopedia (and general reference) source, one that is reliable as well as comprehensive.”
Citizendium differs from its cousin Wikipedia in that Citizendium requires real names for contributors and editors of articles. And Citizendium also has something of an editorial structure in place that Wikipedia doesn’t, with a group of experts that vet articles and edits.
Why the name “Citizendium”? The name stands for “Citizens’ Compendium,” and that’s what the site wants to be: a collection not by just anyone, but by citizens, individuals with a sense of responsibility and a stake in the outcome.
Larry Sanger is the founding editor-in-chief of Citizendium, as well as being one of the original founders of Wikipedia. He saw what was happening to Wikipedia’s reputation and wanted a different approach.
In the beginning in 2006, Citizendium existed as a “fork” of Wikipedia. A “fork” is a term used to indicate a project that starts with the same information base but goes off in a different direction.
So Citizendium used many of Wikipedia’s articles, but vetted them for accuracy and restricted editing to real people.
But before the launch in 2007, the decision was made to start from scratch. Users wanted to clearly separate Citizendium from Wikipedia, and so all articles on Citizendium were drafted anew, and still are.
Citizendium has almost 15,000 articles and is growing rapidly. It has a long way to catch up to Wikipedia, but that’s not the main point; accuracy and accountability are. Welcome to Citizendium – Citizendium.
This week in Mac Q & A: Right Clicking with a MacBook