Can scholars build a better version of Wikipedia? Larry Sanger, a co-founder who has since become a critic of the open-source encyclopedia, intends to find out.
This week Mr. Sanger announced the creation of the Citizendium, an online, interactive encyclopedia that will be open to public contributors but guided by academic editors. The site aims to give academics more authorial control -- and a less combative environment -- than they find on Wikipedia, which affords all users the same editing privileges, whether they have any proven expertise or not.
The Citizendium, whose name is derived from "citizen's compendium," will soon start a six-week pilot project to determine many of its basic rules and operating procedures.
Mr. Sanger left Wikipedia at the end of 2002 because he felt it was too easy on vandals and too hard on scholars. There is a lot to like about Wikipedia, he said, starting with the site's open-source ethics and its commitment to "radical collaboration."
But in operation, he said, Wikipedia has flaws -- like its openness to anonymous contributors and its rough-and-tumble editing process -- that have driven scholars away. With his new venture, Mr. Sanger hopes to bring those professors back into the fold.
He plans to create for the site a "representative democracy," in which self-appointed experts will oversee the editing and shaping of articles. Any Web surfer, regardless of his or her credentials, will be able to contribute to the Citizendium. But scholars with "the qualifications typically needed for a tenure-track academic position" will act as editors, he said, authorizing changes in articles and approving entries they deem to be trustworthy.
A team of "constables" -- administrators who must be more than 25 years old and hold at least a bachelor's degree, according to the project's Web site -- will enforce the editors' dictates. "If an editor says the article on Descartes should put his biography before his philosophy, and someone changes that order, a constable comes in and changes it back," said Mr. Sanger.
To make the site even more appealing to academics, the Citizendium will require each of its volunteer contributors to register -- using a real name and a working e-mail address -- before editing any entries. In keeping with the less-wide-open strategy, the pilot project will be an invitation-only affair. (The Citizendium is seeking applications from editor and constable candidates on its Web site, and Mr. Sanger expects the pilot project to start this week.)
Read more at Chronicle of Higher Education 10/18/06
Posted by P. Kaufman at October 18, 2006 7:10 AM