Citizendium

Citizendium, is the new Wiki project, started by Larry Sanger, one of the co-founders of Wikipedia. They define the project as follows:

The Citizendium (sit-ih-ZEN-dee-um), a “citizens’ compendium of everything,” is an experimental new wiki project. The project, started by a founder of Wikipedia, aims to improve on the Wikipedia model by adding “gentle expert oversight” and requiring contributors to use their real names. It has taken on a life of its own and will, perhaps, become the flagship of a new set of responsibly-managed free knowledge projects. We avoid calling it an “encyclopedia” until the project’s editors feel comfortable putting their reputations behind this description.

With the new rules about the editors having to use their real name and with “gentle oversight”, Citizendium is trying to ensure that the community members have the right incentives. I guess the hope is that if people identifying themselves with their real names, they are less likely to vandalize or edit content for short term gratifications. The goal is to avoid cases like the one Stephen Colbert caused, when he talked about Wikipedia in one of his shows.

Signing up for Citizendium

This is a noble goal and these new policies will no doubt help create a better community environment. The question, though, still remains about how Citizendium will ensure that all editors indeed use their real name while editing content. Right now they seem to be asking for individuals to use their real name as a part of their user agreement, but what is somebody still uses a fake name? I am sure if the Citizendium generates enough credible content, there are going to be incentives for people to use fake identities to edit content. One way could be to heap shame and scorn on any user breaking the terms of service but again if somebody does break their terms of service, how are they going to know what the real identity of the person is? Also, if they get enough critical mass, I am sure they will be open to attacks from payperpost like services intent on modifying certain content for financial gain.

So overall, I think this is a step in the right direction, I am not sure this is going to be enough to generate a 100% reliable body of knowledge. Let’s see how it develops.

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