April 12, 2007
Can Citizendium Succeed?One of the founders of Wikipedia has started a rival online encyclopedia called citizendium. This new start-up (or should that be "upstart"?) will apparently exercise "gentle expert oversight" and will require contributors to use their real names.
Er - okay...
Obvious Question #1: Who gets to decide who is an "expert" and who isn't?
Obvious Question #2: How will they know it really is my real name?
There's no doubting that Wikipedia can be a little shakey in places, but at least we know that and can take the "facts" it serves up with an appropriately large pinch of salt. Most of the time Wikipedia is as solid as any encyclopedia.
The danger with Citizendium is that, not only is it built on quicksand, it gives the impression of higher integrity - claiming no pinch of salt is required when consuming its content. I would suggest otherwise, though.
Firstly, there are no real checks on identity other than maybe checking that the email address matches the name given. These days you can buy domains for a couple of dollars, and set up as many email aliases as you like. Just try emailing firstname.lastname@example.org if you don't believe me.
Citizendium contributors could be just about anybody they claim to be, and you'd be none the wiser than if they contributed completely anonymously.
And as for "expert oversight", well who get's to decide? It's the same problem as we see with developer certification. If it takes a skilled developer to know a skilled developer, then you must start with an excellent foundation on which to build that pyramid of authority. How solid are Citizendium's expert foundations? Better than Wikipedia's? Can we establish credentials effectively if we can't establish identity?
I'll be very interested to see if Citizendium ends up being any more reliable that it's ancestor. Assuming it gets off the ground at all. I mean, Wikipedia snowballed - and, according to my forest fire anology, such massive successes are extremely rare and entirely unpredictable. Can lightning strike twice?
Most specifically, have the founders of Citizendium fallen into the trap of believing that tighter control will mean a better end product?
Posted 13 years, 8 months ago on April 12, 2007