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This article is from:

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Citizendium ("a citizens' compendium of everything") is a proposed online encyclopedia first intended to begin as a "progressive or gradual fork" of the English Wikipedia.[1]

The Citizendium project is spearheaded by Larry Sanger, co-creator and editor in chief of Wikipedia from its inception to March 2002, and will be carried out under the auspices of the Citizendium Foundation.[2]

Sanger said in an October 17, 2006 press release that Citizendium "will soon attempt to unseat Wikipedia as the go-to destination for general information online".[3] The project began its pilot phase in November 2006; as of January 2007, no public launch date has been specified.

On January 18, 2007 a change of plans was announced. Sanger announced on the CZ mailing list that only articles marked "CZ live" (which have been or will soon be worked on by Citizendium contributors) would remain on the site, and all other articles forked from Wikipedia would be deleted. Not all Citizendium contributors were supportive of this change, but Sanger emphasized that this deletion was "an experiment" and a new set of Wikipedia articles could be uploaded if the experiment were deemed unsuccessful.[4]

Nature of the project

Fork of Wikipedia

According to statements and essays on, the project was intended to begin as a fork of Wikipedia, carrying a copy of each article — under the rules of the GNU Free Documentation License — as it existed on Wikipedia at the time of Citizendium's launch.[5] However, after initiating the idea of not forking, and then soliciting comments on the matter from Citizendium mailing list and web forum members, Sanger said that a complete fork at launch was not a "foregone conclusion".[6] On January 18, 2007 Sanger announced that the pilot will, as an experiment, only carry articles that have been or will soon be worked on by Citizendium contributors, instead of a complete set of Wikipedia articles. He stated that the experiment "represents a reconception of our project's basic aim."[4]

No announcement has yet been made on Citizendium in languages other than English, but Sanger has stated in his essays that they may be forthcoming after the English language version is established and working successfully.

Project goal

The stated aim of the project is to create a "new compendium of knowledge" based on the contributions of "intellectuals", defined as "educated, thinking people who read about science or ideas regularly."[7] Citizendium hopes to foster an expert culture and a community that encourages subject specialists (presently named as "editors") to contribute, and "citizens" (to be called "authors") to "respect" the expert contributions (by a so-called "gentle process of guidance").

An appeals process for disagreements between editors and authors, and between different editors, will be in place, according to a provisional "Citizendium Policy Outline" published by Sanger.[8] Experts will be required to verify their qualifications openly, for transparency and publicly accepted authority.[8] This contrasts with the open and largely anonymous nature of Wikipedia, where subject specialists have no agreed special status. Sanger has stated that editors will not have pre-approval rights over edits by ordinary authors, though editors will have somewhat undefined authority over articles that fall within their specific area of expertise.

Proposed policies and structure

Citizendium will only in rare instance allow anonymous editing, including possible proof reading by trusted copy editors, who have low-level authority to amend the texts for typographical, syntactical and grammatical errors etc. People will be asked to register under their real names with a working e-mail address, in order to participate. (Details of this process are still to be worked out. Problems with online safety and privacy are currently being addressed).

Many of the changes are attempts to correct perceived flaws in the original design and present public image of Wikipedia, that have led to problems with Wikipedia's acceptance as a valid and trustworthy resource. Regarding Wikipedia's oft cited problems, Sanger wrote that "this arguably dysfunctional community is extremely off-putting to … academics" and as such appears "committed to amateurism."[7]

Sanger has stated that Citizendium administrators, or sysops, will be called "constables", and will need a bachelor's degree to qualify. Sanger has also suggested a minimum "maturity" requirement — 25 years of age — for constables.[8] The "head" constable will be the Chief Constable (Ruth Ifcher), and the head editor will be the Managing Editor.[2]

Recent comments by Sanger envision an Editor-in-Chief (Sanger himself) who will be the "main individual in charge", and who will be part of and answerable to a Board of Directors. There will also be Chief Subject Editors selected for each discipline treated in the encyclopedia. Sanger states that final decisions about management structure will not be made "until more of the (future) primary stakeholders are on the scene".[9] In a Citizendium blog entry of November 10, constable Sarah Tuttle announced the formation of an "executive committee" consisting of herself, Sanger and eleven others, which will work on issues of "long term governance" of the project.[10]

Sanger has indicated that Citizendium articles will be subject to an "approval" process after they have achieved reasonable quality. A subject expert "editor" will select a version of the article to be identified in some way as "approved". However, further editing of the article would be allowed, at least to some extent. If those further edits were judged by the editor to be improvements, a newer version of the article would be chosen as the approved version. This approval process appears to be a response by Sanger to criticisms from some members of the Citizendium mailing list and web forum that the new project would not be sufficiently controlled by experts. There will be a dispute-resolution process for disagreements about which version should be selected as "approved".[8]

In an October 26 post to the Citizendium web forum, then Managing Editor David Marshall indicated that the approved version of an article, if it exists, will be the default version displayed to a visitor to the site. If a contributor wishes to modify or add to the article, login will be necessary to work on the "dynamic wiki page" open to editing:


Initial proposal

The project was announced by Sanger on September 15, 2006, at the Wizards of OS 4 conference in Berlin. He gave no deadline for the full launch of the wiki.[12][13] However, on October 2, 2006 Sanger released a pilot project announcement that envisions a fully functioning wiki within "one to two months".

Pilot project

In an apparent attempt to quicken the pace of the project, on October 2, 2006 Citizendium web forum moderator Peter Hitchmough suggested what he called an "alpha test" of the concept. Hitchmough proposed the forking of a limited number of Wikipedia articles to a site where Citizendium web forum and mailing list members could "rewrite a complete section" of Wikipedia content.[14]

Larry Sanger reacted enthusiastically to the idea and at first suggested his already existing Textop wiki as the site for the alpha test. Sanger later posted that Textop would not be a good choice, but showed continued interest in the proposal. He envisioned a "restricted-access" wiki where the idea could be tried and requested further discussion.[15]

No access to the pilot version of Citizendium, even read-only, was allowed to the general public. Sanger stated: "Only invited people will be able to view and edit the pilot project wiki".[16] Sanger also said that constables for the pilot project will be chosen by the chief constable.[17]

In a press release on October 17, Sanger announced: "the fledgling Citizendium Foundation will launch a six-week pilot project open to potential contributors by invitation". Several editors and other project leaders were named. It was also announced that the Citizendium Foundation had "started the process of applying for 501(c)(3) status" and had "received a firm commitment for a significant seed grant from a foundation, as well as small personal donations". [3] In a follow-up post to the press release, Sanger said that the initial group allowed access to the pilot would consist of "ten editors, three constables, six authors, and me".[18]

The pilot project began operations on October 23.[19] On November 8 Larry Sanger reported that 263 user names had access to the pilot wiki, 183 articles on the wiki were "live" (meaning "someone is or intends to be working on them") and there were about 300 total edits to the wiki on November 7.[20]

In a January 17, 2007 post to the Citizendium forum, Larry Sanger stated that "we have had only 10-20 (very) active people out of 500 accounts created." As a result, Sanger decided to delete all articles besides those marked "CZ live" from the pilot project in an attempt to motivate greater participation.[21] On January 22 Citizendium experimented with a new self-registration procedure: read/write access was granted automatically after creation of the account.[22] There were a few instances of vandalism after this change, though the vandalism was quickly reverted.[23]

On February 16, in response to rising vandalism after two appearances on Slashdot, automatic account creation[22] was put on hold while increased protections were being put in place to counter vandalism.[24] The next day, page moves were limited to Constables as an additional measure against vandalism.[25] In addition, Sanger continued the process of un-forking Citizendium from Wikipedia by inviting contributors to nominate for speedy deletion any Wikipedia content that had changed only superficially since it was imported.


  1. ^ Andrew Orlowski. "Wikipedia founder forks Wikipedia, More experts, less fiddling?", The Register, September 18, 2006.
  2. ^ a b Larry Sanger. "Constables, editors, and the Citizendium Foundation", Citizendium-l mail list, September 23, 2006.
  3. ^ a b Larry Sanger. "Co-Founder to Launch Edited Version of Wikipedia: Pilot Project for the Citizendium to Launch This Week",, October 17, 2006
  4. ^ a b Larry Sanger. "OK, let's delete the Wikipedia articles (an experiment)", Citizendium-l mail list, January 18, 2007.
  5. ^ Larry Sanger. "Why we should fork all at once", Citizendium-l mail list, September 29, 2006.
  6. ^ Larry Sanger. "Forking argument summary", Citizendium forum, September 29, 2006.
  7. ^ a b Larry Sanger. "Toward a New Compendium of Knowledge (longer version)", Citizendium.
  8. ^ a b c d Larry Sanger. "Citizendium Policy Outline", Citizendium. On the Citizendium blog, Sanger wrote this caveat about the provisional outline: "This is a work in progress. Therefore, I hope the Wikipedia article about the Citizendium will not say tomorrow that CZ will have features X, Y, and Z. These are in most cases negotiable policy ideas, a place for the invitees to the policy project to work from." Sanger also stated that future versions of the policy outline would be posted on the restricted-access pilot wiki: "The most current version will be available on the pilot project wiki. To see that, you’ll have to be a member of the pilot project."
  9. ^ Larry Sanger. "How should we manage growth?", Citizendium forum, October 2, 2006.
  10. ^ Sarah Tuttle. "Your executive committee", Citizendium blog, November 10, 2006.
  11. ^ David Marshall. "My ideas on presenting consistently high quality content", Citizendium forum, October 26, 2006.
  12. ^ Larry Sanger. "Citizendium launch plan as of September 26", Citizendium-l mail list, September 27, 2006.
  13. ^ WOS video stream containing Sanger's announcement
  14. ^ Peter Hitchmough. "Proposal: Fork Wikipedia and launch with some A1-class model subjects", Citizendium forum, October 2, 2006.
  15. ^ Larry Sanger. "Administrivia: interesting pilot project proposal", Citizendium-l mail list, October 2, 2006.
  16. ^ Larry Sanger. "Call for applications to participate in the Citizendium Pilot Project", Citizendium.
  17. ^ Larry Sanger. "Pilot Project Application Review Procedure", Citizendium-l mail list, November 13, 2006.
  18. ^ Larry Sanger. "Ad hoc steering group kicked off", Citizendium-l mail list, October 18, 2006.
  19. ^ Jason Potkanski. "Developers Wanted: Open", Citizendium-l mail list, October 23, 2006.
  20. ^ Larry Sanger. "Stats", Citizendium blog, November 8, 2006.
  21. ^ Larry Sanger. "Would you contribute more if the wiki were blank?", Citizendium forum, January 17, 2007.
  22. ^ a b Larry Sanger. "Self-registration begins!", Citizendium-l mail list, January 22, 2007. The first act of vandalism was carried out via an account named 'Chris Nguyen', to vandalise three pages including the main one and that of Larry Sanger, apparently before the announcement was made. The account was indefinitely blocked a little over half an hour after the first improper edit.
  23. ^ Citizendium pilot wiki. "Main page revision history", January 23, 2007.
  24. ^ Vandal Assault at the Citizendium Blog
  25. ^ "Page moves now require constable help; and semi-automated hand-approval of new accounts?", Citizendium-l mail list, February 17 2007

External links

Wikinews has news related to:
Larry Sanger announces Wikipedia fork
  • Citizendium Pilot Project
  • Citizendium Blog
  • Citizendium unforks
  • Citizendium discussion list and archives
  • Citizendium forums
  • "Larry Sanger's essay: Toward a New Compendium of Knowledge" (longer version)
  • "Larry Sanger abstract", Wizards of OS 4.
  • (German) "WOS 4: Citizendium soll bessere Wikipedia werden", Heise online, September 15, 2006.
  • "Wikipedia rival calls in the experts", Nature October 5, 2006, via Citizendium-l mailing list
  • "Wikipedia co-founder plans 'expert' spinoff", ZDNet News, October 16, 2006
  • "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Co-Founder to Launch Edited Version of Wikipedia, Pilot Project for the Citizendium to Launch This Week. October 17, 2006
  • Citizendium: building a better Wikipedia Ars Technica


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