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Larry Sanger

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Larry Sanger, a co-founder of Wikipedia
Larry Sanger, a co-founder[1] of Wikipedia

Lawrence Mark "Larry" Sanger (born July 16, 1968) was Editor-in-Chief of Nupedia and the first paid editor of its successor, Wikipedia. After his resignation from Wikipedia in 2002, he was an early strategist for the expert-authored and edited Encyclopedia of Earth. On September 15, 2006, he proposed a new fork of Wikipedia, called Citizendium.

Sanger was born in Bellevue, Washington, and reared in Anchorage, Alaska. He received his B.A. in philosophy from Reed College in 1991 and Ph.D. in philosophy from Ohio State University in 2000. His bachelor thesis is titled Descartes' methods and their theoretical background and his doctoral thesis concerned Epistemic Circularity: An Essay on the Problem of Meta-Justification. From 1998 to 2000 he ran a website called "Sanger's Review of Y2K News Reports" (formerly at [1]), a resource for Y2K watchers.

Nupedia and Wikipedia

Sanger was employed by Jimmy Wales' Bomis company as Editor-in-Chief of Nupedia. Responding to frustrations with the slow progress of Nupedia, in January 2001 Sanger proposed the creation of a wiki to spur the development of articles,[2] and the result of this proposal was Wikipedia. By virtue of his position with Nupedia, Sanger spearheaded and named the project, and formulated much of the original policy. Sanger was the only paid editor of Wikipedia, a status he held from January 15, 2001, until March 1, 2002. Sanger worked on and promoted both the Nupedia and Wikipedia projects until Bomis discontinued funding for his position in February 2002; Sanger resigned as editor-in-chief of Nupedia and as "chief organizer" of Wikipedia (he never claimed an official title) on March 1.[3] Sanger's stated reason for ending his participation in Wikipedia and Nupedia as a volunteer was that he could not do justice to the task as a part-time volunteer. Nupedia shut down the following year.

Later, in December 2004, Sanger wrote a critical article for the website Kuro5hin, in which he admitted that there had existed "a certain poisonous social or political atmosphere in the project" that had also accounted for his departure.[4] While claiming "to appreciate the merits of Wikipedia fully" and to know and support "the mission and broad policy outlines of Wikipedia very well", Sanger maintained that there are serious problems with the project. There was, he wrote, a lack of public perception of credibility, and the project put "difficult people, trolls, and their enablers" into too much prominence; these problems, he maintained, were a feature of the project's "anti-elitism, or lack of respect for expertise". The article was the subject of much controversy in the blogosphere, and led to some reaction in the news media as well.

Meanwhile, Sanger's status as "co-founder of Wikipedia" came to be disputed by Wales, who described Sanger as having been merely a subordinate employee.[5] Sanger concedes that it was Wales alone who conceived of an encyclopedia that non-experts could contribute to, i.e., the Nupedia.[6] However, Sanger maintains that it was he who brought the wiki concept to Wales and suggested it be applied to Nupedia and that, after some initial skepticism, Wales agreed to try it. (Wales has claimed that one Jeremy Rosenfeld first suggested the idea of a wiki to him, though he claimed earlier, in October 2001, that "Larry had the idea to use Wiki software" [2].) Sanger also maintains that he "came up with the name 'Wikipedia', a silly name for what was at first a very silly project." [6] In response to Wales' view of his role in Wikipedia, Sanger posted on his personal webpage a collection of links which he claimed confirmed his "co-founder" role.[7] Mr. Larry Sanger is widely reported as the co-founder[8][2][9][10][11][12][13][14] of Wikipedia but Jimmy Wales still denies this.[1]

After Wikipedia

Sanger returned to the academic world as a lecturer at Ohio State University, where he taught philosophy until June 2005. His professional interests are epistemology (in particular), early modern philosophy, and ethics. In his spare time, he plays and teaches Irish traditional music on the fiddle in Columbus and Dayton, Ohio, and also manages a site about the Donegal fiddle tradition.

In December 2005, Digital Universe Foundation announced that Sanger had been hired as Director of Distributed Content Programs,[15] where he would lead the Digital Universe Encyclopedia content resource of the larger web project launched in early 2006.[16] Unlike Wikipedia, the Digital Universe encyclopedia plans to bring in recognized experts to certify the accuracy of user-submitted articles as well as to write articles themselves. The first step in this effort is the Encyclopedia of Earth.

In April 2006, Sanger published "Text and Collaboration: A personal manifesto for the Text Outline Project" arguing for the importance of what he called "strong collaboration" (that is, collaboration in which people work on the parts they're interested and nobody gets to claim control), the possibility that strong collaboration could be more effective with a less anarchistic set of ground rules than Wikipedia, and the creation of a new Text Outline Project to create The Book of the World, featuring summaries of the arguments of the great philosophers, organized by topic and time, along with summaries of their debates.[17]

At the Wizards of OS conference in September 2006, Sanger announced a fork of Wikipedia, named Citizendium. The objectives of the fork are to address various perceived flaws in the Wikipedia system. The main differences will be no anonymous editing - every author/editor will have to be identified by his/her real name, no "top-down" hierarchy of editors, and to aspire to be a "real encyclopedia." More differences are discussed in the FAQ. The initial fork will be only of the English language Wikipedia.

Sanger took a "leave of absence" from Digital Universe, announced on 27 September 2006, "in order to set up a fully independent Citizendium Foundation".[18]


  1. ^ a b David Mehegan. "Bias, sabotage haunt Wikipedia's free world", Boston Globe, February 12, 2006. Retrieved on 2007-03-19.
  2. ^ a b c Jimmy Wales (2001-10-30). LinkBacks?. wikipedia-l archives.
  3. ^ My resignation — Larry Sanger, March 1, 2002
  4. ^ Larry Sanger (Dec 31, 2004). Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism. Kuro5hin. Retrieved on 2007-03-19.
  5. ^ Wikipedia to Fight Vandals in Germany. CIO News Alerts (September 26, 2006). “He used to work for me. I don’t agree with calling him a co-founder, but he likes the title.”
  6. ^ a b Larry Sanger (April 19, 2005). The Early History of Nupedia and Wikipedia: A Memoir. Slashdot. Retrieved on 2007-03-19. “To be clear, the idea of an open source, collaborative encyclopedia, open to contribution by ordinary people, was entirely Jimmy’s, not mine (emphasis in original text)”
  7. ^ Larry Sanger. My role in Wikipedia (links). Retrieved on 2007-03-19.
  8. ^ Larry Sanger (January 10, 2001). Let's make a wiki (Email). Nupedia-l mailing list. Retrieved on 2007-03-19.
  9. ^ Ben Hammersley (January 30, 2003). Common knowledge. The Guardian. Retrieved on 2007-03-19.
  10. ^ Press Release, Kintera Inc. (January 10, 2007). Kintera Announces Larry Sanger, Co-Founder of Wikipedia, as Keynote Speaker for Annual User Conference. Yahoo. Retrieved on 2007-03-19.
  11. ^ Stefanie Olsen. "Wikipedia co-founder plans 'expert' rival",, October 16, 2006. Retrieved on 2007-03-19.
  12. ^ Jay Lyman, LinuxInsider (September 20, 2006). Wikipedia Co-Founder Planning New Expert-Authored Site. Retrieved on 2007-03-19.
  13. ^ Steve Tally (March 20, 2006). Wikipedia co-founder to speak on campus. Purdue University News Service. Retrieved on 2007-03-19.
  14. ^ Natali T. Del Conte. "Wikipedia Co-Founder Starting Rival Online 'Encyclopedia Project'", Fox News, October 20, 2006. Retrieved on 2007-03-19.
  15. ^ Lawrence Sanger, Ph. D., Director of Distributed Content Programs. Digital Universe. Retrieved on 2007-03-19.
  16. ^ Digital Universe Seeks to Become Free 'PBS of the Web'. Rress Release, Digital Universe (January 17, 2006 accessdate = 2007-03-19).
  17. ^ Larry Sanger (April, 2006). Text and Collaboration: A personal manifesto for the Text Outline Project. Retrieved on 2007-03-19.
  18. ^ Larry Sanger (Sepember 27, 2006). Citizendium-l Citizendium launch plan as of September 26. Citizendium-l mailing list. Retrieved on 2007-03-19.


  • "Larry Sanger creates a new Wikipedia" Jewish Chronicle, October 27 2006, p.10

External links

Wikinews has news related to:
Larry Sanger announces Wikipedia fork
  • Larry Sanger - Sanger's personal website.
  • - Citizendium
  • Meta-Wikimedia user page for Larry Sanger ("Possibly outdated", he says.)
  • User:Larry Sanger - Sanger's account on the English Wikipedia.
  • Epistemic Circularity: An Essay on the Problem of Meta-Justification
  • Introductory philosophy lectures from Sanger's 1998 course at Ohio State University (many of these have been greatly edited from Sanger's originals—"as they should be", he says.)
  • Larry Sanger’s Knowledge Free-for-All—Technology review article
  • Britannica or Nupedia? The Future of Free Encyclopedias Kuro5hin (July 25, 2001 op-ed article)
  • Wikipedia is wide open. Why is it growing so fast? Why isn't it full of nonsense? Kuro5hin (September 24, 2001 op-ed article)
  • Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism Kuro5hin (December 31, 2004 op-ed article)
  • The Early History of Nupedia and Wikipedia: A Memoir and Part II Slashdot (April 18 - April 19, 2005)
  • Wikipedia alternative aims to be 'PBS of the Web',, December 19, 2005
  • Video interview: Larry Sanger talks about Wikipedia and his plans with Citizendium (mostly in English, with a German introduction and subtitles)


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