Monday, March 26, 2007

Citizendium launches, gets ignored

According to Google Blog Search and Technorati, I'm the first blog to link to Larry Sanger's announcement that Citizendium has launched. (The blogosphere seems too preoccupied with yet another iteration of Why Haven't Newspapers Died Yet, Would You Hurry Up Please FFS.)

Citizendium screenshotBrowsing through Citizendium is kind of weird at this early stage. Take the Computer page, for example. Its CSS, layout and page furniture are exactly the same as Wikipedia, but the vast majority of the internal hyperlinks are coloured red instead of blue, because the links refer to pages which have not been created yet. It feels like, as someone once said of the alpha version of Tinfinger, a town that no one has come to live in yet. The Wikipedia version of the Computer page is superior in content and has only one red link among hundreds of blues, but it is locked for editing. The Computer:Talk page reveals that Wikipedia's editors have spent a lot of time perfecting this page via peer review, to the extent that the community (or whoever represents it) now considers this page to be "A-Class". The Citizendium version contains a lot of passages copied verbatim from the Wikipedia article, and many more which are changed only slightly with addition or subtraction of a clause here or there.

The overall impression I get is... probably unfair. As Larry points out in his essay Why the Citizendium Will (Probably) Succeed, Wikipedia itself sucked horribly at this stage in its development, so it would be uncharitable to pick on CZ for its early flaws. I am still concerned about Larry's attitude though:

A good number of disaffected Wikipedians have joined us. Our increasing activity will bring over even more. These are frequently the sort of people we want. After all, our natural contributors like the idea of Wikipedia. They love the ease of contribution, the instant visibility of their work, the sense of shared purpose inherent in strong collaboration, the gradually improving quality, and so on. They love working with Wikipedia's many excellent contributors. Despite all that, they even more strongly dislike having to deal with its many problem users--disrespectful, immature, ideologically driven, or unstable people, that administrators are unable to rein in. Indeed, if the many complaints are to be believed, such people are to be found among Wikipedia's administrators.

Such people will also be found amongst people who leave the big W and go to CZ. Troublemakers. People who have been proven not to work in a team environment. Trolls. Setting yourself up as I Can't Believe It's Not Wikipedia only works if Wikipedia is not working: if it's actually the good people who stay at Wikipedia then CZ will become a renegade hideout of sorts, a hive of scum and villainy where all those disaffected with the Wikipedia culture or power structure go to bitch about the other site.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've been talking about Citizendium over at Highbrid Nation. Personally I use Wikipedia a lot and I don't see anything knocking it off its top spot. The features that make Citizendium better may just be the features that keep it from having the same sucess as Wikpedia. There can only be one. Who will it be?

4:22 am, March 27, 2007  

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