Wikipedia has a new rival and it may seem to have a mountain to climb…you decide…you pic…you judge…
Back in September 2006, Larry Sanger, philosopher and co~founder of Wikipedia, set up a rival online encyclopaedia, and called it Citizendium. Its mission: to rewrite Wikipedia without the accidental errors, the deliberate mischief or the endless internal factional disputes that turned some pages into the nasty nerd equivalent of old fashioned pissing contests.
Two thousand articles later, the ambitious scale of the task couldn’t be clearer, especially in the face of Wikipedia’s index of two million (and growing) articles. Some have argued the whole thing’s impractical; others that Citizendium’s unnecessary, that Wikipedia works well enough.
However, thanks to the recent actions of a 24 year old California Institute of Technology graduate student called Virgil Griffith, Wikipedia’s beginning to look damaged. Is Citizendium Wikipedia’s heir~in~waiting?
Wikipedia’s recent troubles came courtesy of an internet tool, developed by Griffith (a former hacker who also operates under the name Romanpoet), to show who’s editing what, and how.
WikiScanner sifts through Wikipedia’s anonymous edits, retrieves the IP addresses (the Web’s equivalent of fingerprints) associated with each edit and connects them back to large corporations and organisations, including Walmart, the CIA, the BBC and the Church of Scientology. It’s uncovered a long and growing list of suspect tampering.
Some of it is truly bizarre. Take, for instance, the ‘erotic spanking’ entry, edited from inside the IRS, the American tax agency, which details how a paddle hanging on a wall as a threat to the children might actually be ‘primarily used for erotic paddlings given by one spouse to the other. Presumably this isn’t IRS policy.
However, WikiScanner has also revealed Wikipedia’s dark side. Diebold, the private company responsible for electronic voting systems in the US, appears to have removed content critical of its technology. Al Jazeera has been linked to a host of anti-Semitic edits, including ‘Jews believe…they are better than other people’.
A wholesale removal of references to the Armenian genocide during the First World War has been traced directly to the Turkish Treasury, a worrying historical revision by an interested party.
Griffith himself defends Wikipedia, claiming that his invention will only help the encyclopedia by offering context to the minority of more politically sensitive entries. But there’s little doubt the reputation of Web 2.0’s greatest information repository has been damaged.
Most casual users would prefer to feel they can trust the website without resource to hacking tools, and have little time for a rarefied, though undoubtedly valid debate over the point at which one person’s facts become another’s propaganda. They want an authoritative source.
Which is exactly what Citizendium plans to offer. Like Wikipedia, Citizendium will be
authored by the people but authors will be compelled to register under their real names.
A volunteer police force will guard the encyclopedia from clear cases of deliberate vandalism. And volunteer editors, who will need to prove their qualifications will be charged with ensuring a high standard of content throughout and will be asked to give final editorial judgment in instances of factual dispute.
Citizendium’s not without controversy itself. Jimmy Wales, Sanger’s ex~partner on Wikipedia, will defend the Web 2.0 wisdom of crowds ethic to the end, in the firm belief that a good bust up between thousands will find the truth quicker than a single expert.
But editing at Wikipedia isn’t always about thousands, it’s often about a handful of highly motivated and highly vocal users. And we now know, since WikiScanner, that it’s about high powered propagandists, too.
Sanger, meanwhile, insists he isn’t denying the strength of the amateur, just defending the role of the expert in the era of our new and shiny, user~empowered internet.
Thank you First Post and Linton Chiswick
Here you go Baby Boomers…compare for your selves and infact write to Citizendium…new aurthors and writers are welcome. How cool is that???
~The Baby Boomer Queen~