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Citizendium: Wikipedia 2.0

Citizendium is just like Wikipedia, but in a members-only kind of way we're not too keen on.

Citizendium, the new wiki project from Larry Sanger (one of the co-founders of Wikipedia) launched publicly yesterday. Citizendium is a lot like Wikipedia, but with more emphasis placed on responsibility and the policing of content--two things arguably lacking in Wikipedia. Before you can contribute to Citizendium, users must apply for access, and it's not just a casual name and e-mail address; you actually have to provide your real name and sell yourself to the service's content cops in 100 to 500 words.

The site's content is managed and controlled by community moderators called "constables." After being screened and chosen even more carefully than ordinary contributors, constables are given the power to manage user submissions and general content. Constables aren't paid or given compensation for their services, it's purely a volunteer gig. Likewise, contributors receive nothing besides the prestige of creating and editing content for the service.

There are just more than 1,000 entries on the site. This pales in comparison to Wikipedia's 1,700,000 plus, but Citizendium just launched. Wikipedia's been live since early 2001.

Citizendium is an interesting experiment (a term coined by its founders, not me). It's too early to say whether or not it will become a serious competitor to Wikipedia. To my mind, Citizendium is setting itself up for problems. It's elitist. Yes, there's a lot to be said for credibility and responsibility on a site that aims to provide public information. But limiting contributions to a hand-picked audience is a very Web 1.0 thing to do. Sites such as Digghave thrived because anyone can join and begin contributing to the site, even if it's just to say yes or no to liking a news story. Similarly, Newsvinehas found a way to balance news as we know it (wire reports) and user-submitted news stories, with both sharing the same space.

There's another problem: redundancy. What makes Wikipedia so great is that search engines have crawled and indexed it like crazy. If you're casually searching for something on the Internet, its Wikipedia entry is usually one of the few top results in Google, MSN, and Ask.com. With Citizendium joining the fray, we'll likely have both results right next to one another, which might cause problems if one of Citizendium's contributors hasn't taken the time to update the entry compared to Wikipedia's. I'm not saying there can only be one portal for information, but the two sites are so visually similar it's bound to cause confusion.

Citizendium is a site to keep an eye on. I'm almost certain it will succeed considering the success of Wikipedia. It's a shame, though, that the philosophy underlying Citizendium was not applied or added to Wikipedia--because that's where the knowledge, and the users, are today.

CNET Networks