Wed 13th April 2011, 3:23pm
QUOTE(Peter Damian @ Sun 10th April 2011, 9:53am)
One of the worst things Sanger did was to start Citizendium. It failed, and Wikipedians now have a wonderful argument to add to their armoury. It failed, because of the policy on attracting experts. Ergo, crowdsourcing is the only way to build a comprehensive and reliable reference work.
Here are some reasons I think Citizendium failed:
1. There was only ever room for one Internet encyclopedia, for Google and 'network effect' reasons.
2. Experts have a limited attraction for any such project as this. I remember Larry claiming that when he advertised on the philosophy lists, philosophers would come flocking in. They didn't. I was working with one other philosopher (aka Mel Ititis on Wikipedia) at Citizendium. He left due to some petty dispute with Sanger, and I left not wanting to be the only philosopher.
3. Sanger was unspeakably rude to many of the participants.
4. After he realised that it would be hard to attract experts, the bars were lowered and all sorts of strange pondlife registered.
Just my thoughts. Or am I wrong? Is crowdsourcing the only real way to create a comprehensive and reliable reference work?
Well, Citizendium has not "failed." While it isn't thriving as much as I'd hoped, it's still going, and you do the work of the people who are still at work on it an injustice by saying so. Remember, they are trying to benefit the world with their work; by saying "it has failed," when it manifestly has not, is extremely uncharitable to them.
I don't have time or patience to engage in a dialogue about this everyone--I probably won't even dare look at this page after writing this--but I don't want a bunch of ignorant slagging to go on without the slightest response. So, point-by-point to Peter Damian:
1. We've had to compete with Wikipedia for participants, and that's been hard. True enough. If you want the simplest, most accurate single explanation of CZ's failure to grow as hoped, it would be that we were never able to gain critical mass in the face of Wikipedia, the 800-pound gorilla. That could still change, though.
2. Citizendium, contrary to popular belief, was never an "experts-only" project, and it's been obviously not, to anyone adequately acquainted with the project. And I have said so repeatedly, since the beginning of the project: it was designed from the very start as a public-expert partnership. If you'll read the original essays I posted about the project, before it even existed, you'll see this point made. And I never claimed that experts would come flocking in; of course I hoped so, but I always said that I was skeptical that the idea would work, because most new ideas don't work. If you don't believe me when I say this, well, again, look at the original essays and discussion about the project. It's all still there. By the way, I can't say I remember working with a Peter Damian on CZ. That must not be your real name. I do remember Jon Awbrey, though...
3. I don't think I was very rude to many participants, and if I was to a few, it was not without provocation and first enduring far worse. Let's leave it at that. I think some people who have never been at the head of projects like this don't realize the extreme difficulties that are involved when dealing with self-righteous narcissists who are not playing by the rules (whatever
the rules are).
4. The bars were never lowered, except in your imagination or faulty memory. If anything, they were raised (I'm sorry to admit). Originally, we allowed anybody to come into the project as long as they registered with what looked like a real name and posted a very lightweight bio. After we started having to deal with motivated, systematic, automated, daily account-creation vandalism/attacks, with great reluctance I agreed to set up a system of approving account creation.
CZ is a crowdsourcing project. The fact that I have to explain this, write things like "Myths and Facts" (http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/CZ:Myths_and_Facts), and generally correct all sorts of misconceptions (even now), convinces me of this: if there is widespread bias against a project (as there certainly was, philosophically, against CZ), then people will say whatever the hell they want to about it, as if they were stating fact. Others will believe these errors and elaborate them. The project will find it nearly impossible to get out from under the weight of the misinformation. This, I'm afraid, has happened to CZ, in spades.
There's another difficulty that few people talk about: the number of regular educated people, with no appreciable expertise in anything, who feel comfortable working under even the gentle guidance of experts does not appear to be very high. There are some, to be sure. But a lot more people naturally resent experts (which goes a long way to explaining Wikipedia's popularity). This is probably best chalked up to the common human vice of envy. Moreover, the number of experts, defined in any even slightly stringent way, is small, and the number of experts who feel comfortable working on articles in their areas of expertise alongside the general lay public is even smaller. Smaller still is the number of such experts who are willing to work without pay.
All that said, I wouldn't give up on CZ, and am not giving up on it, though my attentions are now devoted to a brand new project (a free tool for teaching kids to read). Another thing that most people who haven't started many projects don't realize is just how subject to the winds of chance these projects can be. A small change in policy, or a new relationship or group of participants, can prove to have profound consequences. CZ's new management could try out many different things, and one of them might prove to be what is needed to turn the project around. I wish them all the best, and you should, too. CZ remains a very worthwhile experiment, and I'm not at all sorry that I started it.