Sunday, March 23, 2008

Citizendium Blog Post

I read an interesting post on the Citizendium blog, posted by Larry Sanger. The post is HERE. In it, he compares the atmosphere and community of Wikipedia and Citizendium. It shouldn't come as a surprise, but in his comparison, Citizendium won.

What caught my attention most was not really that he was taking a swipe at WP, but that his description of Citizendium reminded me so much of Wikibooks. In this paragraph especially, if you replace all mentions of "Citizendium" or "CZ" with "Wikbooks" and "WB", respectively, it would still be perfectly accurate:
By contrast, on the Citizendium, it’s extremely easy to get your edits to stick. There are zillions of topics that are still wide open, or that need great expansion. We genuinely love it when new people get involved; we won’t shoo you off. And how many self-appointed ”managers” will your work have? If you’re lucky, a few. But, at this point, it’s more likely you’ll have one or none. If you like to work largely free of the typical Wikipedia busybodies and know-it-alls, you’ll find CZ much more congenial. And how quickly will editors or constables “lay down the law”? Well, you can get away with a lot on CZ, I’m afraid. That’s because people behave themselves so well most of the time that we are genuinely surprised when someone needs to be reined in.
It's something that I've said a lot (and I'm sure I'll say it more and more in the future) but we really are a different kind of environment from what Wikipedia is. Of course, maybe it's a function of our size. Maybe Wikibooks hasn't yet reached the critical mass where people spend more time arguing then they spend authoring, but it is destined to do so. I like to think, in contrast, that we've laid a very different ideologic foundation at Wikibooks, and that we won't develop in the same way that Wikipedia did. Only time will tell, of course, and once we do reach our critical mass point we can start to make more observations about it. Larry had a similar observation about size:
Now, I know that our wiki is open, bottom-up, and largely free of “command-and-control” in part because we’re still much smaller than Wikipedia. Yes, that’s obvious. Yes, I know that growth has a way of making governance harder. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are for now much freer and less constrained than Wikipedia is. ... And we at least still have a chance to retain the more open, freer, more congenial nature of our “small town” community as we grow; it’s too late for Wikipedia, which has become largely a “big city” mobocracy, one that I for one find more oppressive than liberating.
Again, you can see his clear bias against Wikipedia here, but that doesn't make what he's saying untrue. This is another example of where you can replace "Citizendium" with "Wikibooks", and still have an accurate statement. He ends with this statement, that I think is good enough to end my blog post with as well, because it also describes Wikibooks accurately:
Maybe, just maybe, we’ve learned something from Wikipedia’s governance mistakes.

1 comment:

  1. That's true for everyone, not just CZ or WB. Everyone gets to learn from Wikipedia's mistakes. What remains to be seen is if anyone really can, build something comparably big to Wikipedia but without the social problems.