Thursday, January 31, 2008

They Call It Citizendium

The Internet can be a very patriotic experience, if you are slightly crazy like me. Certain websites, servers, or browsers can garner my allegiance as much any tangible organization in the real world.

[As a side note, I am not advocating this weird style of devotion, but if I did not clarify then the following might seem very strange.]

As far as web browsers go, I am a devoted servant of Safari, though long ago I recall being a disciple of Internet Explorer. In the realm of search engines, I scorn this unworthy “champion” called Google, pledging myself to Yahoo!, though I fear I might soon become a lonely radical in this regard.

My greatest loyalty, however, is to “the world in a nutshell,” better known as Wikipedia. Though often slandered as dubious and overly-nerdy, I have developed a close bond to this fount of knowledge.

[In case my mother happens to be reading this: No, mother, I do not utilize Wikipedia for my research papers … much.]

Considering my allegiance, you can understand why I was alarmed to learn of a contender attempting to initiate a coup over Wikipedia.

They call it Citizendium.

A while ago, shortly after I discovered this poser, I gave my initial arguments against its very being. However, as that was a number of months ago, I have decided to be gracious and give Citizendium a second chance to prove itself to me. After all, it is not Citizendium’s principles that I am against; this newer compendium was formed in an effort to secure more accuracy in its information, which is a noble goal.

But hey, I am loyal to Wikipedia. So there.

My test for Citizendium was to search through their massive collection of “over 5100 articles” for a few scattered interests and review the results, if any.

1. Jack Bauer: the protagonist for 24 had no article on Citizendium, nor anything relatively close. However, considering that all articles must be verified by an expert, I doubt that Jack will be making an appearance anytime soon.

2. J.S. Bach: Bach is apparently more worthy than Jack Bauer. [I suppose that happens when you are a real person instead of a pop culture icon.] At first glance, the Citizendium article on Bach seems in good order, but after a short investigation I found that large portions of the article are word-for-word transcriptions from the Wikipedia counterpart article. Who’s dubious now?

3. Harding University: nada. I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up.

4. Golden Grahams: also nada. Among the top five results were Jefferson Airplane, Brazil, and Atheism. Pretty close.

5. Immortality: we have a winner, though you might want to check out the full text of the article.

So, after a brief and admittedly very biased review of Citizendium, I still scorn its presence on the Internet. Wikipedia may be vulnerable to inaccuracies, but I encourage everyone to have a little faith in the knowledge of the world.

Because until there is an article for Jack Bauer, my loyalties stand.

Viva la Wikipedia.


TheChrisBerry said...

Alex, very entertaining and informative post. While I am a Google/Firefox(for Mac) loyalist myself, I completely agree with you on Wikipedia. And if eating Golden Grahams is wrong, I don't want to be right.

I'm thoroughly enjoying this tag-team blog. Kudos to all of you guys.

Drew said...

Comparing the Citizendium pages on the Citizendium and the Wikipedia, you would hardly find the Citizendium unbiased. There is plenty of writing under criticism and controvery page of the wikipedia article in the Citizendium, but the Citizendium article has but a single self-lauding sentence under its own reception and criticism heading.

The Wikipedia articles for both of the sites include plenty of criticism for both of the sites. Here we see an example of the different standards of article writing with professional authorship versus open-source contribution!

Viva la Wikipedia!

Stephen Ewen said...

It's really easy to cherry pick articles.

Here, I'll show you.

Martin Baldwin-Edwards said...

While there may be controversy on Citizendium, we consider that to be a healthy debate in the pursuit of knowledge. After a certain point, if we feel that an article has reached a high standard, we have an approval process by expert editors. There are, therefore, many types of article on CZ: Approved, in progress, just started, and "missing".

However, unlike WP, it is fairly clear what sort of article you are reading. Obviously, our aim is to have every article with Approved status: at this time it is far from being achieved, and we would appreciate any help in making this happen.

Those people who value knowledge for itself tend to find CZ a congenial environment. Others, who are content with the random content of WP, are a little intimidated by the thought of working alongside world authorities on topics. Take your pick.

Oh, and we use real names, by the way!