What is Citizendium?
- Citizendium is a wiki project aiming to creating objective encyclopedic articles about virtually any subject, of a type which could not be written in Wikipedia. Our contributors use their verified real names, in a congenial and supportive online community. We welcome experts as well as the general public who would like to share their knowledge. Topics range from the universal to the highly local, including parks and school sports teams.
How are you progressing?
- Citizendium currently has 17,525 articles.
Is this an experts-only project?
- No - anyone can join Citizendium. Our essential feature is not expertise, but responsibility. That said, we value expertise and ask our authors to declare a little about their experience, education and interests on their User page. Generalists--non-experts--are often perfectly capable of creating excellent and reliable material on many subjects, especially if they're good writers and researchers. It seems obvious that the intelligent use of experts in a collaborative project can help to improve the quality of the output. In the past, Citizendium tried a management system whereby experts had a special role with decision-making power over others; that system is no longer in place.
- If you are looking for a peer-reviewed specialists' encyclopedia, you may wish to read Scholarpedia.
How do I join?
- Fill out the application form (Google Account required)--we ask for a name, e-mail address, short bio, and (private!) information about how to confirm your identity--then you'll be asked to confirm your e-mail address. When that's done, a community manager, called a Moderator, can approve you and then read about how to get started.
How do I contact Citizendium staff?
How do I get started?
- It's pretty easy. Do you have some knowledge you'd like to express? About--well--almost anything? Then search for an article about it. If we don't have an article about it, then start one. Don't worry about getting all the formatting right: just use "the easy way" you'll see here, and start. Writing for Citizendium is about as easy as writing an e-mail. See Getting Started, and for a short page that contains all the basic getting-started info, read our Quick Start!
The justification and prospects of the project
Why real names?
- We believe the use of real names improves the credibility of the output: people can see who contributed some content, and whether they appear to know anything about the subject. We also believe that people tend to behave themselves better when their identities are known and their behavior is out in the open, and good behavior is crucial to a smoothly running knowledge community.
Are you against pseudonymity or anonymity in general?
- We take no official stance on the common practice of pseudonymity and anonymity online, as a rule. The Citizendium is a special sort of project: the arguments for real names in a serious "knowledge project" are much stronger than in other contexts.
What are the project's policies?
- Our policy document shows the minimal rules. The Citizendium has existed for well over ten years, and our management team is familiar with certain types of problematic characters and their patterns of bad behavior. We have revised our policies in ways which we hope will minimize interpersonal conflicts--such as, by allowing lead authors and (possibly) multiple articles about a given topic. In part due to the modest size of this project as of 2020, interpersonal conflict has been thankfully rare. We hope to keep it that way. One thing we'll be doing, going forwards, is trying to intervene privately if we see possible troubling behavior without needing to resort to public slap-downs. This is exactly the kind of behavior you'd like of management in a job situation.
Why enforce a policy of professionalism in behavior?
- A bedrock principle of Citizendium is professional behavior: while you need not actually be a "professional" to participate, you are still expected to behave like one. Offline communities have effective social pressures to keep impolite, insulting, and inflammatory conversation to a minimum: frowns, uncomfortable silences, social ostracism. Online communities cannot use these same mechanisms, and so they need something different. Some of the longest-lasting, most interesting, and best-behaved Internet discussion groups feature "moderation"--that is, a referee can tap someone on the shoulder if he is getting out of line, and may eject him from the conversation if necessary. While articles or talk pages are wide open to edit, Citizendium Moderators are empowered to remove comments that are disrespectful. See Professionalism.
But don't the above points really mean the project is some sort of top-down, "fascistic" or at least old-fashioned sort of system?
- No. One glance at our recent changes log makes it clear that the project operates as much as a "bazaar" as any other wiki or open source software project. People contribute as they want, when they want. And, like other open projects, out of this chaos, order emerges. Work does not proceed only after someone orders it. Work can begin as soon as a person signs up.
What exactly is the point of the project, when Wikipedia is so huge and of at least reasonably good quality?
- Like Wikipedia, this is an open/free content wiki. We do not see The Citizendium as competing with Wikipedia, although this project was intended (many years ago) to do so. We use Wikipedia too, and we recognize it for the things it has done very well--for example, in keeping a complete record of the latest versions of an operating system. This "complete cataloging" function is valuable and there is little reason for us to duplicate that effort here. The Citizendium's strength lies elsewhere. There are things Wikipedia is not so good at, because of the nature of its system of massive, anonymized crowd-sourcing. Some Wikipedia articles are written, not for persons unfamiliar with the topic, but rather for those who are already subject matter experts. Some articles are tightly controlled by unknown editors who suppress the expression of concerns they do not agree with. Software, for example, cannot be evaluated in terms of its advantages or disadvantages in Wikipedia. Many times, people want an overview of what is most important to know about a thing. Not everyone will agree on what that is, but here we use our real names, and so you can try to evaluate the quality of an article here in terms of who has participated in its creation. Wikipedia articles show bias in a variety of ways, and it is impossible to understand that bias, given that it is impossible to know the identities of the individuals who are controlling the content of an article.
Are you going to run out of money and have to close this site?
- So far, the project has benefited from a number of financial donations from various people, and we hope to continue raising funds to keep the server online far into the future. You can keep track of the situation via the monthly financial report.
People tell me that this project has failed. Has it?
- Citizendium has been around since 2006 and has always had a pool of regular contributors and enough funds to keep going. In over a decade, it has gone through at least two major different management teams. While it is true that activity on the site has declined since its inception, it is also true that the number of articles, including expert-approved ones, slowly but surely keeps going up, and we believe some of it is very high value. Our management team is committed to keeping the project alive, both for its congenial online community and for the high points of its best output.
The project's people and culture
Who is joining this community?
- Generally, people who support the basic project design--and there's a lot of them from various walks of life. It's not just "experts," and it's not just "the usual online mob." Think of it as a highly potent blend--something really unusual, new, different--because it really is. Many academics and other highly knowledgeable people have gone out of their way to try to edit Wikipedia, only essentially to be beaten back by the community. Not only are they welcome, they are asked to form part of the editorial leadership of the Citizendium. Many disaffected Wikipedians have gotten involved. There are also students, and young professionals, who appreciate a more mature, sensible community. There are even some people who are being seriously introduced to wikis for the very first time by the Citizendium.
How can I find out more about your contributors?
- All of our authors and editors use their real names. No cute aliases or menacing pseudonyms are allowed! You can find out about most authors on their User Pages. You can also find lists of Authors via the subject workgroups.
Who is behind the project?
- If you want to understand the Citizendium properly, you have to understand that it is part of a relatively new and largely misunderstood phenomenon: it is a self-selecting online community. For that reason, the most important members, the bedrock of the project, are not some editorial board, but instead the rank-and-file volunteer authors who work on the project regularly. In this way, it is more like a place or a community than a publishing project. That said, we do have a management team shown at personnel with various responsibilities.
- For a further introduction to the community and how it operates, see Community Overview.
- No. Citizendium is an independent, self-run, volunteer community. Its founder, Larry Sanger, has not played an active role in managing the project for many years, and in 2020, he ceded ownership of the domain name to long-time wiki member Pat Palmer.
Can I donate to the project, to help ensure it comes into existence?
- Yes, please! Server rentals, bandwidth, and domain registrations are all ongoing costs. So we need your help to sustain this important work through donations. We accept major credit cards.
Will the Citizendium accept advertisements?
- No. Advertising was prohibited by the Citizendium's founding charter and we have seen no reason to change that.
Will I be paid for my contributions?
- No. All of our contributions are donated by the contributors. As a nonprofit, all volunteer project, all contributions are covered by the Creative Commons-Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license
Will someone else profit from my contributions?
- We are a nonprofit project, in order to ensure maximum participation and the independence of our information.
- We make our content available for anyone to use, reuse and redistribute (provided they properly credit us as the source of the information) and hope that this opens the door for others to benefit from the project.
Where can I find out more?
|Our help system|
|Questions and answers to help you find the information you need|
From the HOME page you can get started, get technical help, see our policies, and explore our organization in detail.
Larry Sanger is the author of the writings listed below, unless otherwise noted. Others are welcome to submit essays in a similar vein.
- Statement of Fundamental Policies
- The Citizendium one year on: a strong start and an amazing future (October 2007; first year progress report)
- Latest press release
- Older press releases: 1 | 2
- Who Says We Know: On the New Politics of Knowledge (Edge.org, April 2007)