Citizendium: The Citizens' Compendium

The Citizendium homepage in Firefox
Type of siteInternet encyclopedia project
RegistrationOptional (Required to edit pages)
Available language(s)English
OwnerLarry Sanger
Created byLarry Sanger
LaunchedOctober 23, 2006 (pilot)
March 25, 2007 (public)
Current statusBeta
Citizendium (sit-ih-ZEN-dee-um, "a citizens' compendium of everything") is an English-language online wiki-based free encyclopedia project spearheaded by Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia.[1][2] The project aims to improve on the Wikipedia model by requiring all contributors to do so with their real names, by strictly moderating the project for unprofessional behaviors, and by providing what it calls "gentle expert oversight" of everyday contributors. A main feature of the project is its "approved articles", which have each undergone a form of peer-review by credentialed topic-experts and are closed to real-time editing. The project was first (late 2006) envisioned as a complete "fork" of the English Wikipedia,[3] but the project abandoned that idea prior to its March 2007 public launch to emphasize its own original articles. As of October 2007, the project had over 3,000 articles.[4]

Founder viewpoints

Sanger said in an October 17, 2006, press release that Citizendium "will soon attempt to unseat Wikipedia as the go-to destination for general information online",[5] In August 2007 he captioned its pages "The world needs a more credible free encyclopedia."[6]

The project began its pilot phase in October and November 2006.

On January 18, 2007, a change of plans was announced. Sanger announced on the CZ mailing list that only articles marked "CZ Live", those which have been or will soon be worked on by Citizendium contributors, would remain on the site, and all other articles forked from Wikipedia would be deleted. Not all Citizendium contributors were supportive of this change, but Sanger emphasized that this deletion was "an experiment" and a new set of Wikipedia articles could be uploaded if the experiment were deemed unsuccessful.[7]

Nature of the project

Fork of Wikipedia

According to statements and essays on, the project was initially intended to begin as a fork of Wikipedia, carrying a copy of each article — under the rules of the GNU Free Documentation License — as it existed on Wikipedia at the time of Citizendium's launch.[8] However, after initiating the idea of not forking, and then soliciting comments on the matter from Citizendium mailing list and web forum members, Sanger said that a complete fork at launch was not a "foregone conclusion."[9] On January 18, 2007, Sanger announced that the pilot will, as an experiment, only carry articles that have been or will soon be worked on by Citizendium contributors, instead of a complete set of Wikipedia articles. He stated that the experiment "represents a reconception of our project's basic aim."[7]

No announcement has yet been made on Citizendium in languages other than English, but Sanger has stated in his essays that they may be forthcoming after the English language version is established and working successfully.

Project goal

The stated aim of the project is to create a "new compendium of knowledge" based on the contributions of "intellectuals," defined as "educated, thinking people who read about science or ideas regularly."[10] Citizendium hopes to foster an expert culture and a community that encourages subject specialists (presently named as "editors") to contribute, and "citizens" (to be called "authors") to "respect" the expert contributions (by what he referred to as a "gentle process of guidance").

An appeals process for disagreements between editors and authors, and between different editors, will be in place, according to a provisional "Citizendium Policy Outline" published by Sanger.[11] Experts will be required to verify their qualifications openly, for transparency and publicly accepted authority.[11] This contrasts with the open and largely anonymous nature of Wikipedia, where subject specialists have neither any verifiable special knowledge of their subject nor agreed special status. Sanger has stated that editors will not have pre-approval rights over edits by ordinary authors, though editors will have somewhat undefined authority over articles that fall within their specific area of expertise.

Reliability and perceived flaws of Wikipedia as a reference

See also: Reliability of Wikipedia
Many of Citizendium's proposed policies are attempts to correct perceived flaws in the original design and present public image of Wikipedia that have led to problems with Wikipedia's acceptance as a valid and trustworthy resource.[12] Some academics maintain that Wikipedia is a valuable starting point for knowledge but (as agreed by Jimmy Wales[13]) should not be used as a sole or primary source,[14] and citing Wikipedia is not accepted in some schools and universities in formal papers. Some educational institutions have blocked Wikipedia in the past while others have limited its use to only a pointer to external sources.[15]

Regarding Wikipedia's oft-cited problems, Sanger wrote that "this arguably dysfunctional community is extremely off-putting to … academics" and as such appears "committed to amateurism."[10]

Proposed policies and structure

Citizendium will only in rare instance allow anonymous editing, including possible proofreading by trusted copy editors, who have low-level authority to amend the texts for typographical, syntactical and grammatical errors etc. People will be asked to register under their real names with a working e-mail address, in order to participate. (Details of this process are still to be worked out. Problems with online safety and privacy are currently being addressed).

Sanger has stated that Citizendium administrators, or sysops, will be called "constables," and will need a bachelor's degree to qualify. Sanger has also suggested a minimum "maturity" requirement — 25 years of age — for constables.[11] The "head" constable will be the Chief Constable (Ruth Ifcher), and the head editor will be the Managing Editor.[16]

Recent comments by Sanger envision an Editor-in-Chief (Sanger himself) who will be the "main individual in charge," and who will be part of and answerable to a Board of Directors. There will also be Chief Subject Editors selected for each discipline treated in the encyclopedia. Sanger states that final decisions about management structure will not be made "until more of the (future) primary stakeholders are on the scene."[17] In a Citizendium blog entry of November 10 2006, constable Sarah Tuttle announced the formation of an "executive committee" consisting of herself, Sanger and eleven others, which will work on issues of "long term governance" of the project.[18]

Sanger has indicated that Citizendium articles will be subject to an "approval" process after they have achieved reasonable quality. A subject expert "editor" will select a version of the article to be identified as "approved". However, further editing of the article would be allowed, at least to some extent. If those further edits were judged by the editor to be improvements, a newer version of the article would be chosen as the approved version. This approval process appears to be a response by Sanger to criticisms from some members of the Citizendium mailing list and web forum that the new project would not be sufficiently controlled by experts. There will be a dispute-resolution process for disagreements about which version should be selected as "approved."[11]

In an October 26 post to the Citizendium web forum, then Managing Editor David Marshall indicated that the approved version of an article, if it exists, will be the default version displayed to a visitor to the site. If a contributor wishes to modify or add to the article, login will be necessary to work on the "dynamic wiki page" open to editing:

"All reader searches will auto-forward to the most recently approved version of the page (assuming that a version has been approved). Once at an approved page, the reader will be given the option to register/log in as an author and move to the dynamic wiki page in current use for development purposes."[19]

The project will be carried out under the auspices of the Citizendium Foundation,[16] although it is still phased under the Tides Center as an incubator project.[21]


Pilot project

The project was announced by Sanger on September 15, 2006, at the Wizards of OS 4 conference in Berlin. He gave no deadline for the full launch of the wiki.[22][23] However, on October 2, 2006, Sanger released a pilot project announcement that envisioned a fully functioning wiki within "one to two months."

In an apparent attempt to quicken the pace of the project, on October 2, 2006 Citizendium web forum moderator Peter Hitchmough suggested what he called an "alpha test" of the concept. Hitchmough proposed the forking of a limited number of Wikipedia articles to a site where Citizendium web forum and mailing list members could "rewrite a complete section" of Wikipedia content.[24]

Larry Sanger reacted enthusiastically to the idea and at first suggested his already existing Textop wiki as the site for the alpha test. Sanger later posted that Textop would not be a good choice, but showed continued interest in the proposal. He envisioned a "restricted-access" wiki where the idea could be tried and requested further discussion.[25]

No access to the pilot version of Citizendium, even read-only, was allowed to the general public. Sanger stated: "Only invited people will be able to view and edit the pilot project wiki."[26] Sanger also said that constables for the pilot project will be chosen by the chief constable.[27]

In a press release on October 17, Sanger announced: "the fledgling Citizendium Foundation will launch a six-week pilot project open to potential contributors by invitation". Several editors and other project leaders were named. It was also announced that the Citizendium Foundation had "started the process of applying for 501(c)(3) status" and had "received a firm commitment for a significant seed grant from a foundation, as well as small personal donations."[27] In a follow-up post to the press release, Sanger said that the initial group allowed access to the pilot would consist of "ten editors, three constables, six authors, and me."[28]

The pilot project began operations on October 23.[29] On November 8, Larry Sanger reported that 263 user names had access to the pilot wiki, 183 articles on the wiki were "live" (meaning "someone is or intends to be working on them") and there were about 300 total edits to the wiki on November 7.[30]

In a January 17, 2007 post to the Citizendium forum, Larry Sanger stated that "we have had only 10–20 (very) active people out of 500 accounts created." As a result, Sanger decided to delete all articles besides those marked "CZ live" from the pilot project in an attempt to motivate greater participation.[31] On January 22 Citizendium experimented with a new self-registration procedure: read/write access was granted automatically after creation of the account.[31] There were a few instances of vandalism after this change, though the vandalism was quickly reverted.[32] On January 19, Sanger announced the formal organization of Citizendium as a legal non-profit.[33]

On February 16, in response to rising site vandalism, automatic account creation[34] was put on hold while increased protections were being put in place to counter vandalism.[35] The next day, page moves were limited to constables as an additional measure against vandalism.[36] In addition, Sanger continued the process of un-forking Citizendium from Wikipedia by inviting contributors to delete any Wikipedia content that had changed only superficially since it was imported.

Citizendium goes live

On March 25, 2007, Citizendium ended its pilot phase and went live, into its beta phase, and the site became publicly readable.[37] The launch coincided with a feature-length Associated Press article that ran widely, with a title in USA Today of "Citizendium aims to be better Wikipedia."[38]

As of October 11, 2007, 42 articles have been approved[39] by the editors, which are:
As to the licensing terms of its content, the Citizendium main page says: "Articles that originated in part from Wikipedia are available under GNU Free Documentation License 1.2. All new articles will be available under an open content license yet to be determined."[40] A related topic discussed in the project is whether to use a non-commercial open content license, should the project decides to adopt a open content license other than GFDL.[41]

The day prior to launch, Sanger released an essay, "Why the Citizendium Will (Probably) Succeed" in which he stated that activity at Citizendium grew from 100 edits a day in the first month to over 500 prior to launch.[42] After the launch, on March 27, 2007 a press release quotes Sanger as saying "You don’t have to choose between content and accountability. We have shown that we can create open and credible content. We can, in fact, be open to all sorts of participants, but still hold people to higher standards of content and behavior as a community."[43]

Sometime after the launch, it was noted that Citizendium's family friendly policy would mean the project would likely tend to avoid articles on slang terms for sexual activity, and particularly explicit articles on sexual practices.[44] Citizendium has a "professionalism" policy for editors, which Larry Sanger said is different from most online communities.[45]

On June 29, 2007, Sanger announced via the project-wide mailing list what he dubbed "Citizendium 2.0". Characterizing his comments as a "project planning document", Sanger detailed a series of initiatives designed to launch Citizendium into its next phase of development. The document outlined plans for a judicial board, an advisory board, a personnel manager, a new chairman of the editorial council, wider participation in the project by volunteers, a system of subpages for articles, and an expanded article checklist.[46]


1. ^ Bergstein, Brian. "Sanger says he co-started Wikipedia", ABC News, Associated Press, March 25, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-03-26. “The nascent Web encyclopedia Citizendium springs from Larry Sanger, a philosophy Ph.D. who counts himself as a co-founder of Wikipedia, the site he now hopes to usurp. The claim doesn't seem particularly controversial - Sanger has long been cited as a co-founder. Yet the other founder, Jimmy Wales, isn't happy about it.  — Brian Bergstein.
2. ^ Moody, Glyn. "This time, it'll be a Wikipedia written by experts", The Guardian, July 13, 2006. Retrieved on 2007-03-25. “Larry Sanger seems to have a thing about free online encyclopedias. Although his main claim to fame is as the co-founder, along with Jimmy Wales, of Wikipedia, that is just one of several projects to produce large-scale, systematic stores of human knowledge he has been involved in. [Jimmy Wales] saw that I was essentially looking for employment online and he was looking for someone to lead Nupedia... Career: 1992-1996, 1997-1998 Graduate teaching associate, OSU; 2000-2002 Editor-in-chief, Nupedia; Co-founder and "chief organiser," Wikipedia. 
3. ^ Andrew Orlowski., The Register, September 18 2006.
4. ^ . Retrieved on 2007-09-15.
5. ^ Larry Sanger. "Co-Founder to Launch Edited Version of Wikipedia: Pilot Project for the Citizendium to Launch This Week",, October 17, 2006.
6. ^ "", Citizendium, August 1, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-08-01. 
7. ^ Larry Sanger. [ "OK, let's delete the Wikipedia articles (an experiment)"], Citizendium-l mail list, January 18, 2007.
8. ^ Larry Sanger. [ "Why we should fork all at once"], Citizendium-l mail list, September 29 2006.
9. ^ Larry Sanger. "Forking argument summary", Citizendium forum, September 29 2006.
10. ^ Larry Sanger. "Toward a New Compendium of Knowledge (longer version)", Citizendium.
11. ^ Larry Sanger. "Citizendium Policy Outline", Citizendium.

On the Citizendium blog, Sanger wrote this caveat about the provisional outline: "This is a work in progress. Therefore, I hope the Wikipedia article about the Citizendium will not say tomorrow that CZ will have features X, Y, and Z. These are in most cases negotiable policy ideas, a place for the invitees to the policy project to work from." Sanger also stated that future versions of the policy outline would be posted on the restricted-access pilot wiki: "The most current version will be available on the pilot project wiki. To see that, you’ll have to be a member of the pilot project."
12. ^ Youngwood, Susan. "Wikipedia: What do they know; when do they know it, and when can we trust it?", Vermont Sunday Magazine, Rutland Herald, April 1, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-04-05. “Perhaps the most important thing to understand about Wikipedia - both its genius and its Achilles heel - is that anyone can create or modify an entry. Anyone means your 10-year-old neighbor or a Nobel Prize winner - or an editor like me, who is itching to correct a grammar error in that Wikipedia entry that I just quoted. Entries can be edited by numerous people and be in constant flux. What you read now might change in five minutes. Five seconds, even.  — Susan Youngwood.
13. ^ "", The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 12, 2006. Retrieved on 2007-08-10. 
14. ^ Maggie Morris (2007-02-22). Expert: Wikipedia won't go away, so learn how to use it. Retrieved on 2007-08-09. “[Purdue University assistant professor Sorin] Matei recommends Wikipedia be used as a search engine that acts as a springboard to other resources and that it never be cited as a primary source of information.
15. ^ Chen, Lysa. "Several colleges push to ban Wikipedia as resource", The Chronicle Online, March 28, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-04-05. 
16. ^ Larry Sanger.
17. ^ Larry Sanger. "How should we manage growth?", Citizendium forum, October 2 2006.
18. ^ Sarah Tuttle. "Your executive committee", Citizendium blog, November 10 2006.
19. ^ David Marshall. "My ideas on presenting consistently high quality content", Citizendium forum, October 26 2006.
20. ^ Larry Sanger. [ "Constables, editors, and the Citizendium Foundation"], Citizendium-l mail list, September 23, 2006.
21. ^ Project Directory: Citizendium Foundation. The Tides Center. Retrieved on 2007-06-05.
22. ^ Larry Sanger. [ "Citizendium launch plan as of September 26"], Citizendium-l mail list, September 27 2006.
23. ^ WOS video stream containing Sanger's announcement
24. ^ Peter Hitchmough. "Proposal: Fork Wikipedia and launch with some A1-class model subjects", Citizendium forum, October 2 2006.
25. ^ Larry Sanger. [ "Administrivia: interesting pilot project proposal"], Citizendium-l mail list, October 2 2006.
26. ^ Larry Sanger. "Call for applications to participate in the Citizendium Pilot Project", Citizendium.
27. ^ Larry Sanger. [ "Pilot Project Application Review Procedure"], Citizendium-l mail list, November 13 2006.
28. ^ Larry Sanger. [ "Ad hoc steering group kicked off"], Citizendium-l mail list, October 18 2006.
29. ^ Jason Potkanski. [ "Developers Wanted: Open"], Citizendium-l mail list, October 23 2006.
30. ^ Larry Sanger. "Stats", Citizendium blog, November 8 2006.
31. ^ Larry Sanger. , Citizendium forum, January 17 2007.
32. ^ Citizendium pilot wiki. , January 23 2007.
33. ^ Larry Sanger. Upcoming announcements; your help requested, Citizendium-l mail list, January 19, 2007
34. ^ Larry Sanger. [ "Self-registration begins!"], Citizendium-l mail list, January 22, 2007. The first act of vandalism was carried out via an account named 'Chris Nguyen', to vandalise three pages including the main one and that of Larry Sanger, apparently before the announcement was made. The account was indefinitely blocked a little over half an hour after the first improper edit.
35. ^ Vandal Assault at the Citizendium Blog
36. ^ [ "Page moves now require constable help; and semi-automated hand-approval of new accounts?"], Citizendium-l mail list, February 17 2007
37. ^ Larry Sanger. "We have launched", Citizendium blog, March 25, 2007
38. ^ Bergstein, Brian (2007-03-25). Citizendium aims to be better Wikipedia. Associated Press. "This week, Sanger takes the wraps off a Wikipedia alternative, Citizendium. His goal is to capture Wikipedia's bustle but this time, avoid the vandalism and inconsistency that are its pitfalls." — Brian Bergstein.
39. ^ . Citizendium. Retrieved on 2007-10-11.
40. ^ . Citizendium. Retrieved on 2007-10-07.
41. ^ . Citizendium. Retrieved on 2007-10-07.
42. ^ Larry Sanger. "Why the Citizendium Will (Probably) Succeed", Citizendium, March 2007.
"Our activity has grown from 100 edits per day in the first month to over 500 prior to launch. Every day, a large variety of people from many fields sign on and do some work. This is all in a period in which the project has been visible only to those who have applied to the project. In addition, while it has received a fair bit of press, we have done very little in the way of recruitment--but with good results when we have. More aggressive recruitment is our trump card, which we haven't played."
43. ^ Larry Sanger. Citizendium Opens its Free Online Encyclopedia Project to the Public Citizendium, March 27, 2007.
"The modest success of our pilot project shows that there is hope that we can correct exactly the sort of abuses that people demonize Web 2.0 for,” said the project’s Editor-in-Chief, Wikipedia co-founder Dr. Larry Sanger. “You don’t have to choose between content and accountability. We have shown that we can create open and credible content. We can, in fact, be open to all sorts of participants, but still hold people to higher standards of content and behavior as a community."
44. ^ Sanger, Larry. "", Citizendium. Retrieved on 2007-06-07. “Probably, we will not have graphic depictions of the sex act or photographs of human sex organs; we will have few articles about pornography; we will not catalog every sex position and every fetish; we will not have gratuitous, and truly shocking and disgusting, pictures of gore (e.g., crime scene photos); and so forth. 
45. ^ Sanger, Larry. "", Citizendium. Retrieved on 2007-07-15. “The Citizendium differs significantly from other online communities in its commitment to professionalism--that is, professional behavior--and low tolerance for incivility and disruption. For there to be efficient content output and motivated contributors it is crucial that we all treat each other "professionally," and each other's work respectfully. 
46. ^ Larry Sanger (2007-06-29). [ Toward CZ 2.0]. Citizendium-l. Retrieved on 2007-06-29.

External links

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The idea to build a free encyclopedia using the Internet can be traced at least to the 1993 Interpedia proposal; it was planned as an encyclopedia on the Internet to which everyone could contribute materials.
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Lawrence Mark "Larry" Sanger (born July 16, 1968[1]) has been involved with various online encyclopedia projects. He is the former editor-in-chief of Nupedia, co-founder and chief organizer (2001-2002) of its successor, Wikipedia,[2][3][4]
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Citizenship is membership in a political community (originally a city or town but now usually a country) and carries with it rights to political participation; a person having such membership is a citizen.
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A compendium is a concise, yet comprehensive compilation of a body of knowledge. A compendium may summarize a larger work. In most cases the body of knowledge will concern some delimited field of human interest or endeavour (for example, hydrogeology), while a "universal"
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encyclopedia, or (traditionally) encyclopædia, is a written compendium that contains information on all branches of knowledge or a particular branch of knowledge.


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The word encyclopedia
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Lawrence Mark "Larry" Sanger (born July 16, 1968[1]) has been involved with various online encyclopedia projects. He is the former editor-in-chief of Nupedia, co-founder and chief organizer (2001-2002) of its successor, Wikipedia,[2][3][4]
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In software engineering, a project fork happens when developers take a copy of source code from one software package and start independent development on it, creating a distinct piece of software.
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October 17 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining.


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    In software engineering, a project fork happens when developers take a copy of source code from one software package and start independent development on it, creating a distinct piece of software.
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    GNU Free Documentation License (GNU FDL or simply GFDL) is a copyleft license for free documentation, designed by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) for the GNU project.
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    founded Lima, the capital of Peru.
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    intellectual is one who tries to use his or her intellect to work, study, reflect, speculate, or ask and answer questions about a wide variety of different ideas.

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    expert ( ) is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by their peers
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