Forum Talk:Management/Archive 2

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Current discussion

Has the project failed?

Statement (Copied from the talk page of User:Peter Schmitt)

Considering the state of CZ (number of active citizens) it should be clear that this is not the time for elections and referenda on formal issues or introducing new positions (Editor in Chief). Those who bravely keep the site running should admit that the project has failed, and that there is only one task left to complete: To close CZ in an orderly way and to find a permanent place where the complete database (including history, forum, etc.) will be kept accessible (possibly the internet archive,

Maybe there should be a place (a group or forum) where the fate of CZ can be discussed, the reasons for its failure can be analyzed, and ideas can be put forward how to realize successfully an alternative to WP.

Some points for such a discussion:

  • There is a need for a public domain encyclopedia certified by expert editors.
  • WP needs competition -- a monopole is never good.
  • One of the errors of CZ (though that may not have been clear from the beginning) was that it is not enough to add a few rules to the mechanics of WP. CZ was and is meant to work essentially like WP. Thus the result will either be very similar to WP, or (as it happened with CZ) the stronger project will dominate and eventually eliminate the weaker copy.

Peter Schmitt (talk) 23:41, 4 June 2016 (UTC)

Assuming for the sake of argument that CZ has failed, doesn't it make sense to determine why before deciding whether closing down is the appropriate response?
I seem to remember there is a Google group for discussion of CZ, intended to replace the old non-Citizens' forum. Of course you have to be a member of Google to join the group, but that's free, isn't it?
I agree with your first 2 bulleted points. Wikipedia has actually been declining since 2007, but there still isn't a serious general competitor (as distinct from specialist ones). I've been working to improve would-be competitors like this while leaving WP to its own devices for some time now.
On your 3rd point, have you got any more drastic changes in particular to suggest? Peter Jackson (talk) 08:48, 7 June 2016 (UTC)
I would not be so hasty to seek to close CZ. WP has also been suffering too. Have a read of these recent articles [1], [2], [3]. Perhaps there are some important lessons here for CZ. Firstly, DO NOT try and emulate, imitate or be a mirror of WP. If WP has problems, you will suffer the same. Second, be different, be distinctive, be what the internet wants. I guess that means we need to take a different strategy and appeal to users of mobile devices and smart phones. In other words make articles short, and concise and useable in the modern world. We must not abandon the goal of being more definitive and accurate than WP, but CZ must have relevancy. If the EiC's role does just that single thing ... make CZ relevant, then it will make the election/referenda worthwhile. Alan Horton (talk) 09:39, 7 June 2016 (UTC)
Reading the response from Jimmy Wales about the decline in traffic from Google to WP he says that he is not concerned and wants to improve the length and quality of articles. This goes against the "trend" for people to want "instant information" to their smart phones. So there's the "niche" for CZ ... articles written specifically for today's always on the go, always connected to the internet, phones surgically attached type of audience. Alan Horton (talk) 10:31, 7 June 2016 (UTC)
"short", like the one I wrote elsewhere: [4]? Is this appropriate for a site that's supposed to be representing experts? Peter Jackson (talk) 17:24, 9 June 2016 (UTC)
"short" is certainly not the way to go for an encyclopedia that wants to be taken seriously; however, the introductin to an article should serve as a summary that provides the basic information for the impatient user.
Concerning your link to WikiSage: This new project addresses two of the weak points that CZ has inherited from WP (neutrality and "original" research) but -- at least at first glance -- is still too much a clone of WP, with some similarity to CZ. Peter Schmitt (talk) 18:57, 17 June 2016 (UTC)
  1. On WP the intro is indeed supposed to do exactly as you recommend. (In practice, people often edit it independently of the main body of the article.) I suspect the great majority of WP's readers read the intro only, and maybe some bit(s) of the article they're particularly interested in.
  2. Here, though, there's a different policy: the intro is supposed to say what's important about the topic, not summarize it.
  3. Maybe you'd like to elaborate how you see NPOV and NOR as weak points on WP and here.
  4. Our neutrality policy isn't much different from theirs; in fact it's adapted from an earlier version of theirs. There are certainly problems over there in actually applying it. There's no one with authority to adjudicate, and the dispute resolution process isn't really fit for purpose on controversial topics. Here, the theory was that Editors would adjudicate, but in most cases, if there were a dispute, there wouldn't be a suitably qualified Editor available, so the Council (or ME) would be left to adjudicate.
  5. Our attitude to original research is more flexible. I was looking at their policy recently, and see it's extremely strict. With rare exceptions, anything not explicitly stated in reliable sources mustn't be stated, or even suggested, in WP articles. For example, if you find 2 sources that apparently contradict each other, but the later one doesn't actually say the earlier one is wrong, and you can't find a 3rd that says they contradict each other, then you're not supposed to say "According to ... However, according to ...", because use of the word "However" suggests disagreement. (PS Needless to say, this policy is often ignored.)
  6. WikiSage is (deliberately or not) a sort of hybrid of Wikipedia, Citizendium and Wikinfo methods:
    1. (from CZ) if an expert is available, they control the main article;
    2. (from WP) otherwise the main article is decided democratically;
    3. (from WI) in either case, anyone dissatisfied with the main article can attach to it a subpage giving their own POV.
Peter Jackson (talk) 09:47, 18 June 2016 (UTC)


ad (1)+(2) Both is possible, of course. I do not think that there is an explicit CZ policy on that. On the other hand, WP articles often contain much too much details which hide the important information. This material would better fit into extra articles (or subpages)

ad (3)+(4) That is a difficult issue. Facts have to be correct, of course. And I think that "objectivity" is a better term for the position tha an encyclopedia should take. However, there are many fields where strict neutral (or objective) articles lack useful and interesting information (religion, history, reviews of works of art, contested theories, ...).

ad (5) It makes no sense to exclude primary sources (often the best available!) and to insist on sources for every remark. An encyclopedia is not the place to publish new results, but why should an article not -- by bringing together material -- bring new insights?

ad (6) All three rely on the "wisdom of the crowd". This works well for building lists and collecting details. It does not work so well for writing good articles. But this is another story ... ;-)

Peter Schmitt (talk) 11:50, 21 June 2016 (UTC)

To try to fix ideas, I've just had a look at the WP neutrality policy. It boils down to 3 points:
  1. clearly and accurately distinguish between facts and opinions
  2. avoid biased language
  3. give different POVs due weight corresponding to their prominence in "reliable sources".
Peter Jackson (talk) 09:52, 25 June 2016 (UTC)
CZ policy doesn't seem much different. Print encyclopaedias, on the other hand, don't seem to feel bound by such principles.
Maybe you could clarify your own ideas in relation to this. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:59, 25 June 2016 (UTC)
"However, there are many fields where strict neutral (or objective) articles lack useful and interesting information (religion, history, reviews of works of art, contested theories, ...)." There's already provision for expert signed subpages exempt from neutrality, isn't there? I'm not sure it's ever actually been used, though. Peter Jackson (talk) 08:52, 28 June 2016 (UTC)

There is the non-member Google group, which may be used by non-members. John Stephenson (talk) 14:30, 7 June 2016 (UTC)

Why close CZ?

When CZ was started it was a project with an interesting concept and as such attracted some attentation. However, it did not really get off and never came near to its (far too) ambitious goals. On the contrary, it soon began to decline and never recovered in spite of all the efforts made to save it. In the meantime it should be clear that CZ does not work as intended. Something is wrong (mechanics, rules), and it would require major changes and huge efforts to relaunch the project with some chances of success. However, a person with the means and the energy to achieve this (is there such a person?) would be better off to start a *new* project from the scratch that does not suffer from the (now) bad reputation of CZ, and that does not need to be completely reformed.

(When CZ is completely archived -- the whole database and all additional material -- then it could, if desired, be revived any time.)

Peter Schmitt (talk) 23:50, 24 June 2016 (UTC)

I can only repeat what I said before: it seems reasonable to me to try to understand what the problem(s) is/are before deciding what to do about it. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:49, 25 June 2016 (UTC)
Peter, I'll come to that later. I have already made some general remarks above. I do not have the patience for extensive answers now. in particular, since interest in such a discussion seems to be quite limited. I'll deal with this item per item. Peter Schmitt (talk) 13:33, 25 June 2016 (UTC)
Dear Citizens, since I am not a native English speaker I have never contributed to CZ, waiting for it to take off to the next phase of opening up for other languages. Every now and then I visited CZ to see how it's doing. I am visiting it today, again, and my heart is bleeding when I see that you are actually discussing shutting the whole enterprise down.
Please let me tell you that I believe that indeed there is a space for a new encyclopedia, other than Wikipedia. A lot has changed since WP inception - we now have all the online courses, forums such as StackOverflow, open access books and illegal sites such as LibraryGenesis and Sci-Hub. And yet all this becomes more scattered and chaotic with every minute. There has always been a need to organise our knowledge. And anyone can try working on her own - but we will do it on our small private web sites, our small free publications, just adding to disorganisation. The alternative is that people could work under one name, be it CZ or some other name.
My friend who works in marketing says that it's always easier to improve an already existing brand than creating a new one.
I would be very sorry to see CZ getting closed. I understand how bad it feels when there is no success. I would wish that CZ gravitates towards Larousse encyclopedias, or develops into collections such as Oxford Manuals. Oxford Manuals are great, but too long to read the whole thing when you just want to get the basic idea who eg Spinoza was. It's very nice that there are very specialised articles here on very specific topics, but what is really necessary is to write short books and essays on general subjects, such as History of Europe, Mathematics, Western Philosophy, Nutrition etc.
The expectation was that CZ would just miraculously and spontanously become what WP is today, but since the human base is different in this project, it requires more marketing, more direct encouragement, more promotion. I got here because of the book by Andrew Keen. Otherwise I have never heard of CZ. Why do we assume others would?
My heart remains with CZ. Piotr Łukasz (talk) 14:11, 26 June 2016 (UTC)
Thank you for your support, Piotr. (And please feel free to edit in English!) It's also worth reminding ourselves of those non-members who read our site, link to us, 'like' us on social media, retweet us, and so on. CZ does get used to a modest degree despite the lack of much promotion over the last few years. As for shutting down: this volunteer project costs us about a hundred bucks a month to run, and there are ways to reduce that still further. Why would we want to stop? Even if it's eternally a hobby site for a few enthusiasts, that's better than nothing at all, and we can gradually reform and expand over time. It needs very few people to keep the site ticking over. Also, other than democratic processes, we have two important policies that distinguish us from the competition: verified real names and Editor oversight. There is no reason to throw those away. I think there is a place for CZ as an active source of free knowledge, rather than just as a static archive. John Stephenson (talk) 19:42, 26 June 2016 (UTC)
I fully agree with you, Piotr. And, yes, of course, John, there is nothing to say against "a hobby site for a few enthusiasts". But as such it will never achieve what we want it to be (and what it was founded for). A few years ago -- CZ was already developing rather moderately, only -- I still had hopes, but in spite of some efforts made it did not improve. CZ would need, as you said, Piotr, intensive marketing to recover, and some radical changes. Unlike you, I think that it would be far easier to found a new site (with the same objective), but I may be wrong. Peter Schmitt (talk) 23:48, 26 June 2016 (UTC)
Regardless of whether it's a better idea to continue with CZ or to start a new site, I think a good first step would be for CZ's leaders to admit that, as originally conceived, CZ has failed and is highly unlikely ever to meet its original goals. There's nothing wrong with CZ being a hobby site for a few enthusiasts; however, its original goals can get in the way. To take one example, our governance structure is appropriate for a site with 500 regular contributors, not 10. I think that admitting that the original goals are unattainable is the first step to a better CZ. James Yolkowski (talk) 02:34, 27 June 2016 (UTC)

For what it's worth: When I first looked at CZ I was looking at the article on Civil Society, which I found was infinitely better than the equivalent one on Wikipedia. It was informative, well-organised, and clearly authoritative, whereas Wikipedia's was the usual jumble, and uninformative at that. However, if I had happened to look at some of the other articles here, I would not have continued to use the website. Anyone who first came across some of the inept or half-started articles we have here would not get a good impression. I know it is no use proposing a remedy, because I have learnt that even if it is agreed, nothing will actually happen — and that, I think, probably applies to the idea of a new start. I suppose I just remain one of the hobbyists that James Yolkowski refers to (but, I hope, of a reasonable standard.) --Martin Wyatt (talk) 19:07, 27 June 2016 (UTC)

While I agree with James' observation about the failure of the original idea, I don't necessarily agree with the demand to formally or officially recognising it. What would it change? Everyone sees it, the statistics speak about it loudly. The qovernance and procedures are blown out of proportion, that's true. A motion about the failure just seems like perpetuating the beaurocratic impossibilism.
Moreover, CZ played its important role at a certan moment, and drew attention of many people to the problems that Wikipedia obviously had and maybe changed it for better. Certain articles were copied to Wikipedia. That's all together a bit better than calling CZ a complete failure.
I have been an active editor of Wikipedia for over 10 years now. Its growth has slowed down significantly over the last years, number of editors plummeted for a couple of reasons, but mainly:
1) the gerenal feeling is that Everything is already in Wikipedia,
2) NONE of my friends know that you actually can edit Wikipedia or how to do it (because it's more complicated than handling your Facebook account?),
3) it is extremely difficult to improve style of long and poorly written articles because that requires a lot of dramatical changes that would be recognised as vandalism.
With your permission - I would reiterate that whether CZ keeps its name or starts anew, it should focus on creating well written summaries/guides to specific topics. Once you have a couple of useful, well written, reviewed essays and handbooks (compendium is a part of CZ name!), people would come for their sake, and around that there could emerge small encyclopedic articles supplementing the main text. On-line publication has many adventages over aforementioned printed, static Oxford or Routledge Handbooks. My vision also includes: freely accessible peer reviewd articles and book reviews and "virtual conferences" with submitted papers and recorded video presentations. That, of course, changes the nature of CZ. It would demand a different way of working, especially editorial work and lots of PR+marketing to make CZ brand prestigious.
The argument for sticking to Citizendium name, most importantly, is that the Internet is a place of ephemeral beings - CZ's history is long enough to be valuable just for the fact that it has been arount for so long. Changing the profile of activity does not mean that the original goal has to be changed. There is a vast base of registered editors that we can try to go back to. There is the technical base and paying contributors that have kept CZ running. There is the interesting legacy of dispute between Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. Starting from absolutely zero is much much harder. On the top that all, you have no idea how many more people like me are just around the corner, lurking, hoping, remembering, being upset about WP and waiting for something else. Piotr Łukasz (talk) 21:05, 27 June 2016 (UTC)

Why didn't it work?

(1) WP fork. CZ was started as a fork of WP. This turned out as a mistake. Attempts to remedy this by deleting many articles were not completely successfull. Traces of articles inherited from WP are still present -- and they are not to WP's advantage. (Remark. Trying to reform WP might lead to similar problems.) Peter Schmitt (talk) 23:22, 27 June 2016 (UTC)

I joined precisely because it was a fork, and many others did too. When it was de-forked, it instantly killed us as a viable encyclopedia. A third way might have been to copy over articles that Wikipedians have rated 'good', or articles on priority topics, to at least plug gaps. Anything from WP can always be cleaned up or replaced. John Stephenson (talk) 12:15, 28 June 2016 (UTC)
It was (and is) a mistake to expect that a reliable encyclopedia of high quality can be created "by copying and improving", and that it will grow (almost as) quickly (as WP). Excellent or good articles have to be written from scratch. Quantity is easier to collect than quality can be generated. One has to allow (arbitrarily large) gaps rather than present mediocre (or even worse) material on a site that promises quality. Peter Schmitt (talk) 23:43, 28 June 2016 (UTC)
I agree. WP puts quantity before quality. We must do the opposite.
I'm not sure we could trust WP's assessment of "good" articles. Maybe I'll have a look at some and report back. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:00, 30 June 2016 (UTC)
Their "good" article Papal conclave includes a whole section with an original research tag, as well as some smaller-scale problems. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:47, 2 July 2016 (UTC)

(2) WP mechanics. Except for the additions of real names, editors, and constables, the rules and mechanics of WP were copied. Everyone can edit every article anytime, even "approved" articles are meant to be constantly improved by anybody. As WP shows, such articles usually grow into huge collections of facts (hopefully, correct ones) but not into good articles. The idea that articles are written by the "wisdom of the crowd" and approved by experts did not work as hoped (imagined). Good articles are written by experts who have a concept and know how to organize the material and what to include (and what not). The article Civil Society (mentioned above by Martin) is a good example: It has only one (main) author. Peter Schmitt (talk) 23:54, 27 June 2016 (UTC)

"even "approved" articles are meant to be constantly improved by anybody": that wasn't originally so. Approved articles were frozen. At some point, not too long ago, it was decided, by referendum I think, to relegate the approved articles to subpage status, with the main article, as you say, subject to change by anybody. I opposed that change as I think it demotes the authority of Editors, which is a major part of the site's identity.
Even then every user was invited "to improve" the draft -- not only by correcting facts or typos, but also by completely rewriting parts of the article. (And it was irritatingly difficult to re-approve an article in order to correct a simple typo.) Peter Schmitt (talk) 00:04, 29 June 2016 (UTC)
Yes, but only the draft. The main article stayed frozen. Too much so, as you say. I suggested some time ago that Editors approving an article should specify a time limit, appropriate to the topic, after which the approval would lapse. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:03, 30 June 2016 (UTC)
"Good articles are written by experts who have a concept and know how to organize the material and what to include (and what not)." There's already a site for that, Scholarpedia, which I think you contribute to. In theory, if we had WP's personnel, we could improve on that, because I can say from my own studies that scholars are often unaware of each other's work, except perhaps in a very narrow specialization. In theory, a vast army of volunteers could search the international scholarly literature more completely and remedy that. Peter Jackson (talk) 08:49, 28 June 2016 (UTC)
Of course there are scholars who cannot write a good expository article (but there are others who do), and by "experts" I do not mean only scholars. Collecting facts by searching the literature does not necessarily produce a good article -- it needs a good understanding of the field, too. Therefore, many student papers would not make a good article for an encyclopedia -- only the best would. Peter Schmitt (talk) 00:04, 29 June 2016 (UTC)
Now, to address the actual question heading this section. I don't think this should be looked at in isolation: it's not just CZ that's been declining. WP has too. Participation now is about half the peak level in 2007. It seems to me, in fact, that there's no prospect of WP's achieving its aim. It's succeeded in creating an enormous and exponentially growing curate's egg. It's logistically impossible for a decreasing number of editors to maintain, let alone improve, an increasing number of articles. Just recently someone carried out a survey of a selection of random articles and found that an average of 70% was unsourced ([5]). You could add to that unknown proportions of cases where the source
  1. isn't reliable
  2. doesn't say what the article says it says
  3. is out of date
  4. represents one POV and is contradicted by other RSs
All these things happen quite a lot. WP's requirement for "consensus" makes it extremely hard to make any serious changes. I can't see them sorting out their problems themselves, and WMF aren't likely to intervene unless serious competition forces them to. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:05, 28 June 2016 (UTC)
Isn't this even more true for CZ? Even much less active contributors, and almost nobody to intervene in critical cases? Peter Schmitt (talk) 00:04, 29 June 2016 (UTC)

I can only agree. Piotr Łukasz (talk) 10:03, 28 June 2016 (UTC)
Your indentation implies you're agreeing with me, but maybe you're agreeing with Peter. Anyway, our policy on citations is different: we don't generally require them. Maybe that's worse, but maybe it's better, as WP misleads readers by spurious citations of the sorts I just mentioned. Maybe we should adopt a policy that all statements in our articles should either have a citation or be approved by an Editor. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:08, 30 June 2016 (UTC)

(3) Design. CZ design (i.e. colours, position of the links, cathegories etc.) closely resembles that of WP. This creates the effect in the user that she expects it to be Wikipedia (that is to say: comprehensive, "complete"). When she sees that there's less content here, she thinks: "this is some stupid clone of WP. Take me home!". proposed solution: present only the citable articles, re-design the home page so it looks less like a wiki, focus on compendium articles, review what kind of expertise our current editors have, create a publishing plan/pipeline. Get rid of dead links (like the blog...) Piotr Łukasz (talk) 10:03, 28 June 2016 (UTC)

But if you cut down what's publicly viewable to citable articles only, that makes it less likely that people will find us or want to edit what they find. Often people join because they've seen an undeveloped article or a gap that they want to edit. Also, we used to have a different MediaWiki skin, but it's no longer compatible with the software and people complained about the design anyway. John Stephenson (talk) 12:15, 28 June 2016 (UTC)
Every poor article is a negative advertisment for an encyclopedia that wants to offer reliable quality. CZ (or a successor) does not need users who want to add or change a few sentences of a poor article but authors who are willing to contribute a thoughtful and well-developed article. It has to start with zero articles and grow one-by-one by articles considered as suitable, probably best "published" as well-formated pdf-files. Peter Schmitt (talk) 00:33, 29 June 2016 (UTC)

(4) Community building. People left CZ. But also the good question is - why CZ left the people. proposed solution: there needs to be a lot of focus on talking to authors and encouraging them to seriously devote their time to write, help them in the process, encourage them, and give them gratification - they participate in a great project! if you write for us, that's an honour. There's plenty of graduates who apply for PhD, they need publications. There's plenty of seminar papers out there. There are student conferences. There are scientist who wait very long to be published. There are tons of PhDs that never get published. We should reach out to them all, they most often have a chapter with reviewing the current state of research in their respective fields, those are ready made articles. Piotr Łukasz (talk) 10:03, 28 June 2016 (UTC)

A few years ago I started an outreach programme on my own initiative. I contacted lots of inactive Editors and invited them back. A few people returned, made a handful of edits and disappeared. Mostly, it reminded people that they had one more public bio out there: they came and edited that, then left. We have to give people an incentive to stick around, other than just knowing that their work will be public somewhere. Revolving-door membership is typical for wikis and is only sustainable on Wikipedia because of their vast number of editors. John Stephenson (talk) 12:15, 28 June 2016 (UTC)
Another idea I remember discussing before: a lower grade of approval given by the Council or anyone delegated by them, rather than Editors. As long as the difference is made clear to the reader I see no objection. This would give authors a realistic target in the absence of a suitable Editor, and the prospect of a "reward" might encourage more contributions. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:13, 30 June 2016 (UTC)
Of course, contributors are necessary and welcome. However, lowering criteria to get more contributors is wrong. A reliable encyclopedia can only be built using a reliable and trustworthy refereeing procedure. Peter Schmitt (talk) 16:30, 1 July 2016 (UTC)
I'm not suggesting "lowering" criteria. Rather, each article would include a clear and prominent notice at the top saying what its status is. Some would be expert approved, some would have some lower degree(s) of endorsement, some would have none at all. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:51, 2 July 2016 (UTC)

(5) Bureaucracy. The focus on processes has dominated CZ culture in a bad way. What was ment to be CZ's virtue turned to be its original sin. Because the editorial procedures were exactly what was ment to differenciate CZ from WP, all the other things are the same. The energy has been lost on governance instead of on content creation. proposed solution: Since there are so few contributors at the moment there needs to be more strong leadership/dictatorship. Discussing everything in detail is ineffective for the decision making process. We should be united by vision, divide tasks and delegate, set goals, periodically review what was done and achieved. If the feeling is that CZ is dead, make the decision by the end of next month, clean up, shut down and get all aboard on a new boat. In order to change anything you have to make changes, otherwise you're in the same place. And if the decision is to stay with CZ, draft the new vision by the end of the next month and execute. If we are unable do that by the end of July, it means it's not worth our effort. Piotr Łukasz (talk) 10:03, 28 June 2016 (UTC)

Any major change, such as closing down, needs 2/3 in a referendum, which would take more than a month. Modest changes might be made by the Council. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:15, 30 June 2016 (UTC)

(5) The Charter

When the Charter was drafted we all thought that it would help to develop CZ towards our ambitious goals -- we were still optimistic. There were some compromises (caused by the personal clashes mentioned elsewhere), but essentially it codified the initial model of CZ, i.e., WP plus some extras, and thereby -- as I see it now -- "conserving" the initial flaws and introducing new ones. Par example: democratic procedures are suitable for some things, but not for all. First the EC prohibited the import of articles from WP, then this decision was overruled by a referendum. Now, another referendum or council decision could prohibit such imports again. And so on. This is bad: Basic principles have to be stable. With the Charter a group of new users could (if large enough) completely change the policy of CZ. But a site has to remain stable -- its signature characteristics must be fixed -- or it cannot be trusted. Peter Schmitt (talk) 22:48, 1 July 2016 (UTC)

(6) Editors

At first sight, the concept of Editors and approval seems to be the perfect means to build a reliable compendium. Experts "guide" authors who develop articles that later are "approved" by them. But CZ practice proved that this does not work as intended -- even if enough Editors were available. In general, authors often do not like to be guided, and experts do not want to "guide" resisting authors because this is more work than writing the article. Moreover, experts do not like to approve articles that they would write differently, and two experts may have very different views how a "good" article should look like. Peter Schmitt (talk) 23:57, 1 July 2016 (UTC)

On governance and proposing changes

I think it is important to avoid confusing previous governance with the current system we have. Years ago, people who are mostly no longer around proposed rather elaborate governance structures because they thought they were preparing for a time when CZ would explode in popularity. We have spent the last several years hacking that back to something more appropriate. To summarise: there are four elected positions (one vacant as of 1st July), one active sysop/administrator (me), one Treasurer, and two Technical Staff members. That's not a bloated governance structure. There's a lot of out-of-date commentary about 'bureaucracy' out there.

Ask yourself the following:

  • When was the last time I was told couldn't do something on CZ because of a rule?
  • When was the last time an official managerial or content decision went against me?
  • When was the last time my comments were suppressed by an official?
  • When was the last time my work was vandalised?

Actually, CZ is an environment where people can just potter away at what they enjoy editing. That's a problem, but several previous attempts to prioritise important subjects ('Top Articles', 'Core Articles'...) have failed.

Initially, CZ was a very busy project. Its membership declined not because of fundamental flaws in its model but because of a series of personality clashes and poor managerial decisions. We spent years with the consequences of allowing cranks to get a foothold, even though once democracy was introduced, the first thing the community did was vote to get rid of the structure that had allowed the pseudoscience. Today, most of us are pretty skeptical. But the damage was done.

As Martin has referred to, it is easy to propose far-reaching changes to the project if you don't intend to get involved. I find it puzzling that calls for a new approach often ignore the most obvious way to begin long-term change on Citizendium: participating in our annual elections. We should have been having this debate a month ago.

As of 1st July there won't be a Managing Editor in place, but thanks to contingency plans we previously came together and approved, the Council can appoint someone for a period of one year. If you want change and you're an Editor, ask them to consider you. If you're not an Editor, find one who you can persuade of your ideas and back them strongly to put themselves forward.

Otherwise, in the absence of any agreement over what to do next, we will by default continue as a wiki. Our focus may narrow over the next years. The first steps are getting the wiki working properly and possibly cutting costs. I know that the Tech Staff have been looking into this. We also need to address making the site more user-friendly. (WYSIWYG editing, anyone?) After that, we could look at a relaunch. John Stephenson (talk) 12:15, 28 June 2016 (UTC)

"contingency plans"? Can't find that particular one in the Charter. Nor for that matter mention of ME's membership of Council. Are there some referendum decisions you haven't incorporated yet? (I assume it's your job.) Peter Jackson (talk) 09:18, 30 June 2016 (UTC)
See the Talk page for referendum 4, 2015. That added the ME to the Council as a voting member and exceeded the two-thirds majority but... wasn't submitted as a Charter-modifying referendum. We had a debate about it back then which remains unresolved. (I am going to ask the new Council about this.) The stuff about appointments was added, as you'll see if you trawl through Article 25. As the Charter is vague about how its membership is determined, there doesn't seem to be a barrier to the ME being on the Council, nor being appointed by the Council for an interim period. The only 2016 referendum outstanding is on the Constabulary because that was written to take effect on 1st July. And no, it's not my job, but I'm the only one around to do it. John Stephenson (talk) 19:23, 30 June 2016 (UTC)
Thanks. I've found it in 25, as you say. Right at the end. In the section on council size.
It seems a bit unsatisfactory to do it that way in this particular case. I think we'd all vaguely expected Anthony to go on for ever, and we had only a short period of notice. I think there should be one attempt at another election to give reasonable time to find possible candidates. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:05, 1 July 2016 (UTC)
"Its membership declined not because of fundamental flaws in its model but because of a series of personality clashes and poor managerial decisions." I do not agree with this statement. There are fundamental flaws, and they became obvious by the "personal clashes"
"I think it is important to avoid confusing previous governance with the current system we have." The truth is that currently there is no governance at all. There are 3 people who keep the site running, and about a dozen who edit their articles. These few can make any changes they want, but no change will affect how CZ is seen by the internet community unless someone manages to organize a visible and believable restart. And do you know a person who could and would do this? Peter Schmitt (talk) 15:49, 1 July 2016 (UTC)
I don't want to be rude, Peter, but until today you were continuously a member of the Council and its predecessors going back to 2010. You were in a position to push for changes. John Stephenson (talk) 16:57, 1 July 2016 (UTC)
It is not unfair that you mention this, John. However, I know that I do not have the temperament and means for this task. I clearly said so (and did not promise anything) in my statements of 1912 and 1914 where I expressed similar arguments as now. Peter Schmitt (talk) 18:06, 1 July 2016 (UTC)
I forgot to add that I do not demand anything from those keeping CZ going. But it is my impression that, unfortunately, they too are not in a position to revive it. Peter Schmitt (talk) 21:28, 1 July 2016 (UTC)


Peter and I agree that monopoly is a bad thing, that WP needs competition. Here's a brief attempt at a survey.

  1. print: Britannica is out of print, other multi-volumers presumably will follow or have already done so; there are many 1-volumers, but necessarily of limited scope
  2. Britannica Online is non-free
  3. many WP mirrors
  4. many specialist sites, from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy to Doctor Who wiki
  5. POV sites like Conservapedia
  6. CZ
  7. its predecessor, Digital Universe, whence Larry came here (not mentioned in his WP article); experts in charge, but other contributions allowed; still on line, but what seems to be a recent cahnges list on the main page has nothing after 2010
  8. Wikinfo, based on POV forking, and allowing original research & creative writing; declining, like WP & CZ
  9. Wikisage: originally Dutch; English branch small and new
  10. Everything2: seems to be based on the principle that anyone can add anything they like & the PTB can delete anything they like; looks pretty disorganized
  11. Google Knowledge Graphs actually produced a substantial drop in WP page views, so this is the only competition that seems to have been particularly effective; quantity limited, quality maybe not too good
  12. Scholarpedia: peer-reviewed articles by experts; mainly confined to a fairly small number of specialities
  13. ...?

Peter Jackson (talk) 15:26, 4 July 2016 (UTC)


Not sure whether this is the right page; feel free to move.

[6] may be of importance (or not). Peter Jackson (talk) 09:49, 30 July 2016 (UTC)

The writer is mistaken about search engines: Citizendium doesn't request them to ignore draft articles. You can see what is blocked in our robots.txt file. It seems what happened is that the writer declined a different version of the article on Wikipedia and then someone subsequently copied the CZ article in its place. John Stephenson (talk) 13:35, 31 July 2016 (UTC)

Oh Oh - I'm back, but now this place is half dead? OR: Why NOT close CZ

Hi What's the status quo now?

I gave up on contributing to Wikipedia as it's slowly but surely going downhill - it's degrading itself from an unbiased knowledge base to a (pretended) "mainstream" view opinion site.

Yesterday I also checked out Scholarpedia, only to notice two misleading errors in the very first sentence of the first article that I looked at.

Therefore I came back here, after almost 10 years absence, to see how things are going and with the intention to finally start contributing. Of the two articles that I looked at, one had not been worked at since I suggested improvements (I admit, I probably should have made them but I had my reasons, see my Talk page), and another one that I found to be well written and at first sight much more factual than the corresponding one of Wikipedia (Wikipedia starts out by pretending that a much disputed claim is an undisputed fact).

I also checked out a few police pages which look good to me. But this place looked extremely calm to me, and non-protection(?) of passwords doesn't look good. and so I came to this page.

What now? Is it still possible to revive Citizendium? I do think that there is room for a reliable source of general information. Harald van Lintel (talk) 17:56, 10 May 2017 (UTC)

I was amused by the heading. The answer to the first question in the heading is: Yes, but only half. The answer to the second one is: for the reasons you give. --Martin Wyatt (talk) 20:34, 10 May 2017 (UTC)
I'm not sure WP was ever "an unbiased knowledge base", but I agree it's getting worse, largely, I suspect, because of declining contribution rates. Reasonable, unbiased editors are more likely to leave than propagandists, so the latter tend to wield ever-increasing influence. Just the other day, someone was complaining on JW's talk page about whitewashing in articles about dictators. Presumably there are no longer enough people staying to fight their stooges.
In relation to your comments about the JFK assassination article, our policy is to emphasize what reputable historians say. I don't know what that is. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:54, 11 May 2017 (UTC)
The best way you can help Citizendium is to return to active duty and write original articles and edit existing articles. That is, share your knowledge. Also, recruit your knowledgeable colleagues to join CZ and contribute their knowledge. Anthony.Sebastian (talk) 20:28, 12 May 2017 (UTC)
Another reason to contribute is that we do avoid stuff like this - over at Wikipedia, this case has involved a lengthy investigation, dozens of volunteers, and presumably no end in sight. Here it's all been over in hours. It might be quiet on CZ, but these days there's less drama. :) John Stephenson (talk) 21:45, 13 May 2017 (UTC)

Some Friendly Suggestions

Just some friendly suggestions here from an editor who loved my time at Citizendium and would like to see it succeed even though I run my own wikis ( and Why not implement an email update system to keep users involved? Maybe put social share buttons on wiki pages too. In other words, send emails alerting editors when pages on their watch list are updated, and then make slight updates to pages so that users who edited them will be notified. You need a system to keep editors actively involved.

Likewise with social share buttons for pages, it would encourage sharing of pages on social media to foster more involvement. For the time being, I would recommend sending out a site-wide notification via email on a topic to get people interested in editing again. Something like that could get your community running again.

You should have some database file with user email addresses somewhere. What's needed is a way to email them all about the wiki while letting them opt out of future communications. You have roughly 10,000 editors. Many have probably just forgotten about the project and need to be reminded, given that it doesn't show up well in search engine rankings (which is another related issue that needs serious addressing-SEO needs to be improved to attract and retain editors).

I don't want to give away all my ideas on SEO rankings, but Attracta and Google's Search Console are good starting points. Increasing the number of sites linking in always helps too. People may love the idea of Citizendium, but they want a project that will be highly visible and visited, and that requires serious search engine optimization and social sharing-which is another idea. A campaign to post Citizendium links across the web, if participated in by Citizendium editors, would boost its search engine rankings. Just a thought. --Joshua Zambrano (talk) 05:28, 9 March 2019 (UTC)

Also, I will suggest that you should consider mass importing Wikipedia pages if there are no existing pages on the subject, particularly pages with higher quality (well-sourced, no typos, etc.), and then adapting them to quickly improve article count. Wikipedia does not own the content, it is the result of millions of people working together to contribute knowledge to the public domain, and indeed some pages contain contributions from users who were blocked under Wikipedia's tyrannical administration. Right now you have less than 200,000 articles and this would be a way to quickly get up to speed as an alternative to Wikipedia. --Joshua Zambrano (talk) 05:49, 9 March 2019 (UTC)
A simple way to mass export pages would be to use the Export pages function here and then export categories with the most articles. I will be rooting for Citizendium and may drop by occasionally to contribute. --Joshua Zambrano (talk) 05:54, 9 March 2019 (UTC)
To find categories here with over 1,000 articles that could be easily chosen for import priority, you could run a search like this showing 5,000 categories at a time. Then use CTRL+F to search for "," which will show all places where commas are used on the page. Since categories with over 1,000 pages in them will have commas, this will quickly help you find categories with 1,000 or more pages. For example the categories "C-Class" Wikipedia books‏‎, "Related ethnic groups" needing confirmation, and "Start-Class" Wikipedia books all have 1,000+ pages and could be prioritized. I would particularly suggest importing the Good_articles category that has high-quality pages. --Joshua Zambrano (talk) 06:07, 9 March 2019 (UTC)
There might also be a way to import even quicker using top-level parent categories like those here. --Joshua Zambrano (talk) 06:13, 9 March 2019 (UTC)

I'm not at all well up on the technical stuff. We did have an email notification system, but I don't think it works any more. As to watchlists, I've generally found it impossible to override the defaults. They keep adding every page I edit to my watchlist but not sending me email notifications of changes to them. (Not just this site.)

You can import WP articles here, I think. That is, as far as I recall, that's the policy last adopted. I don't personally think mass importing is a good idea. One of WP's problems (here too) is declining editor input to maintain ever increasing numbers of articles. That inevitably means decline in quality. Some articles are years out of date, for example. I prefer emphasizing quality rather than quantity here. That would help differentiae us.

Just as a curiosity, your site name DefendingConservatism sounds ambiguous, since, as I understand it, your position is conservative in religion but not in politics (using the terms in their American senses). Peter Jackson (talk) 11:19, 9 March 2019 (UTC)

Right now, I think what Citizendium needs is notoriety, not differentiation. That means more pages and more Google search results. Wikipedia's declining editor base is due to its censorship. However, nearly all of its content is produced by just 1% of its editors, people who write a ton of material. According to Vice, "roughly 40 percent of the top 1 percent of editors bow out about every five weeks." Those are the types of editors you'd need to attract.
A major reason editors join Wikipedia is to make a difference in a prominent, well-known site that is publicly visible. Citizendium with so few articles and low search rankings just will not be primed to attract those editors unless it improves page quantity and search rankings.
My website, Defending Conservatism, is conservative on both religion and politics. --Joshua Zambrano (talk) 12:53, 9 April 2019 (UTC)

Mass importation of WP articles wouldn't help our search profile, as the search engines automatically filter out WP mirrors.

As to "censorship", our content policy is much the same as theirs. The sort of material you want to include is against our policy as well as theirs, as giving undue weight to POVs outside the academic mainstream. The difference is in enforcement: here, enforcement of content policy is a matter for expert Editors, who don't show up much; there, it's a matter for the "community", who often do enforce it, though they often don't too (which is why I left). Wikinfo & Wikisage do make provision for non-mainstream POVs, but they're even smaller than this site. Peter Jackson (talk) 16:40, 11 April 2019 (UTC)

I am not aware of search engines automatically filtering out WP mirrors, but I would think adding additional material after importing to avoid identicality would resolve that.
And what sort of material do you think I want to include? I am perfectly content with my own sites right now at and, and protective enough of my writing that I haven't done any editing elsewhere for a while now. If you check my contributions, you'll see I've authored some objective, fact-focused research pertaining, for example, to the Documentary Hypothesis. What writing I did here stuck strictly to facts and avoided POV.
The whole reason I left Wikipedia, by the way, is because they refused to mention Obama's well-covered controversy of letting babies die without medical care, or some of the corruption scandals he was in with Alice Palmer, Tony Rezko, and Emil Jones. The entire wiki has a wide-ranging conspiracy just to prevent that one issue, the Born Alive controversy, from being mentioned anywhere on Wikipedia. The proposed changes that I made which got me banned were these.[7] Anyway, I have since provided a full research page on the topic here.
At any rate, I was just dropping by to offer some friendly advice for Citizendium. Although I'm fully capable of writing from an NPOV viewpoint (and have quite a bit in the past), I prefer writing from a conservative viewpoint. Either way though I stick strictly to well-researched factual statements and follow the sources, as I always have. It's just too bad Wikipedia doesn't adhere to such policies, or it would be a better site. --Joshua Zambrano (talk) 03:31, 12 April 2019 (UTC)

If you change a WP article a bit, it'll come a long way down the search results. The more you change it the better it'll do.

I'm not sure you understand NPOV. I don't know whether there's an objective definition of it, but the policy both here and on Wikipedia includes the concept of due weight, with the emphasis on the academic mainstream. I'm not sure whether that has an objective definition either; maybe it's self-defining. In any case, I was thinking of your fundamentalist additions here, not what you were doing there. Being fact-based is not enough to satisfy neutrality policy.

It wouldn't surprise me to find Wikipedia biased on American politics, more so than the "reliable sources" it's supposed to follow, but I'm not inclined to put a lot of time and energy into researching the topic.

While I'm here, I copy a post by a non-Citizen to my Wikisage talk page, and my reply, in case anyone's interested.

"Hi! Sorry to add this here, but I follow the goings-on at Citizendium and this is the place where I can get in touch with one of its main editors.

Out of curiosity, I've followed the Citizendium discussion about ways to improve Citizendium's position as a wiki. (Sorry that I've asked here, but I don't have a CZ account.) I think what's important to remember was that while Larry Sanger was an editor at CZ, simply his presence helped get the website a lot of publicity; but once he left, so did many other contributors, and the project has since lost most of its editors.

"What every wiki needs is different. At Wikipedia, I think that more individual attention and cooperation is necessary for the website to do significantly better than it's doing currently; at this wiki, I think more original articles about important topics are needed, and at CZ, it's hard to say but I think more contributors more regularly adding new content would be extremely important.

I've noticed before in comments on CZ a statement (I believe by you) saying that the website needs to cut down on pseudoscience, but unfortunately I don't know where that content is on the wiki, so I can't give my thoughts. I just think that, in the discussion currently at CZ, the above may work well as some ideas to mention there. But whatever you think is best.

--SelfieCity (talk|contributions) 00:48, 13 April 2019 (CEST)

Nice to see someone's interested.
Contributors have been disappearing from CZ for a variety of reasons for a long time now. Larry's phasing out is one of them. One can't really say how many there still are as quite a number of people just pop in occasionally.
People were saying that about pseudoscience a long time ago. I agreed with that & may well have said so. It's also a permanent fixture of RationalWiki's criticism of CZ.
I may well copy your comments over there. Peter jackson (talk) 11:22, 13 April 2019 (CEST)"

End of copy. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:09, 13 April 2019 (UTC)

DMCA notice

Apparently we've had a DMCA notice via Steadfast. I had to nuke the notification email copied here, which was the first I'd heard about it, as it gave significant personal details. Having looked at the image in question, which has been on the wiki for many years, I can't find the evidence that it was properly licensed (the URL is dead). It may be that the article it originally appeared in was released under Creative Commons, but the image itself wasn't. I'll delete it and remove any references to the author. John Stephenson (talk) 09:51, 3 April 2020 (UTC)

Thanks, glad to see that you're on top of it! Hayford Peirce (talk) 17:01, 3 April 2020 (UTC)