"What is the point of the Citizendium," you might ask, "when Wikipedia is so huge and of reasonably good quality? Is there really a need for it?"
We think that, over time, Citizendium, can do better.
We can do better
Many Wikipedia articles are written amateurishly; often they are disconnected grab-bags of factoids, with no coherent narrative - and many have errors. In some topics, there are groups who "squat" on articles to make them reflect their own biases. There is no credible mechanism to approve versions of articles, so even if an article becomes very good, in time it is often degraded by many minor ill-judged tweaks. Vandalism is a headache—made possible because the community allows anonymous contribution. Many experts have been driven away because know-nothings ruin their articles: the community takes its dictum, "Ignore All Rules," seriously; it is part anarchy, part mob rule.
But even if you disagree with this indictment, you might still agree that we can do better.
Real names are better
By requiring real names, we give both our articles and our community credibility: if you look at our recent changes page, you will see nothing but real names. Real names make it possible to enforce some modest, sensible rules, while Wikipedia's anonymity policy allows anyone who is slapped on the wrist to come back immediately under a new pseudonym. Citizendium has virtually no vandalism and little abuse of any kind.
To ensure that contributors, whether to Citizendium’s knowledge base or to administrative functions, have registered under their real names, the Citizendium will employ a real names verification methodology appropriate to the applicant and as foolproof as is practically possible.
A community that asks its members to use their real names should be more pleasant and productive than one that allows abusive people to disrupt the community under the cloak of anonymity. We believe that in time, more and more people will come to see the merits of the Citizendium policy.
A modest role for experts is better
We too permit very open contribution; the general public make up the bulk of our contributors, as "authors." We agree that broad-based contribution is necessary to achieve critical mass as well as the broadest spectrum of interests and knowledge. But we believe that it is good sense to make a special role for experts. A project gently guided by experts will in time be more credible, and of higher quality. So we allow our expert editors to approve articles (creating stable versions, with a "draft" version that can be easily edited). Editors may also take the lead, when necessary, in articulating solutions to content disputes—disputes that sometimes go on interminably on Wikipedia.
Sometimes critics claim that our editors will inflict their personal biases on authors and our readership; but this is incorrect; we have a robust neutrality policy. We are often asked, "But who will choose the experts?" Our answer is: why is this a problem? The "real world" has been solving that problem for a very long time, and our solution is typical.
Sensible governance is better
New Citizendium members, called "Citizens," must agree to our Statement of Fundamental Policies. Moreover, we have "constables" who rein in bad behavior on the wiki. We moderate comments on the wiki in much the same way mailing lists and forums are moderated. If a Citizen is abusive, his comment is removed; if he shows a pattern of abuse, he is removed. Since we use real names, such abusive people cannot return under another name.
Some personal motivations to support Citizendium
It's rewarding to share your knowledge with the world. Your contributions to Citizendium are less likely to be degraded by poor edits later on. In time, the article you contribute to will be approved by an expert editor, and represented to the world as a reliable introduction to your topic. And all for free.
Furthermore, academics and other experts can submit "Signed Articles," presenting their own personal, but objective take on an aspect of an article already in Citizendium. We add "Signed Articles" to a "subpage" of the main article—one of many different types of subpages a main article has. Signed Articles may be subject to reformatting and comments by editors in the appropriate topic area, and to their approval for inclusion in Citizendium, but remain the views and ideas of the author.
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