Wikipedia Competitor Released In Beta

    March 27, 2007

While Jimmy Wales has been busy of late creating a new search engine and dreaming of challenging Google for dominance within the field, another Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger has been working on a new collaborative resource designed at offering more validity and expertise to its entries.

Citing Wikipedia as a reference for a college term paper will most likely result in a failing grade. University professors have gone to great lengths to discourage the sole use of Wikipedia as an academic resource, especially given the online encyclopedia’s recent scandals concerning fake user identities and faulty information.

And that’s where Citizendium looks to separate itself from its predecessor.

The Citizendium project has been in a pilot stage since September, but has now launched its public beta program. The fundamental concept of the site is similar to that of Wikipedia, save one significant aspect: all entries are subject to moderation (and removal) by Citizendium’s panel of experts.

Well, that’s all well and good, but how does Citizendium determine a person’s expertise?

Here’s a breakdown from the Citizendium Official FAQ:

We will be posting a list of credentials suitable for editorship.  We have not finished constructing this list yet.  A Ph.D. will be neither necessary nor sufficient for editorship.  As a rule of thumb, editors in traditionally "academic" fields will require the qualifications typically needed for a tenure-track academic position in the field. 

Editors in "professional" fields require the usual terminal degree in their field and at least three years responsible professional experience, and, in most cases, several publications as well.  Editors in non-academic or "hobbyist" fields require varying other kinds of qualification.  In addition, in the future, persons will be able to become editors by direct appeal to editorial workgroups–this exception should, we hope, take care of the unusual cases.

Citizendium has a long climb ahead if it hopes to match the enormous success that Wikipedia has enjoyed. The key will come in its appeal to academia. If CZ can convince educators at higher institutions that the information contained within its virtual walls is accurate, relevant, and accredited, then it stands a real chance of success, as an entirely new generation of students will be turned on to the site.

The site has one giant advantage in its favor, though. The creative commons license under which Wikipedia operates will allow CZ to immediately begin importing and editing content, which will greatly reduce the time it should take for the site to become stocked with information.

Improving upon Wikipedia’s existing structure without having to reinvent the wheel could be a winning combination for Citizendium.