Citizendium: cr*p or what?

Oh dear oh dear oh dear, just take a look at Citizendium's article on Global Warming (though I have cheated slightly; the current version, while still rubbish, is marginally better).

The question is, what to do about it? At the moment my answer is "nothing" - Cz is not going to get taken seriously with articles like this, and if no-one reads it what is the point of writing it? Its no better than Conservapedia. The way to improve it would be to replace it with wiki's article, which would be rather pointless.

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I've never heard of Citizendium before. I've now read its Statement of Fundamental Policies and I still don't see what purpose it serves. If Wikipedia was often wildly inaccurate, I could see the point in having accountable authors, but Wikipedia works much of the time, and good Wikipedia articles cite their sources.

I think there's a problem with your link- one of the url tags hasn't ended properly.

[Oops - fixed -W]

I'm having trouble loading the RSS feed from your site, both in Firefox & Thunderbird. The problem appeared to start with the Pielke post.

[Since you are the second to complain you're probably correct. I don't know what it is but have informed the tech folk -W]

From Conservopedia, "The trustworthy encyclopedia", we have the really dumb statement:

"Since human industrialization is probably not to blame for the change on Mars, other causes are being considered." [emphasis added]

I wasn't aware of this bizarre attempt to sanitize knowledge according to ideology. Thanks for the notice.

Among its problems, Conservopedia seems to be just projecting a shared delusion unique to some subset of Americans. I can't imagine conservatives of other nations and other stripes (e.g. non-Christian) contributing to it.


To be sure, our article on global warming isn't as good as it could be. And doubtlessly you could pick many other examples of our content not being developed.

But man oh man, we're about 5 months old, and that's going to happen. You should have seen Wikipedia after 5 months. If you want to judge us (let alone call us crap! Why? We never insulted you), judge us on our approved articles. There's plenty of grist for science bloggers on that list. Especially this early in the game, that's the place where our unique processes will show their strength.

Mike Johnson
Citizendium Executive Committee

[Maybe I should have been sympathetic. But... GW is an important subject. Why do you have a junk article when you could just copy in the wikipedia one, which is far better? You have let skeptics take over your GW article - "our article on global warming isn't as good as it could be." - no, that won't do: your GW article is rubbish. Hopefully it will get better, and I wish you luck -W]

I wonder who provided the "gentle expert oversight" for the global warming entry? Maybe they need to be a little less gentle.....

Point being, you can look this stuff up. When you find your main article is using a term favored by Soon, Baliunas, and Singer, then look _them_ up.


Oh, you can find articles about them various places. Look _those_ places up at Sourcewatch.

Follow the money, especially when it's pushing words in your direction, eh?

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 14 May 2007 #permalink

Well, looking at the list of earth sciences authors and editors there do seem to be a few qualified people, although none of them have any particular climate expertise. It appears that an early comer seized initial control of the GW article, and that early comer was (drumroll, please)... Uncle Ed. The aforementioned qualified people do seem to understand the nature of the problem, but looking at the discussion page it doesn't seem impossible that they may end up being overwhelmed by know-nothings. Hopefully Mike has some means of keeping that from happening.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 14 May 2007 #permalink

Speaking as the UK press contact for Wikipedia, I'd like to say ... crikey, give 'em a chance! They've barely started! Wikipedia took quite some time to proceed to its present obviously doomed status ...

Yeah, David, but while new 'clopedia folks may be starting by providing a blank slate, they're not dealing with kids with pencils, they're dealing with aggressive, experienced, territorial taggers with spraycans.

It's a different environment. They need maximum awareness right from the start.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 15 May 2007 #permalink

Well it should be no surprise the article is crap, because the majority of it was written by Wikipedia's very own Ed Poor. A few people have caught on this tactics there.

But I don't think Citizendium is to blame. It's a good encyclopedia, but obviously not nearly as expanded as Wikipedia. It will soon be a very good encyclopedia, and very well may surpass Wikipedia if it can continue to grow.

The problem with their entry on global warming is that it has no "editor." Editors are supervisors of articles who have the credentials to make sure what's being written is accurate and top-of-the-line. CZ has a few approved article, which are of the highest quality. Wikipedia's entry on global warming in the first few days was not very good either (was mostly edited by Ed Poor as well), so only time will tell how CZ's entry on global warming will evolve.


Oh God, Larry Sanger again.

This citizendium thing is about a zillion times funnier if you know the background. Larry Sanger was involved early on in Wikipedia, but left in disgust because they weren't sufficiently willing to stoke his ego. He was expecting that anything he wrote, even if it was difficult to read or demonstratably counterfactual, was to be taken as gospel just because he had a PH.D and other people didn't. The Wikipedia community didn't agree, so he left and has been publicly badmouthing them to whatever random media sources will listen ever since. I guess now he's finally getting around to trying to demonstrate he can do better, with a site that as far as I can tell is essentially the same as wikipedia except for this emphasis on "experts".

Didn't we learn anything from H2G2?

I'm a Citizendium author, and I spotted Ed Poor and his biased articles (on climate change and communism) very early on. I wrote to the administrators ('constables') and said look, we're probably going to see a lot of biased edits here, implying that this guy obviously had an agenda. I was told that the 'constables' who police the site only deal with behaviour, such as vandalism, and don't deal with content issues. That's left to the experts. But people seemed willing to give Ed a space to publish, although by now most of the damage has been undone.

By CZ Author (not verified) on 16 May 2007 #permalink

Oh this is hilarious. Looks like CZ has found it's niche - competing with Conservapedia. And Ed Poor is writing for both of them. At least Conservapedia has Uber to keep Ed in line ;)

The thing that really turned me off Citizendium was the reaction of certain editors to feedback on the biology article. You'd think that people with experience in scientific publishing would have thicker skins - if you have survived peer review, you should be able to deal with having people call your writing crap.

I'm one of the (few) Earth Science editors in Citizendium, and perhaps the only one who is (a little) active. Let me comment as an insider.
Yes, the GW article in Citizendium is crap. PLEASE don't read it (yet). There are reasons for this, though.
FIRST, the article is just started, and it evolves, of course, much slowly than in Wikipedia (much less authors). Take it as a stub. A bad one.
SECOND, we desperately need good editors. I have some academic background, but my expertise is in "deep time" stratigraphy and sedimentology. This is the best expert Citizendium can provide at the moment. Not so good, uhu? Other workgroups (e.g. Biology, Chemistry, Literature) are doing much better.
THIRD, we need climatologists. People like that is missing among editors and authors.
FOURTH, it is our policy not to uptake whole articles from Wikipedia. This means original material, but -in this case- it also means Wikipedia entry is much better.

Please be patient. Article will improve. Someone of you might even like to contribute. Or try to be an editor. I'd really enjoy the collaboration of an expert. The Earth Science workgroup in Citizendium is perhaps the weakest at present.

[Hmm, the problem is, why switch to CZ? Why start a GW article from scratch when a good wikipedia one is available? It seems a bit pointless -W]

By Nereo Preto (not verified) on 16 May 2007 #permalink

Me again. On top of the climate change problem I predict that exactly the same will happen with the Intelligent Design pages; we have an ID proponent who was banned from Wikipedia beginning activities on Citizendium. ID is titled on CZ as a 'theory'.

By CZ Author (not verified) on 17 May 2007 #permalink

There may be a place for Citizendium if it's done right. One of the things that discourages participation in Wikipedia is having to waste so much effort dealing with teenage vandals, skilled partisans, utter morons, and self-declared "assholes" ( constantly trying to destroy or twist articles. If Citizendium can make it easy to contribute, while politely but firmly showing troublemakers the exit, then it may have a future. Time will tell.

By Raymond Arritt (not verified) on 17 May 2007 #permalink

The challenge of Wikipedia isn't the vandals, it's the people with an agenda (like Zeeboid). It's great when you have the opportunity to escape it at CZ. That still doesn't quite make up for the sense that you are reinventing the wheel. But with people like Ed and Everwill active at CZ, it really does become like a Conservapedia - in either case, you can only get things done if you catch the attention of either Larry Sanger or Andrew Schlafly. And while it's a huge insult to Larry to even begin to compare the two of them, the institutional problems are still similar (unlike Wikipedia, where you can be as critical of Jimbo as you want, without much fear).

[OK, agreed re wiki. OTOH some (irritating) people have nonetheless helped improve the GW articles (and probably the evolution ones), sometimes by adding text and sometimes just by being critical.

The CZ problem is indeed re-inventing the wheel, and in some ways they aren't helping by discouraging importing wiki text -W]

I think Citizendium has a bright future if it can tweak a few things out. It has a zero tolerance policy towards vandals and trouble makers. Discourse seems to be polite. Given enough time, and more editors/authors, CZ may very well trump WP in quality and dependability. Still quite a bit of problems with CZ, but we'll see if Sanger is bright enough to address them appropriately.