'New Wikipedia': Not the Same as the Old Wikipedia?

Ann All

We feel roughly the same way about Wikipedia as we do about communes. It's a great idea, initiated for the right reasons and with the best intentions. But in practice, it's more of a muddy mess than anything else, with a megalomaniac in charge.


So we welcome Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger's announcement that he is introducing a new online encyclopedia that he hopes will be more accurate than Wikipedia while still preserving its sense of community. Apparently Sanger was fed up with such blatantly false entries as a September 2006 post that suggested that journalist John Seigenthaler Sr. had killed and eaten John F. Kennedy Jr., or more recently and innocuously, that stand-up comic Sinbad was dead.


As a Wikipedia contributor points out in a recent Times Online article, giving all contributions equal weight has resulted in "tribalism" and barely contained chaos. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales' response that he was "unaware of any problems with the quality of discourse on the site" seems to set a new gold standard of cluelessness and/or disingenuousness.


The new site, called Citizendium, will require contributors to provide their real names (though it's unclear how, if at all, identity will be verified) and will ask proven experts to check articles for accuracy. Those that pass the muster of the experts will be designated with a green tick mark. It will remain to be seen whether these few basic changes will be enough to discourage pranksters and vandals.


We hope it works -- we really do.

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