Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Friday, March 30, 2007

Wikipedia in 2003: "If rules make you nervous and depressed, and not desirous of participating in the Wiki, then ignore them and go about your business."

...and Today: "If the rules prevent you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore them."

Two things jump out:

1. The human touch is fading a little.

2. IAR was originally intended to keep people from quitting or collapsing underneath the beaurocracy (I know there's a Once Upon a Mattress reference in there somewhere), not to enable decisive leadership, or whatever. I don't know if the change is wholly a bad thing, but it's notable.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Wikipedia vs. Citizendium

Citizendium is not Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is not Citizendium.

So far, both of those articles adhere to their stereotypes: Citizendium's is tight and well-written but full of straw men; Wikipedia's is more neutral, comprehensive, and messy.

Wikipedia sings in a few areas:

  • Specific topics where enthusiasts congregate (from Peerage to Talib Kweli)
  • Controversial issues with lots of nooks and crannies that get hammered out and disinfected by the sunlight of coverage (Muhammad cartoons, for example)
  • Lists, where the huge userbase is harnessed best. (Anyone can just add a line-item.)
  • Entries that are just incredibly fun, get linked all over the place, grow of their own accord.
  • And finally, documentation of porn. (You know it's true.)

And of course, Citizendium doesn't have a horde of OCD ants scurrying to erect the greatest taxonomic and organizational frameworks ever created by man. On Wikipedia, you can go through history year by year -- or shuffle through sequential sumerian emperors, or flights of the pacific, or chart-topping albums.

But Wikipedia is a little weaker when it comes to topics that require a broad sweep and an incisive summary --sketching Mt. Fuji, as it were, with one or two strokes of the pen. All-you-can-eat is great, but once in awhile it's nice to have everything laid out for you, to go on the Epcot Center ride. (Compare the WP and CZ articles on Music.)

I should probably finish with something incisive, but it's late. I'll just say that Citizendium isn't 100th as useful as Wikipedia yet, but it could get there -- I hope so; there's room for both.

(Postscript. Citizendium apparently doesn't 'use the neologisms "NPOV" and "POV"; we use the old-fashioned English words "neutral" and "biased."' Yay! Acronymic gobbledigook is a scourge on Wikipedia, which is supposed to be all about tearing down barriers to entry.)