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Citizendium, short for Citizen's Compendium, is a growing online collaborative wiki community that works much like Wikipedia to provide free encyclopedic information. Citizendium values information quality over other information characteristics. Unlike competitors, such as Wikipedia, Citizendium requires higher levels of entry and initial commitment for its online information contributors. Citizendium is open to public information providers, and it operates at a voluntary level; however, information contributors must apply to contribute to Citizendium’s efforts. In the applications, applicants must provide his or her real name. The applications are then reviewed and approved by humans, not computerized technologies. Information that appears on Citizendium’s pages must be confirmed by “experts” in order to be published on the site. [1] In order to be considered an editor (“expert”), a Citizendium contributor must fill out an additional application and submit proof of expertise in the form of a CV or resume. Citizendium thus links its editors to an online identity in order to build a strictly credible web encyclopedia. [2]


Graph demonstrating Citizendium's significant growth since its launch

Citizendium started as a pilot academic and encyclopedic project in 2006, although Larry Sanger a Wikipedia co-founder, did not officially launch the project until March 2007. Sanger initially split from Wikipedia with hopes of creating a new model for free, collaborative, online encyclopedias. He advocated for a civil "online constitutional republic" that enforced values like respect, responsibility, and accountability among its citizens. Citizendium's mission from the start was geared towards creating articles from scratch in an online environment full of people who aspired to write using better logical methods and original thought than the normal Wikipedia authors. During its pilot stage, Citizendium was composed of approximately 900 authors and 200 editors. [3] During initial launch, Citizendium’s offerings were limited in numbers and scope compared to Wikipedia, and it was difficult to evaluate how it might grow and evolve; however, Citizendium has seen substantial growth since then. [4]


Information contributors can assume multiple roles within the Citizendium community. [5]


Citizendium authors start new articles, make additions to existing articles and discuss topic discrepancies on Citizendium's talk pages.


Citizendium editors have all privileges of authors. The main difference between an author and an editor is that an editor is a community-recognized or formally acknowledged expert in some field of knowledge. Official expertise status guidelines (usually obtained through education or experience) are set by Citizendium's Editorial Council. An editor's main role in the Citizendium community consists of guiding article content to ensure that it conveys reliable information to its users. They may claim editorship over general, mid-range, and specialized topics depending upon their approved level of expertise. [6]


A constable's main task is to manage and moderate Citizendium's content information. In addition to adhering to Citizendium's policy of displaying trustworthy information, the constables also manage behavioral disputes that occur when authors disagree over content-related issues. They review applications for authorship and editorship as well as communicate with the editors on each article's approval status. [7]


Workgroups are a collection of editors and authors that share similar topical areas of interest. Citizendium groups its articles and contributors into workgroups as an information management, navigational, and collaboration tool. Citizendium contributors are encouraged to join workgroups in areas that are most interesting or applicable to them. Workgroup editors must be approved by Citizendium staff to ensure they are qualified to deliver the appropriate knowledge on the specific subject. Each workgroup has its own homepage, category, recent changes page, and mailing list. [8]

Myths and Facts


1. Citizendium is experts-only

Fact: Citizendium believes that everyone has something to contribute, and they encourage people to join their community. Although articles must be approved by editors who have demonstrated expertise on the explained subject matter, one does not have to be a credited professor to contribute. Some information providers achieve expert-editor status by accurately proving they have done some (could be limited) research on the topic they contribute to.

2. Citizendium is a top-down project, with expert editors giving orders to underlings

Fact: Citizendium is very much a bottom-up based project. Authors can freely choose which topics they want to work on and when they want to work on them. The purpose of the editors is not to give orders, rather it is to ensure that the provided information is reliable.

3. Citizendium is for serious academic topics only

Fact: Citizendium has many credited academic editors who have contributed to much of the research on the topics for which they provide information, however Citizendium has no topical constraints. Authors can propose to write about any topic. The goal is that workgroups will eventually form around underdeveloped topics, leading contributors to seek or pursue further research of the subject. [9]



There has been ethical debates over issues of privacy regarding Citizendium's requirement to submit your real name online in order to obtain authorship. Citizendium ensures that author biographies are not indexed by Google (or other search engine that respects the "noindex" tag). In order to upkeep the quality of information, Citizendium policy makers feel that the advantages of real names outweigh the sacrifice of allowing the work-in-progress to be viewed by the public.

When editing Citizendium a user leaves behind a huge trail of information - the topics he or she is interested in, the exact time of every single edit, his location, what spelling mistakes he makes, etc. All this information is irreversably stored on the internet for all eternity, thus creating a privacy breach and exposing those who contributes to Citizendium. However, part of the reason Citizendium policy requires real names to be used is to reinforce high quality and factual articles written by those with appropriate credentials to ensure that the information is accurate [10]


Citizendium policy makers also argue that there is a civil advantage in using real names when contributing on the Internet in that it makes people act with more respect towards one another. Maintaining a real identity in an online community like Citizendium also makes the articles more credible because information seekers recognize that an author is willing to back up their findings with one's name and reputation. Actions that enhance civil respect builds trust in online societies among information seekers and providers. [9]

External Links


  1. Andrew J. Flanagin & Miriam J. Metzger (2011): FROM ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA TO WIKIPEDIA, Information, Communication & Society, 14:3, 355-374.
  2. Peek, Robin. The New Encyclopedia Brigade, Information Today 25:9 (Oct 2008): 17-18.
  3. Hatcher-Gallop, R. Quest for Excellence in a Wiki-based World. 2009 IEEE International Professional Communication Conference (IPCC 2009): 1-8.
  4. Peek, Robin. The New Encyclopedia Brigade, Information Today 25:9 (Oct 2008): 17-18.
  5. Citizendium: Community Overview
  6. Citizendium: The Editor Role
  7. Citizendium: Constabulary
  8. Citizendium: Workgroups
  9. 9.0 9.1 Citizendium Myths and Facts
  10. Information Today Inc. - Citizendium: A Kinder, Truer Wikipedia?

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