Citizendium 2

Update on Citizendium

In the nine months since the Signpost's previous "Report on Citizendium", the fledgling Citizendium encyclopedia has grown slowly but steadily and has been experimenting with new ways of developing, organizing and presenting content. Citizendium now has over 6500 "live articles" (up from ~2400 last July), including 787 "Developed articles" and 65 "Approved articles" (up from 31). The daily level of editing activity and the number of active contributors have risen moderately.

In addition to content and community growth, developments in the last nine months include: the selection of a free-content license (Creative Commons-Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0); reorganization of article content into "clusters", with separate subpages for bibliographies, external links and other material; a new design for the website; and the launch of "Eduzendium", a program in which educators assign Citizendium projects to their students.

Site activity

New articles have been created at a rate of about 12 per day in recent months, close to the 11 per day average last July. The average daily editing rate has been rising fitfully, from about 450 edits per day last July to over 700 edits per day recently. New author arrivals have also been trending up, with almost 100 accounts making their first edits in March (although less than half that many in April, the lowest month on record). About 120 accounts were active (defined as making more than 20 edits) in April—the most active month on record.

During Citizendium's early months much of the article content was derived from Wikipedia, a trend that continued to some degree even after unmodified Wikipedia articles were purged from the database in January 2007. Focus has increasingly shifted to developing new articles from scratch, and to enlarging the article count with short "stubs", often no more than a few sentences long. Consequently, median article length has declined from 562 words in July 2007 to 339 words in April 2008, according to the Citizendium statistics page. Since September, article creation has been boosted by monthly "Write-a-Thons", in which authors are encouraged to work simultaneously during a particular day on new and existing articles: "It's like an online party! Heck no, it is an online party!"

According to Alexa Internet,'s average traffic rankings have not changed significantly since August (although they vary considerably from day to day). The site's average traffic rank is #98,681, and it reaches about 1 in 700 internet users each day. Conservapedia ("The Trustworthy Encyclopedia")—another wiki encyclopedia that started around the same time as Citizendium—is currently ranked #53,242 and reaches about 1 in 450 internet users.

Approved articles

The number of Citizendium Approved articles has over doubled from 31 to 65 in the past nine months. While a number of the early Approved articles were derived from Wikipedia content, recent approvals represent mostly original Citizendium content.

Citizendium articles in general, and Approved articles in particular, are expected to follow broad standards similar in spirit to Wikipedia's content policies. According to the Approval Standards, "[t]he standards of a good Citizendium article are complex", but are summarized in ten bullet points: Encyclopedic; Accurate; Neutral; Coherent; Comprehensive; Well-written; University-level; Not original research; Family-friendly; and Legal and responsible. In contrast to Wikipedia's highly codified standards for Featured Articles, an article is eligible for approval on Citizendium simply when it "is so well developed that it gives the Citizendium reader a good introduction and overview to its topic. An editor in the article's workgroup will be needed to nominate the article for approval." Well-developed articles must then be vetted by one or more Editors—users with relevant subject-area expertise who have final authority over content within their fields.

Approved articles vary widely in depth. Some of the longer articles, such as Michael Faraday at about 5500 words, are comparable in size to a typical Wikipedia Featured Article. Most are considerably shorter, between 1000 and 3000 words; at the low end, Azole is a mere 165 words.

Citizendium takes what users there consider "a more sensible approach to citing sources" than Wikipedia. A few Approved articles, such as Compressibility factor (gases), come close to the citation density of a typical Wikipedia Featured Article. For most Approved articles, however, the "sensible approach" results in much sparser citations—often no inline citations at all—with a separate page containing the article's bibliography (or in some cases, not even that).


From July 2007 to the present, Citizendium has been developing and gradually implementing a system of "subpages" to organize article-related content. Where Wikipedia has a single article, Citizendium plans to have a "cluster", with everything but the article itself on separate pages. The standard subpages are: Def for a brief definition of the topic; Talk for discussion of the article, as on Wikipedia; Related articles; Bibliography; and External Links. Approved articles also have a Draft subpage for continued article development, since Approved articles are protected from direct editing. Some topics, such as the prototype cluster Biology, have other subpages: Gallery for topical image collections and Signed Articles for "one or more possibly 'biased' articles written exclusively by real experts".

The subpages system is meant to be flexible. Other optional subpages, some of which are as yet unused, include tutorials, student- and advanced-level versions of the article, news and debate guides, timelines and catalogs, and addenda for extended discussions in overlong articles. Most of the Developed articles—and even some Approved articles—make only limited use of the standard subpages.

License decision

In December 2007, Citizendium officially adopted the Creative Commons-Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 (or later) license for original content. Until then, Wikipedia-derived content was available under the GFDL, but other content had indeterminate licensing, with the promise of a free license choice to come. Citizendium's unsettled licensing situation had been a source of criticism early on, especially from the Wikimedia community. The Citizendium community was divided on the license issue, with some contributors favoring a non-commercial license, some favoring a CC-by-sa license to prevent re-use by Wikipedia but allow commercial use (and to avoid the logistical problems associated with the GFDL, a license designed for software manuals), and some favoring the GFDL to ensure compatibility with Wikipedia.

Editor-in-Chief Larry Sanger ultimately decided on CC-by-sa after the Wikimedia Foundation and the Free Software Foundation (maintainers of the GFDL) announced a plan for a revised GFDL to allow the migration of Wikimedia content to CC-by-sa. Sanger explained the decision in a lengthy essay laying out the principal arguments for each aspect of the license choice.


In January 2008, following preliminary work over much of the previous year, Citizendium launched Eduzendium—a program for educators to use Citizendium as a venue for student coursework, e.g., the creation of encyclopedia articles. From the Fall 2007 and Spring 2008 academic terms, eight courses are listed as participating in Eduzendium. However, only three appear to have contributed content.

49 students in John Dennehy's General Microbiology course at CUNY chose individual microorganisms on which to write articles. Students were assigned to use scientific literature to address each organism's: Classification; Description and significance; Genome; Cell structure and metabolism; Ecology; Pathology; Application to Biotechnology; and Current Research related to the organism.

For Daniel Folkinshteyn's finance course at Temple University, students (singly or in pairs) created 18 articles on basic finance-related topics. The articles produced for this course vary widely in length and quality, but most cite no sources.

26 students in Matt Sponheimer's Human Evolution course at the University of Colorado produced articles on a range of topics in physical anthropology and human evolution. The articles, some of which are still being developed, range from the impressively detailed Neanderthal to the barely-begun Piltdown hoax.

Also this week:
  • Pornography
  • Sighted revisions
  • Copyright claim
  • Policy updates
  • Citizendium 2
  • Board elections
  • Maker Faire
  • IP block exemption
  • WikiWorld
  • News and notes
  • In the news
  • Dispatches
  • Features and admins
  • Technology report
  • Arbitration report

  • Signpost archives

    + Add a comment

    Discuss this story

    Looks correct; no issues. I would like to note that we don't necessary focus on ratings from search engines though. --RWilliamKing (talk) 19:02, 11 May 2008 (UTC)[reply]


    The Signpost · written by many · served by Sinepost V0.9 · 🄯 CC-BY-SA 4.0