Baby steps forward

February 26, 2007

Big Things are happening at Larry Sanger’s Citizendium. Things like “The Big Delete“, in which the project “unforked” itself from Wikipedia by deleting most of their derivative content; “The Big Speedydelete“, in which they deleted “probably over 1,000 pages” of other crap; and “The Big Cleanup“. Most recently, though, Citizendium has launched itself into the next Big Thing: the imaginatively named “Big Write“.

What is this Big Write thing, exactly? As Larry Sanger described it:

The Big Write is your chance to be credited with writing a medium-sized article (750+ words) on important topics with input from some of CZ’s editors. If you look at this page:

under “The Topics,” you’ll see a list of a few dozen article topics you can choose from. Those topics were specifically chosen by editors as high priority articles in their fields. The goal is to develop those articles to the point where they are “a credible start”–not a trivial task, but not terribly difficult either.

Since the initiative began three days ago, Editors have suggested 44 articles that need to be written — although the next day Larry allowed Authors (the rank-and-file of Citizendium contributors) to make suggestions, too. Counting the two Author-suggested topics, that brings us to a total of 46 in need of writing.

How many suggested articles have been started in that time? The answer is two: “distributed computation” and “wiki“, the latter being the work of Larry Sanger himself.

There are hundreds of articles that Citizendium really “needs”; the Wikimedia Meta-Wiki has a list of articles every Wikipedia should have, which would make a good start for Citizendium to focus on; alternatively, many local versions of the popular website maintain their own lists, as so individual Wikiprojects at the English Wikipedia and others.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to try my hand at writing another article at Citizendium. Since nobody seemed to notice Larry’s request for an article on hubris, I’ve started writing it myself.

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2 Responses to “Baby steps forward”

  1. In all honesty, we must recognize that few people are signing up to write as part of this initiative, and even fewer are actually getting to work. So the Big Write isn’t working nearly as well as The Big Speedydelete, and I think there are two reasons it isn’t. The first is that the incentive of editor review is simply not a huge inducement for most people. Who knows? It might even be a disincentive. With the Big Speedydelete, by golly, you got credit for deleting bunches of cruft. That’s fun–a substantial motivation. The second is that to work really well, the sort of successful mass initiative that the Big Speedydelete represented had to be clearly open to one and all–whereas, by having editors nominate topics, we restricted participation to only those who could and were willing to write well on just a few topics. The Big Speedydelete, by contrast, was open to anyone regardless of their proclivities; they just had to like deleting cruft.

    So, unlike the Big Speedydelete, this game just ain’t that fun. That’s all right, we can’t get it right every time.

    Anyway, I think we could create a lot more excitement–and productivity–by trying a new approach. So I suggest we declare the first approach a failure, archive the page, thank and apologize to the editors and authors who gave it the old college try, and try a new approach (also called “The Big Write”).


  2. James Says:

    I don’t like Meta’s “List of articles every Wikipedia should have;” it’s too centered on the West.

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