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CZ:Managing Editor/2014/001 - Decision to invite experts to submit author-owned citable-articles in special namespaces

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Statement of the problem

This decision targets the problem of the small number of content contributors to Citizendium. Its ultimate aim is to increase the number of content contributors to Citizendium. It begins with a project of inviting experts, including academics and other specialists, to submit articles, under their own byline, to one of several new Citizendium namespaces. The submitted articles, reviewed by an appropriate Editor, if found suitable for publication in Citizendium, will be located in the citable version section of the appropriate namespace.

This decision also speaks to those who voice cogent arguments for reorganizing Citizendium to render it unique compared to other wikis building knowledge bases. This decision, if implemented vigorously and effectively, would take a step in that direction. It's open to future development, and to overriding or modifying by the Citizendium Council.

Pertinent existing policy

Charter

The Managing Editor did not find any article in the Charter that would not permit this decision. It does permit the Managing Editor “to make interim decisions on behalf of the Citizendium Council when established policy does not provide guidance; these decisions shall be overridden by the establishment of relevant policy.”

Citizendium Council

In the form of a proposal, this decision was submitted to the transitional Citizendium Council but received comments from only one member.

Because “author-owned, citable-version” constitutes a new type of article for Citizendium, the Citizendium Council may wish to assign a different license type to allow the author of the citable version to have copyright.

Draft decision

Citizens may invite experts, including academics and other specialists, to submit articles, under their own byline, to one of several new Citizendium namespaces. A citizen who wishes to tender such an invitation shall notify the Citizendium Council and await approval before submitting the invitation. The Citizen shall provide the Council the information about the potential invitee needed for Council to assess the proposal, as well as a copy of the invitation's text. The expert’s submitted article, reviewed by an appropriate Editor, if found suitable by the Council for publication in Citizendium, will be located in the citable version section of the article's appropriate namespace.

In addition to locating the article in the citable version section in the appropriate namespace, the article will also be located in the main article section, open to editing by the members of Citizendium. The main article would contain a header that reads: ”This is an editable version of a non-editable citable version written by and signed by (insert name of author of the citable version). The edited main article and its talk page will serve as suggestions for the author of the citable version to consider incorporating into an updated version of his bylined article.”

The new namespaces will include initially the following:

  • Hypotheses
  • Research Proposals
  • Topic Essays
  • Topic Literature Reviews
  • Interpretive Book Reviews
  • Topic Opinions
  • Primers
  • Historical Perspectives
  • Evolutionary Perspectives
  • Philosophical Perspectives
  • How-To Tutorials

A standard email letter of invitation, modifiable appropriately for each invitee by the inviting Citizen, will be written by the Citizendium Council Chair in collaboration with the Council members. After checking their website or profile on academic sites, invitees will automatically be given membership in Citizendium upon acceptance of a submitted article. They will be encouraged to write new encyclopedia articles for the main namespace and to edit existing ones.

Current and future Editors of Citizendium may also submit articles in those new namespaces, subject to Council approval.

The welcome page will list the new namespaces and link to them.

SAMPLE LETTER TO INVITEES

Dear,

I am writing as an Editor for an online, free, general knowledge encyclopedia called Citizendium (http://en.citizendium.org). Citizendium may be considered a second-generation Wikipedia-like encyclopedia, one major difference being that all contributors use their real names, which Citizendium will verify. This eliminates anonymity, anonymity related vandalism, and commercial or self-aggrandizing efforts.

I write to invite you to submit an article in any one of the following categories:

[List the new namespaces here]

Your article will be located as a citable article and will be locked for editing by any other user. Your name will be designated as the author of the article. A copy of the article will be located where users can edit it and discuss aspects of it. You may consider that as feedback to ignore or consider incorporating into an updated version of your citable article. You might find that feedback useful for ideas or considerations you hadn’t thought of.

There is no fee involved in submitting or having your article accepted and published. Unless you choose otherwise, we will enroll you as a user in Citizendium, which would permit you to write regular encyclopedia type articles or edit existing articles in collaborative progress.

If you have any questions about this, please email me.

Sincerely yours,

(Insert letter writer’s name and Work Group, e.g., John Doe, Anthropology Editor for Citizendium) Email Address

Date for finalizing decision

I plan to finalize this decision by Friday, June 20, 2014. In the meantime I am open to suggestions for amending this decision.

Discussion open to all users

I do not like this for several reasons:

  • (A formal reason) This is not a matter suitable for an "interim" decision because -- if used -- it sets facts that cannot be revoked, and therefore are permanent.
  • It is not realistic: As long as the longterm hosting situation of CZ is not solved it is not honest to promise -- and announce -- (permanently) "citable" articles.
  • (An organisational reason) It introduces not needed complexity (new namespaces) -- if an article is suitable for CZ then it does not need special treatment, but should be treated as any other contribution.
  • (An administrative reason) There is a lack of people who could review contributed articles.
  • (A reason of purpose) CZ is not an online archive for articles of any type -- articles have to fit into an enyclopedia.
  • (Risk of future trouble) Quarrel may easily ensue if you invite an article but (for some reason) do not accept it.

Peter Schmitt 17:15, 14 June 2014 (UTC)

  • Thanks Peter for your thoughtful and important comments. Let me try to allay your concerns.
  • Regarding your formal reason for disliking this decision: it will take a considerable amount of time to set up the infrastructure to implement this decision, thereby giving the newly elected Citizendium Council time to consider its merits, override the decision or modify it to improve it. Likewise, it will take some time to to compose explanations of what is expected for each of the different namespace items. So I do not think we need to worry about facts getting set that they cannot be revoked or revised .
  • I certainly agree with you that we could not implement this proposal until we're certain of our long-term hosting situation. Darren Duncan is working on doing just that, and hopefully we will have that in place soon.
  • Regarding your organizational reason: these new articles will not be regular Citizendium encyclopedia-type articles. They will be author-owned articles with their byline attached. With this solution we are moving out of the traditional encyclopedia-type-article-only wiki. We are broadening our scope, and opening up the possibility the invitees will become Citizendium users and want to contribute regular encyclopedia type articles and edit any of those already in progress.
  • Regarding your administrative reason: the reviews the invited articles need not have expert review, by the very nature of the types of articles that will be invited. We have plenty of people who can assess general qualities of the articles, and both the Council and the managing editor will review them.
  • Regarding your reason of purpose: yes, Citizendium is not presently an online archive for articles of any type, and to say article have to fit an encyclopedia misses the point of this decision. We are not going to be just an encyclopedia; as mentioned earlier we are broadening our scope.
  • Regarding your risk of future trouble if we do not accept and invited article: the invitees will know before submission that we might not accept their article if does not fit within the bounds of the definition for that type of article. Furthermore, we will work with the invitees to suggest improvement before we accept the article.
  • Peter, I hope these responses help to allay some of your concerns. Thank you again for giving us things to think about. Anthony.Sebastian 19:43, 14 June 2014 (UTC)
It's not quite such a new idea: see CZ:Signed Articles. I'm not sure whether we've actually got any, though. Peter Jackson 14:39, 16 June 2014 (UTC)
PeterJ, CZ has a few signed articles, but the initiative has not flourished, possibly in part because CZ:Signed Articles is not perfectly clear how to implement it. However you read it, my proposal seems completely different and clearly implementable. Anthony.Sebastian 18:53, 16 June 2014 (UTC)
Thank you, Anthony, for your explanations. However, they even strengthen my objections.
  • You argue that implementing your decision will leave the Council enough time to override the decision. But this means that the matter is not urgent -- and interim decisions are for situations where a decision is needed but not available. Moreover, in the meantime efforts spent on the infrastructure may be wasted.
  • You also admit that you are thinking of material other than encyclopedic articles. But the core goal of CZ is building a certified encyclopedia. Unfortunately, so far CZ is doing a very poor job. In this situation it makes no sense to even broaden the scope.
  • The failure of "Signed articles" shows that this is not a good idea. CZ needs to be well known and have a good reputation before such an project might be started, if ever.
Peter Schmitt 15:07, 17 June 2014 (UTC)
Hi Peter, actually the original goal was for Citizendium to be a 'compendium of knowledge', not an encyclopedia. Here is Larry Sanger's statement when setting the goals of the Citizendium in 2006: 'Finally, the Citizendium won't officially call itself an encyclopedia. We might call it an experimental workspace, to start articles and to improve article quality. It will require a vote of the project's future governing body or bodies for us to call ourselves an "encyclopedia" officially. Until then, we will be a "compendium."' http://www.citizendium.org/essay.html As I understand it, there was never a vote taken to call ourselves an encyclopedia. When the charter was discussed and written, care was taken not to use encyclopedia in the wording, given Dr Sanger's vision for the project. Meg Ireland 16:46, 17 June 2014 (UTC)
Hi, Peter. Thank you again for responsibly evaluating my decision/proposal.
Regarding: "You argue that implementing your decision will leave the Council enough time to override the decision. But this means that the matter is not urgent -- and interim decisions are for situations where a decision is needed but not available." 'Urgency' is not at issue, as the Charter makes no mention. In my judgement, the decision is needed but not available. Article 36-2 re ME responsibility reads: "to make interim decisions on behalf of the Citizendium Council when established policy does not provide guidance; these decisions shall be overridden by the establishment of relevant policy;"
Regarding: "Moreover, in the meantime efforts spent on the infrastructure may be wasted." Peter, that assumes that the Citizendium Council will challenge this decision and establish relevant policy regarding the issue raised by the decision. As I mentioned earlier, there will be plenty of time before any infrastructure of major proportions are implemented before the Council decides whether to challenge the decision or not.
Regarding: "You also admit that you are thinking of material other than encyclopedic articles. But the core goal of CZ is building a certified encyclopedia. Unfortunately, so far CZ is doing a very poor job. In this situation it makes no sense to even broaden the scope." I believe that Meg Ireland has adequately responded to your concern here.
Regarding: "The failure of "Signed articles" shows that this is not a good idea. CZ needs to be well known and have a good reputation before such an project might be started, if ever." This Decision differs from the signed articles project. It is designed in part to enhance the reputation of Citizendium, and it will start slow and if successful gather momentum. Success will depend on the enthusiasm in which the project is engaged in by the citizenry. I would hope that you would be one of the first to submit an article in one of the new namespaces.

Whether to implement new initiatives now

(unindent) Well, of course, a flourishing CZ may be (and probably should be) more than an encyclopedia. Therefore it is quite sensible to leave such possibilities open. But, until now, what CZ is doing is collecting "encyclopedic" articles -- and it is (sadly enough) not too successful. I only ask to be realistic: Before CZ is doing well it is not the right moment for trying even more. (Compare: Even WP "waited" before Wikimedia, Wikiquote, etc. were started.) By the way, there are already archives available where -- depending on the field -- experts/academics can publish their preprints and articles. I don't think that there is a shortage (and therefore a need) for another one. Peter Schmitt 22:06, 18 June 2014 (UTC)

PeterS, regarding "Before CZ is doing well it is not the right moment for trying even more.": We all want Citizendium to do well. But how do we achieve that goal?
This proposal hopes to move in the direction of achieving that goal. How? By inviting experts and specialists to contribute to Citizendium, and giving them each a menu of types of articles they might contribute to Citizendium, types of articles that are not specifically encyclopedia entries. Look at the types of articles as specified in the proposal. Doesn't one of them appeal to you?
What might be the implications of succeeding in getting experts – academics and other types of specialists – to contribute to the non-encyclopedia-entry-like articles listed in this proposal? For one thing, they would become acquainted with Citizendium and its mission to organize knowledge. That might encourage them to start contributing encyclopedia-entry-like articles, or to edit articles in their area of interest that have already been started. Depends on how well we pitch the invitation.
(Above unsigned by Anthony) [now acnowledging above unsigned response: Anthony.Sebastian 20:30, 20 June 2014 (UTC)
Peter, if you read further up the page you'll see that Anthony first suggested this to the Council, but got almost no response. So this initiative is a response to a concile fainéant.
Anthony, reminder that a new Council is due to take office on 1 July. I suggest you suspend this process till then, repeat your proposal to them and wait a reasonable time for erplies. Peter Jackson 17:04, 19 June 2014 (UTC)
@Peter: Doesn't the lack of answers show that there is not much enthusiasm for this idea?
@Anthony: What would your arguments be to convince an author to choose CZ when he has well-established archives available? (Would we be glad about articles that are not good enough for other archives?) Do you expect that CZ (Council and community) is able to handle and answer such a request without unacceptable delay?
(The objections against the concept of citable articles are discussed in the forum.)
Peter Schmitt 22:25, 19 June 2014 (UTC)


PeterJ, I feel so positively about this proposal that I plan to finalize it. I realize that a new Council will be convening July 1, but they can still take this proposal into consideration, as the Council has the authority to override Managing Editor decisions by establishing policy. They may also wish to go along with the proposal with some modification.
PeterS: Regarding the issue of lack of enthusiasm on the part of transitional Council, if a member of the Council lacks enthusiasm I should think they would say so rather than simply ignore it. Of course, ignoring it means that it may come back to them should the proposer – in this case a Managing Editor – decide to render it as a managing editor decision.
If we are clear about what we are offering, including precisely what we would like to see each of the article types in terms of content, length, references, etc., we should be able to find academics and other specialists to contribute. The pitch will be all-important. I see no major negative consequences in trying. Anthony.Sebastian 20:30, 20 June 2014 (UTC)

Final decision

Citizens may invite experts, including academics and other specialists, to submit articles, under the submitters’ own byline, to one of several new Citizendium namespaces. A citizen who wishes to tender such an invitation shall notify the Citizendium Council and await approval before submitting the invitation. The Citizen shall provide the Council the information about the potential invitee needed for the Council to assess the proposal, as well as a copy of the invitation's text. The expert’s submitted article, reviewed by an appropriate Editor, if found suitable by the Council, or its delegate(s) for publication in Citizendium, will be located in the citable version section of the article's appropriate namespace.

In addition to locating the article in the citable version section in the appropriate namespace, the article will also be located in the main article section, open to editing by the members of Citizendium. The main article would contain a header that reads: ”This is an editable version of a non-editable citable version written by and signed by (insert name of author of the citable version). The edited main article and its talk page will serve as suggestions for the author of the citable version to consider incorporating into an updated version of his bylined article.”

The new namespaces will include initially the following:

  • Hypotheses
  • Research Proposals
  • Topic Essays
  • Topic Literature Reviews
  • Interpretive Book Reviews
  • Topic Opinions
  • Primers
  • Historical Perspectives
  • Evolutionary Perspectives
  • Philosophical Perspectives
  • How-To Tutorials
  • Significance Statement

A standard email letter of invitation, modifiable appropriately for each invitee by the inviting Citizen, will be written by the Managing Editor in collaboration with the Council members. After checking the invitee’s website or profile on academic sites, invitees will automatically be given membership in Citizendium upon acceptance of a submitted article. They will be encouraged to write new encyclopedia articles for the main namespace and to edit existing ones.

Current and future Editors of Citizendium may also submit articles in those new namespaces, subject to Council approval.

The welcome page will list the new namespaces and link to them.

SAMPLE LETTER TO INVITEES

Dear,

I am writing as an Editor for an online, free, general knowledge encyclopedia called Citizendium (http://en.citizendium.org). Citizendium may be considered a second-generation Wikipedia-like encyclopedia, one major difference being that all contributors use their real names, which Citizendium will verify. This eliminates anonymity, anonymity related vandalism, and commercial or self-aggrandizing efforts.

I write to invite you to submit an article in any one of the following categories:

[List the new namespaces here]

Your article will be located as a citable article and will be locked for editing by any other user. Your name will be designated as the author of the article. A copy of the article will be located where users can edit it and discuss aspects of it. You may consider that as feedback to ignore or consider incorporating into an updated version of your citable article. You might find that feedback useful for ideas or considerations you hadn’t thought of.

There is no fee involved in submitting or having your article accepted and published. Unless you choose otherwise, we will enroll you as a user in Citizendium, which would permit you to write regular encyclopedia type articles or edit existing articles in collaborative progress.

If you have any questions about this, please email me.

Sincerely yours,

(Insert letter writer’s name and Work Group, e.g., John Doe, Anthropology Editor for Citizendium) Email Address

Post-decision discussion

Feedback from Christine Bush

I have read through the discussion and I am generally enthusiastic about this broadening of scope. I do not think waiting for CZ to reach some threshold of success before exploring new areas is a recipe for reaching said threshold any sooner.
However, I do have two concerns with the current form of this initiative.
First, I would like to see some more consideration of the name spaces listed. Where did this list originate? (While not an epistemological snob re: "practical knowledge," I am not comfortable including a name space for "How To" materials in CZ because I think they are both more difficult to fact-check and because I do not perceive a need to be able to have a reference source for such knowledge. I welcome being set straight here if I am mistaken about this.)
Secondly, I am emphatically unenthusiastic about the phrase in the provided sample invitation which describes CZ as "a second-generation Wikipedia-like encyclopedia." If we are going to justify to ourselves that broadening our scope is a good idea because we wish to be more than a citable encyclopedia, then we should not describe ourselves to new collaborators in terms which undermine this reasoning by i) invoking WP (even as an adjective) and ii) using the word "encyclopedia." This relates to my concern about CORE IDENTITY mentioned in my election statement. I suggest using the phrase "wiki-based compendium of knowledge" instead. It is clear, unambiguous and has a basis in our Charter.
I support this initiative because it encourages recruitment and engagement with others. But I think we should be clear, candid and transparent about why we are doing so. I do not want to be party to anything which can be construed as bait-and-switch.
Christine Bush 19:38, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
Thanks, Christine, for your thoughtful and helpful comments. I cannot disagree with you on anything you said. The How-To-Tutorials could be a problem, and I agree to dispense with that item in the proposal. I obtained the various types of articles (i.e., namespaces) by looking at the various categories of articles in a number of respectable journals. The Significance Statement article-type gives the author the opportunity to express his interpretation of an article or book in terms of its significance to the field of knowledge that it pertains to, or its significance beyond that. At any rate, we still need to define what we expect to find in each of the separate types of articles. We might even want to impose word limits, number of references, etc., or not do such limitations.
Regarding the reference to Wikipedia in the letter to invitees, I am inclined to agree with your suggestion. All about this as a substitute for the first paragraph of the letter:
"I am writing as an Editor for an online, free, wiki-based comprehensive compendium of knowledge called Citizendium (http://en.citizendium.org). Originally Citizendium focussed on community-based collaborative encyclopedia-entry-type-articles, all contributors using their real names. We are now expanding our scope of article-types as listed below. We are inviting experts like yourself to contribute To one or more of the listed article-types, which will be locked from editing by anyone except yourself, and will be labeled as a citable article."
Christine, feel free to edit it if you'd like. And thanks for your support. Anthony.Sebastian 22:52, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
Anthony, you're welcome. Thank you for your responses to my initial thoughts. And I appreciate the changes in the Invitation you offer. Hopefully we'll hear from the others soon. Christine Bush 04:20, 6 July 2014 (UTC)