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CZ:Recruitment Letter

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For instructions and to keep track of what groups have been solicited, please see CZ:Mailing List Outreach.

Some e-mail titles to choose from

  • An expert-led alternative to Wikipedia (call for participation)

Original (outdated?) letter

Dear colleagues,

We're starting an expert-led alternative to Wikipedia. We feel this is badly needed. And we want your help!

Many people have a love-hate relationship with Wikipedia. On the one hand, they love the free availability of huge amounts of information. On the other hand, they hate its amateurish quality.

So, over the past few years we've seen many calls by experts to descend upon Wikipedia and whip articles in a certain area into shape. But when experts do that, though, they tend to get beaten back by an anarchical and somewhat insular Wikipedia community.

Other groups have proposed, and started, competing expert-led wiki encyclopedias, with very limited success. It's quite hard to start a successful wiki. There is a serious hurdle to clear: critical mass. If people don't see enough other people working on the wiki, they don't have an incentive to work on it themselves.

Enter the very person who conceived of Wikipedia and got it off the ground in its first year, a Ph.D. philosopher named Larry Sanger. Basically, Larry said: "Enough is enough. We can do better than this."

So the co-founder of Wikipedia is leading the construction of a newer, more mature, expert-led, but still dynamic wiki encyclopedia project, called the Citizendium (sit-ih-ZEN-dee-um), or "the Citizens' Compendium."

http://www.citizendium.org/

It will combine robust public participation with gentle expert guidance and more carefully enforced standards. It has begun life as a fully independent branch (a "fork") of Wikipedia. That means you can edit--or replace--all of those articles you hated on Wikipedia. But we expect it to take on a life of its own and, perhaps, to become the flagship of a new set of responsibly-managed free knowledge projects.

But will it achieve critical mass? There is already excellent evidence that it will. [Update with more recent statistics.]

And that's all without reaching out to mailing lists and professional associations. Most academics haven't heard about the Citizendium yet. We think that when they do, many of them will become strong supporters.

We are in the process of organizing discipline-specific editorial groups devoted to organizing Citizendium's work. We hope you will join us soon in the INSERT HERE group.

In the meanwhile, if you'd like to sign up to join the project--as an editor *or* a rank-and-file author--then please apply here:

http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Special:RequestAccount

Let's show the world what is possible when strong collaboration is gently led by real experts, but still engages the general public. More importantly, if there are large quantities of information about SUBJECT NAME HERE available online, let's make sure it's of high quality.

SIGNATURE HERE, PREFERABLY FROM SOMEONE IN THE FIELD


Version 2 for Biological / Health Sciences

WORK IN PROGRESS - NEED HELP AND INPUT (including criticism)


To:

From: www.Citizendium.org Public Relations.

Subject: Citizendium, The Citizen's Compendium, is requesting your expert help for


Dear (Insert Professor / Field-expert name here)

Re: Please consider helping us start or copyedit an article on (blank).

Despite the success of Wikipedia, many respected academic professionals are still skeptical about the reliability of these articles, specifically because anyone can edit them. Larry Sanger, a co-founder of Wikipedia, has founded a new wiki-based encyclopedia that is trying to address this significant issue.

Citizendium maintains the strength of the anyone-can-edit model with three key differences. Contributors can no longer be anonymous, editing is under the guidance of experts and it uses an article approval system similar to peer review on academic journals. The approved articles cannot be edited and represent the versions used by readers for reference; they are updated as new versions gain approval.

We are asking you, as an expert in your field, to join the project as an editor. We hope you will be interested in participating with others to write or improve the article titled (BLANK). Hopefully, you will enjoy participating in this collaboration and will continue to assist us to become a reliable and understandable source of information for both the public and students.

We turn to you because you have dedicated your life to academic pursuit in your field of choice. Your daily work affects anywhere from hundreds to thousands (or more) people everyday. With your input to this outreach project you can help the entire world gain access to free, understandable and reliable knowledge in your area of expertise.

Cordially,

Citizendium Public Relations Team


Information written on Citizendium is copy-written to the author and under the Free License agreement, information can be used on other sources if the authors are recognized.


brainstorming - a version of the ever changing wiki-media draft file in place to guarantee its reliability.

Version 2.1

Looking for more people to help write! Need Writers and more versions (please)

version 3 (for a known personal colleague who may not have knowledge of wikipedia)

Hi <name>,

You may have heard of Wikipedia. It's the free, online encyclopedia that anyone can easily edit at any time. When I first heard of it, I thought that sounded like a recipe for anarchy. Amazingly enough, many of the wikipedia articles are useful and mostly accurate. The comes about mainly because the majority of volunteer editors are well-intentioned contributors who provide what information they have and, collectively, are generally able to spot and remove errors (either unintentional or malacious vandalism). I've done a bit of contributing there myself and I find it rewarding since so many people are coming to rely on it for general information (it's often one of the sites that comes up high in Google searches for various terms).

However, inevitably there are some problems that arise from such an open system. One of these problems is <insert justification for Citizendium here>. <Insert how Citizendium is better here.>

I've joined Citizendium and I'm currently working on the <insert articles>. I find that I spend relatively little time there (usually I stop by when I need a break from whatever else I'm working on at the moment) but I do often find that I incrementally improve articles.

Sign up for the project if this sounds interesting to you -- maybe I'll see you there.

http://en.citizendium.org

<Your name>

Version sent to PHILOSOP and PHILOS-L by Larry Sanger

Dear Philosophers,

We, a rapidly growing group of over 500 intellectuals and all-around smart folks, have started an expert-led alternative to Wikipedia called "Citizendium" (sit-ih-ZEN-dee-um), or the Citizens' Compendium:

http://www.citizendium.org/

We feel this project is badly needed. And we need your help!

Many people have a love-hate relationship with Wikipedia. On the one hand, they love the free availability of huge amounts of information. On the other hand, they hate its amateurish quality. I suspect that most philosophers' sentiments fall heavily on the latter side. Personally, I think most of Wikipedia's philosophy articles are rubbish. If there must be a really dynamic, enormous, open encyclopedia of philosophy--and unless Wikipedia goes away, there will continue to be one that pretends to be just that--then the online community of philosophers can *certainly* do better than Wikipedia.

Over the past few years we've seen many calls by experts to descend upon Wikipedia and whip articles in a certain area into shape. When experts do that, though, they tend to get beaten back by an anarchical and somewhat insular Wikipedia community committed to amateurism.

Other groups have proposed, and started, competing expert-led wiki encyclopedias, with very limited success. It's quite hard to start a successful wiki. There is a serious hurdle to clear: critical mass. If people don't see enough other people working on the wiki, they don't have an incentive to work on it themselves.

I don't wish to sound immodest, but I guess am in a unique situation because--as you might recall from announcements made on this list six years ago--I actually co-founded Wikipedia in early 2001. I left the project in 2002 and permanently distanced myself from it in 2003. I began publicly criticizing it in 2004, and now, as a more efficient corrective, I'm leading the construction of a newer, more mature, expert-led, but still dynamic wiki encyclopedia project, the Citizendium. It combines robust public participation with gentle expert guidance and more carefully enforced standards.

But will it achieve critical mass? There is already excellent evidence that it will. Some might say it already has. [Update with more recent statistics]

And that's all *before* formal recruitment, i.e., without reaching out to mailing lists and professional associations. With these very posts to PHILOSOP and PHILOS-L, I am kicking off our formal recruitment efforts. Most academics haven't heard about the Citizendium project yet (although articles about it have appeared in "The Chronicle of Higher Education" and "Nature"). We think that when the word gets out, many academics and serious students will become supporters--and, I hope, participants.

If you'd like to join the project--as an editor *or* a rank-and-file author--then please apply here:

http://www.citizendium.org/cfa.html

We are also in the process of organizing discipline-specific editorial groups devoted to overseeing--not directing top-down--the new project's work. We hope you will join us soon in our Philosophy Workgroup.

If you want to see some testimonials from editors who are involved, we've collected some here:

http://www.citizendium.org/editortestimonials.html

Let's show the world what is possible when a strong collaboration is led gently by real experts, while still engaging the general educated public. If there are large quantities of information about philosophy available online, let's make sure it's of high quality.

Best,
Larry Sanger
Ph.D. 2000, Philosophy, Ohio State
Editor-in-chief, Citizendium
Co-founder, Wikipedia
http://www.larrysanger.org/

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