Forum Talk:Management/Archive 2

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Has the project failed?

Statement (Copied from the talk page of User:Peter Schmitt)

Considering the state of CZ (number of active citizens) it should be clear that this is not the time for elections and referenda on formal issues or introducing new positions (Editor in Chief). Those who bravely keep the site running should admit that the project has failed, and that there is only one task left to complete: To close CZ in an orderly way and to find a permanent place where the complete database (including history, forum, etc.) will be kept accessible (possibly the internet archive,

Maybe there should be a place (a group or forum) where the fate of CZ can be discussed, the reasons for its failure can be analyzed, and ideas can be put forward how to realize successfully an alternative to WP.

Some points for such a discussion:

  • There is a need for a public domain encyclopedia certified by expert editors.
  • WP needs competition -- a monopole is never good.
  • One of the errors of CZ (though that may not have been clear from the beginning) was that it is not enough to add a few rules to the mechanics of WP. CZ was and is meant to work essentially like WP. Thus the result will either be very similar to WP, or (as it happened with CZ) the stronger project will dominate and eventually eliminate the weaker copy.

Peter Schmitt (talk) 23:41, 4 June 2016 (UTC)

Assuming for the sake of argument that CZ has failed, doesn't it make sense to determine why before deciding whether closing down is the appropriate response?
I seem to remember there is a Google group for discussion of CZ, intended to replace the old non-Citizens' forum. Of course you have to be a member of Google to join the group, but that's free, isn't it?
I agree with your first 2 bulleted points. Wikipedia has actually been declining since 2007, but there still isn't a serious general competitor (as distinct from specialist ones). I've been working to improve would-be competitors like this while leaving WP to its own devices for some time now.
On your 3rd point, have you got any more drastic changes in particular to suggest? Peter Jackson (talk) 08:48, 7 June 2016 (UTC)
I would not be so hasty to seek to close CZ. WP has also been suffering too. Have a read of these recent articles [1], [2], [3]. Perhaps there are some important lessons here for CZ. Firstly, DO NOT try and emulate, imitate or be a mirror of WP. If WP has problems, you will suffer the same. Second, be different, be distinctive, be what the internet wants. I guess that means we need to take a different strategy and appeal to users of mobile devices and smart phones. In other words make articles short, and concise and useable in the modern world. We must not abandon the goal of being more definitive and accurate than WP, but CZ must have relevancy. If the EiC's role does just that single thing ... make CZ relevant, then it will make the election/referenda worthwhile. Alan Horton (talk) 09:39, 7 June 2016 (UTC)
Reading the response from Jimmy Wales about the decline in traffic from Google to WP he says that he is not concerned and wants to improve the length and quality of articles. This goes against the "trend" for people to want "instant information" to their smart phones. So there's the "niche" for CZ ... articles written specifically for today's always on the go, always connected to the internet, phones surgically attached type of audience. Alan Horton (talk) 10:31, 7 June 2016 (UTC)
"short", like the one I wrote elsewhere: [4]? Is this appropriate for a site that's supposed to be representing experts? Peter Jackson (talk) 17:24, 9 June 2016 (UTC)
"short" is certainly not the way to go for an encyclopedia that wants to be taken seriously; however, the introductin to an article should serve as a summary that provides the basic information for the impatient user.
Concerning your link to WikiSage: This new project addresses two of the weak points that CZ has inherited from WP (neutrality and "original" research) but -- at least at first glance -- is still too much a clone of WP, with some similarity to CZ. Peter Schmitt (talk) 18:57, 17 June 2016 (UTC)
  1. On WP the intro is indeed supposed to do exactly as you recommend. (In practice, people often edit it independently of the main body of the article.) I suspect the great majority of WP's readers read the intro only, and maybe some bit(s) of the article they're particularly interested in.
  2. Here, though, there's a different policy: the intro is supposed to say what's important about the topic, not summarize it.
  3. Maybe you'd like to elaborate how you see NPOV and NOR as weak points on WP and here.
  4. Our neutrality policy isn't much different from theirs; in fact it's adapted from an earlier version of theirs. There are certainly problems over there in actually applying it. There's no one with authority to adjudicate, and the dispute resolution process isn't really fit for purpose on controversial topics. Here, the theory was that Editors would adjudicate, but in most cases, if there were a dispute, there wouldn't be a suitably qualified Editor available, so the Council (or ME) would be left to adjudicate.
  5. Our attitude to original research is more flexible. I was looking at their policy recently, and see it's extremely strict. With rare exceptions, anything not explicitly stated in reliable sources mustn't be stated, or even suggested, in WP articles. For example, if you find 2 sources that apparently contradict each other, but the later one doesn't actually say the earlier one is wrong, and you can't find a 3rd that says they contradict each other, then you're not supposed to say "According to ... However, according to ...", because use of the word "However" suggests disagreement. (PS Needless to say, this policy is often ignored.)
  6. WikiSage is (deliberately or not) a sort of hybrid of Wikipedia, Citizendium and Wikinfo methods:
    1. (from CZ) if an expert is available, they control the main article;
    2. (from WP) otherwise the main article is decided democratically;
    3. (from WI) in either case, anyone dissatisfied with the main article can attach to it a subpage giving their own POV.
Peter Jackson (talk) 09:47, 18 June 2016 (UTC)


ad (1)+(2) Both is possible, of course. I do not think that there is an explicit CZ policy on that. On the other hand, WP articles often contain much too much details which hide the important information. This material would better fit into extra articles (or subpages)

ad (3)+(4) That is a difficult issue. Facts have to be correct, of course. And I think that "objectivity" is a better term for the position tha an encyclopedia should take. However, there are many fields where strict neutral (or objective) articles lack useful and interesting information (religion, history, reviews of works of art, contested theories, ...).

ad (5) It makes no sense to exclude primary sources (often the best available!) and to insist on sources for every remark. An encyclopedia is not the place to publish new results, but why should an article not -- by bringing together material -- bring new insights?

ad (6) All three rely on the "wisdom of the crowd". This works well for building lists and collecting details. It does not work so well for writing good articles. But this is another story ... ;-)

Peter Schmitt (talk) 11:50, 21 June 2016 (UTC)

To try to fix ideas, I've just had a look at the WP neutrality policy. It boils down to 3 points:
  1. clearly and accurately distinguish between facts and opinions
  2. avoid biased language
  3. give different POVs due weight corresponding to their prominence in "reliable sources".
Peter Jackson (talk) 09:52, 25 June 2016 (UTC)
CZ policy doesn't seem much different. Print encyclopaedias, on the other hand, don't seem to feel bound by such principles.
Maybe you could clarify your own ideas in relation to this. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:59, 25 June 2016 (UTC)

There is the non-member Google group, which may be used by non-members. John Stephenson (talk) 14:30, 7 June 2016 (UTC)

Why close CZ?

When CZ was started it was a project with an interesting concept and as such attracted some attentation. However, it did not really get off and never came near to its (far too) ambitious goals. On the contrary, it soon began to decline and never recovered in spite of all the efforts made to save it. In the meantime it should be clear that CZ does not work as intended. Something is wrong (mechanics, rules), and it would require major changes and huge efforts to relaunch the project with some chances of success. However, a person with the means and the energy to achieve this (is there such a person?) would be better off to start a *new* project from the scratch that does not suffer from the (now) bad reputation of CZ, and that does not need to be completely reformed.

(When CZ is completely archived -- the whole database and all additional material -- then it could, if desired, be revived any time.)

Peter Schmitt (talk) 23:50, 24 June 2016 (UTC)

I can only repeat what I said before: it seems reasonable to me to try to understand what the problem(s) is/are before deciding what to do about it. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:49, 25 June 2016 (UTC)
Peter, I'll come to that later. I have already made some general remarks above. I do not have the patience for extensive answers now. in particular, since interest in such a discussion seems to be quite limited. I'll deal with this item per item. Peter Schmitt (talk) 13:33, 25 June 2016 (UTC)
Dear Citizens, since I am not a native English speaker I have never contributed to CZ, waiting for it to take off to the next phase of opening up for other languages. Every now and then I visited CZ to see how it's doing. I am visiting it today, again, and my heart is bleeding when I see that you are actually discussing shutting the whole enterprise down.
Please let me tell you that I believe that indeed there is a space for a new encyclopedia, other than Wikipedia. A lot has changed since WP inception - we now have all the online courses, forums such as StackOverflow, open access books and illegal sites such as LibraryGenesis and Sci-Hub. And yet all this becomes more scattered and chaotic with every minute. There has always been a need to organise our knowledge. And anyone can try working on her own - but we will do it on our small private web sites, our small free publications, just adding to disorganisation. The alternative is that people could work under one name, be it CZ or some other name.
My friend who works in marketing says that it's always easier to improve an already existing brand than creating a new one.
I would be very sorry to see CZ getting closed. I understand how bad it feels when there is no success. I would wish that CZ gravitates towards Larousse encyclopedias, or develops into collections such as Oxford Manuals. Oxford Manuals are great, but too long to read the whole thing when you just want to get the basic idea who eg Spinoza was. It's very nice that there are very specialised articles here on very specific topics, but what is really necessary is to write short books and essays on general subjects, such as History of Europe, Mathematics, Western Philosophy, Nutrition etc.
The expectation was that CZ would just miraculously and spontanously become what WP is today, but since the human base is different in this project, it requires more marketing, more direct encouragement, more promotion. I got here because of the book by Andrew Keen. Otherwise I have never heard of CZ. Why do we assume others would?
My heart remains with CZ. Piotr Łukasz (talk) 14:11, 26 June 2016 (UTC)
Thank you for your support, Piotr. (And please feel free to edit in English!) It's also worth reminding ourselves of those non-members who read our site, link to us, 'like' us on social media, retweet us, and so on. CZ does get used to a modest degree despite the lack of much promotion over the last few years. As for shutting down: this volunteer project costs us about a hundred bucks a month to run, and there are ways to reduce that still further. Why would we want to stop? Even if it's eternally a hobby site for a few enthusiasts, that's better than nothing at all, and we can gradually reform and expand over time. It needs very few people to keep the site ticking over. Also, other than democratic processes, we have two important policies that distinguish us from the competition: verified real names and Editor oversight. There is no reason to throw those away. I think there is a place for CZ as an active source of free knowledge, rather than just as a static archive. John Stephenson (talk) 19:42, 26 June 2016 (UTC)
I fully agree with you, Piotr. And, yes, of course, John, there is nothing to say against "a hobby site for a few enthusiasts". But as such it will never achieve what we want it to be (and what it was founded for). A few years ago -- CZ was already developing rather moderately, only -- I still had hopes, but in spite of some efforts made it did not improve. CZ would need, as you said, Piotr, intensive marketing to recover, and some radical changes. Unlike you, I think that it would be far easier to found a new site (with the same objective), but I may be wrong. Peter Schmitt (talk) 23:48, 26 June 2016 (UTC)
Regardless of whether it's a better idea to continue with CZ or to start a new site, I think a good first step would be for CZ's leaders to admit that, as originally conceived, CZ has failed and is highly unlikely ever to meet its original goals. There's nothing wrong with CZ being a hobby site for a few enthusiasts; however, its original goals can get in the way. To take one example, our governance structure is appropriate for a site with 500 regular contributors, not 10. I think that admitting that the original goals are unattainable is the first step to a better CZ. James Yolkowski (talk) 02:34, 27 June 2016 (UTC)

For what it's worth: When I first looked at CZ I was looking at the article on Civil Society, which I found was infinitely better than the equivalent one on Wikipedia. It was informative, well-organised, and clearly authoritative, whereas Wikipedia's was the usual jumble, and uninformative at that. However, if I had happened to look at some of the other articles here, I would not have continued to use the website. Anyone who first came across some of the inept or half-started articles we have here would not get a good impression. I know it is no use proposing a remedy, because I have learnt that even if it is agreed, nothing will actually happen — and that, I think, probably applies to the idea of a new start. I suppose I just remain one of the hobbyists that James Yolkowski refers to (but, I hope, of a reasonable standard.) --Martin Wyatt (talk) 19:07, 27 June 2016 (UTC)

While I agree with James' observation about the failure of the original idea, I don't necessarily agree with the demand to formally or officially recognising it. What would it change? Everyone sees it, the statistics speak about it loudly. The qovernance and procedures are blown out of proportion, that's true. A motion about the failure just seems like perpetuating the beaurocratic impossibilism.
Moreover, CZ played its important role at a certan moment, and drew attention of many people to the problems that Wikipedia obviously had and maybe changed it for better. Certain articles were copied to Wikipedia. That's all together a bit better than calling CZ a complete failure.
I have been an active editor of Wikipedia for over 10 years now. Its growth has slowed down significantly over the last years, number of editors plummeted for a couple of reasons, but mainly:
1) the gerenal feeling is that Everything is already in Wikipedia,
2) NONE of my friends know that you actually can edit Wikipedia or how to do it (because it's more complicated than handling your Facebook account?),
3) it is extremely difficult to improve style of long and poorly written articles because that requires a lot of dramatical changes that would be recognised as vandalism.
With your permission - I would reiterate that whether CZ keeps its name or starts anew, it should focus on creating well written summaries/guides to specific topics. Once you have a couple of useful, well written, reviewed essays and handbooks (compendium is a part of CZ name!), people would come for their sake, and around that there could emerge small encyclopedic articles supplementing the main text. On-line publication has many adventages over aforementioned printed, static Oxford or Routledge Handbooks. My vision also includes: freely accessible peer reviewd articles and book reviews and "virtual conferences" with submitted papers and recorded video presentations. That, of course, changes the nature of CZ. It would demand a different way of working, especially editorial work and lots of PR+marketing to make CZ brand prestigious.
The argument for sticking to Citizendium name, most importantly, is that the Internet is a place of ephemeral beings - CZ's history is long enough to be valuable just for the fact that it has been arount for so long. Changing the profile of activity does not mean that the original goal has to be changed. There is a vast base of registered editors that we can try to go back to. There is the technical base and paying contributors that have kept CZ running. There is the interesting legacy of dispute between Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. Starting from absolutely zero is much much harder. On the top that all, you have no idea how many more people like me are just around the corner, lurking, hoping, remembering, being upset about WP and waiting for something else. Piotr Łukasz (talk) 21:05, 27 June 2016 (UTC)

Why didn't it work?

(1) WP fork. CZ was started as a fork of WP. This turned out as a mistake. Attempts to remedy this by deleting many articles were not completely successfull. Traces of articles inherited from WP are still present -- and they are not to WP's advantage. (Remark. Trying to reform WP might lead to similar problems.) Peter Schmitt (talk) 23:22, 27 June 2016 (UTC)

(2) WP mechanics. Except for the additions of real names, editors, and constables, the rules and mechanics of WP were copied. Everyone can edit every article anytime, even "approved" articles are meant to be constantly improved by anybody. As WP shows, such articles usually grow into huge collections of facts (hopefully, correct ones) but not into good articles. The idea that articles are written by the "wisdom of the crowd" and approved by experts did not work as hoped (imagined). Good articles are written by experts who have a concept and know how to organize the material and what to include (and what not). The article Civil Society (mentioned above by Martin) is a good example: It has only one (main) author. Peter Schmitt (talk) 23:54, 27 June 2016 (UTC)