How to get more interest in Citizendium?

I approve of Citizendium. More free content is a win for everyone in the world, and there’s got to be more than one way to do this wiki-based encyclopedia thing. The people are good and thoughtful and the community is enthusiastic.

However, Sage Ross notes that the edit rate is going down, suggesting it’s failing to reach critical mass. (He doesn’t give numbers, nor does CZ:Statistics, though Citizendium does have a graph of active users in each month.) He has a draft article for the Signpost.

Citizendium still hasn’t picked a licence for those articles not originally from Wikipedia. Some editors seem to want to clean all Wikipedia prose out of Citizendium articles; I can’t say this is a bad idea, in that it would free them from the GFDL, which is a horrible licence for a wiki. (The first Creative Commons licences weren’t out yet when Wikipedia started.)

On Citizendium’s Alexa daily reach chart, you can see the bursts of publicity. Publicity gets viewers and presumably editors, then the rate tapers off. Mike Johnson has previously noted that criticising Wikipedia is the quick way to publicity for Citizendium, though doing so just for publicity would be distasteful. And would distract from writing an encyclopedia. What else can be done to lure people to it? (I have a login but I think I’ve made two edits … I barely edit Wikipedia of late.) Many people like the idea of a participatory encyclopedia, but have a strong distaste for the more obnoxious bits of the English Wikipedia community – but do they actually then write anything on Citizendium? Or anywhere else?

The perils of a contact link.

I got a call today from someone looking for a number to call Yorkshire Television. “I put ‘Yorkshire Television’ into my computer, and your number came up! Why-kee-pedia.” Which means he put Yorkshire Television into search, got their Wikipedia article, went through the “Contact us” link in the sidebar until he saw a UK phone number (presumably on the Foundation press page) and called me. Wouldn’t believe I had nothing to do with them.

(One of my co-workers used to be in network infrastructure for the BBC. A call got through to him from someone asking him “I want you to make me a website … You’re the BBC, aren’t you? … I pay my licence fee!”)

We get contacts like this quite a lot. The link in the sidebar on English Wikipedia has been changed from “Contact us” to “Contact Wikipedia” so as to minimise people thinking it’s a way to contact the subject of the article, suggested by Guillom because they did that on French Wikipedia for the same reason.

What does winning look like? asks us to share our vision of the future: what free culture looks like in five years.

Imagine your life after five successful years working on your free culture projects. How is your day-to-day existence different? What does a city look like? How have the lives of your parents and friends changed? What does it feel like to live in a more free culture? Does it smell different? Sound different?

They have a wiki page for the collected results. Let’s assume Moore’s Law, by the way: you’re typing your response on a 32-core Opteron with 16 gigabytes of memory on your lap. And it’s not even warm.

And, for that matter, what do the Wikimedia projects look like in 2012? When did we leave Google in the dust? Do governments cower at our name and public broadcasters release everything under CC by-sa? How did we get there? Show your working.

Edit: Dammit, the deadline was July 12! Bah. WRITE ONE ANYWAY.

The expertise problem.

English Wikipedia is allegedly anti-expert. This fails to explain why you can hardly move on the wiki without bumping into someone with multiple degrees, or how it got tagged “unemployed Ph. D. deathmatch.”

I submit that English Wikipedia does not have a bias against experts (although there are editors who clearly do), but that massive collaboration is hard. The main problem is how to work with idiots you can’t get rid of, who consider you an idiot they can’t get rid of. “Assume good faith” is not a platitude, it’s a warning that someone really can be that clueless and that sincere idiocy is ten times as hard to deal with as knowing trolling; it’s a nicer way of phrasing “don’t assume malice where stupidity will suffice.” Summary of the summary: people remain the problem.

Academia has evolved mechanisms to deal with antisocial idiots (throw them out) and antisocial experts (put them to work in a locked room and keep them away from humans); wikis are still working on the problem. Antisocial experts on a wiki — unquestionably expert, unquestionably unable to collaborate on a wiki — are really special. Thankfully they’re usually too weird to then go blogging about it …

How do other wikis cope with this? Other Wikipedias? Citizendium doesn’t seem to have had this yet that I know of, but that could just be early days. Ideas?

Edit: You’re allowed to comment, you know. The same post on my LiveJournal is going great guns!