Wikipedia talk:Wikipedia Signpost/2007-07-30/Citizendium analysis

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On 2007-07-24, Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2007-07-30/Citizendium analysis was linked from Heise Online, a high-traffic website. (See visitor traffic)


Hi Ragesoss,

Mike Johnson from Citizendium here. I thought this was an interesting article with generally true and interesting facts. I liked the amount of article research and writing style analysis that went into it. However, the general tone of it seems vaguely hostile towards Citizendium (in certain places unfairly so)-- I realize this isn't an encyclopedia article, and perhaps it's none of my business, but perhaps more could be done to make it NPOV?

The main reasons why I feel this article is sometimes vaguely hostile is word choice, the choices made of what aspects and issues to mention and not mention, and the choice of comparison to Wikipedia-6.5-years-in, not Wikipedia-8-months-in. I do, however, believe the article is written in complete good faith(!).

One thing I would direct you to if you're doing research on what's going on at Citizendium is our main mailing list. I think a lot of interesting project discussion goes on and frankly, some exciting plans have been expressed on Citizendium-L. Some of the cool things that'll hit in the next few weeks include

- A semi-automated registration system which should eliminate our application backlog and allow us to add users much more quickly (this should significantly change our numbers-- registration has been our bottleneck) ;

- A lot of really neat initiatives we've started to call "Citizendium 2.0" (hey, not my choice of name. :) ;

- The "Eduzendium" project.

Those are my thoughts. In the end, I see Wikipedia and Citizendium as complementary sister projects (and I really like both of them, for different reasons). The rising tide of getting more people involved in more wiki models lifts all boats. I hope many Wikipedians take that view, as well. --Johnsonmx 15:05, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

I agree, this has a very strong bias against CZ. Without further changes, this should not be included in the next signpost. 15:30, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
Mike, thanks very much for your comments. I thought about looking deeper into the mailing list, but I had trouble identifying what was important and what wasn't; your pointers will come in handy, if I have a chance to do more research before I go off traveling (beginning tomorrow). In terms of word choice, which ones are you referring to? I admit it's a bit snarky when it comes the unattributed Wikipedia content, but that's something CZ should have dealt with long ago. Even with the Approved articles, there are more unattributed Wikipedia forks than attributed ones; this points to a systematic problem, an endemic hostility toward Wikipedia. The quote from the d'Herelle discussion page (by David Tribe) is just the most egregious example. The whole licensing discussion seemed to revolve around how much it would be feasible to prevent Wikipedia of benefiting from Citizendium. Your more positive attitude to WP seems to be shared by only about half of your fellow Citizens.
As for the fairness or unfairness of comparing CZ and WP at these different stages in development...I tried to do this as fairly as possible. I did not compare overall site stats to WP at all, but to Conservapedia (which started around the same time). In terms of individual articles, I think it's a perfectly fair comparison. The whole point of creating CZ forks is that CZ editors expected to be able to quickly improve WP starter material while the original articles stagnated or degraded under the open editing of the anonymous masses. In general, that has not happened; most WP articles have improved considerably more since the forks than the CZ counterparts. I don't think that's because of any particular competitive focus on the topics CZ chose to work (i.e., "let's makes sure CZ doesn't beat us"). The CZ Approved articles represent articles that have seen the most collaboration and work, and neglecting the vandalism/reversion cycles on Wikipedia, these parallel forked articles have had comparable numbers of people working on them. CZ can never expect to have as many writers as Wikipedia (unless or until CZ takes over a substantial portion of Wikipedia's mindshare among readers), and that's built into CZ's model, to make up for quantity of writers with higher quality of writers. I didn't go into it, but by my estimate the rate of article editing on CZ is down ten fold from just a couple of months ago.
It's hard to say what attrition was caused by earlier sign-up backlogs (though it was probably substantial), but in the recent past there can't have been that much of a backlog if Larry can now promise 24-hour turnaround. Two new Citizens per day is a stark statistic. That's also down about 10-fold or more from several months ago, by my very rough estimate.
I did not mention the obvious issue of breadth of coverage for related topics or Wikipedia's other advantages of scale. Where CZ has seen success is with writing articles from scratch; there's definitely something to the idea that starting anew gives writers more of a sense of investment, and trying to reform bad content can be more trouble than it's worth. WP would probably be well served to encourage more of that kind of thing. (A total re-write is what I did for my first featured article, Johannes Kepler. Many others have discovered the value of this approach as well, it just doesn't get much emphasis in our guidelines.)
Yours in discourse--ragesoss 16:33, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
I'd agree with Ragesoss that the comparisons are generally fair. The Conservapedia comparison could be strengthened by making it explicit why this comparison was chosen (similar start date, comparable level of initial publicity). Where Citizendium is compared directly to Wikipedia, it's in terms of the development of material coming from Wikipedia originally. That is to say, both projects have the same starting point, an article on date X, and it looks at what the two projects have done with that in the same amount of time. It's not about the fact that Wikipedia dwarfs Citizendium and doesn't rest on that kind of comparison. --Michael Snow 19:32, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the input, Ragesoss and Michael. I see the point about comparisons-- you've got to start somewhere-- though re: Conservapedia, I would suggest that not all edits are equal. It appears from a quick perusal that a lot of Conservapedia's edits have historically been vandalism-related and Citizendium compares very favorably in terms of number of high-quality articles (I admit that's not a very scientific comparison). Regarding comparisons between the content of Wikipedia and Citizendium, well, that's a hard comparison to make. I suggest any devoted member of either community may bring their own biases to the table. Which is not to say nothing should be said about content comparisons-- just that it's difficult to make comparisons meaningfully objective if there's any thread of "us" vs "them" in the comparison (not that I want to fan such flames, but- respectfully- I do get that vibe from the article, though perhaps in that assessment I've been influenced by reading the associated blog post). I did particularly enjoy the writing style & organizational structure analyses you did, Ragesoss, as I mentioned in my previous statement. Frankly, I'd love to see more of it, since to me that's where the really interesting stuff is. Respectfully yours, --Johnsonmx 03:44, 21 July 2007 (UTC)
Gentlemen, one quick thought. This article is not my article, and in extending the invitation to write a counterpoint/survey of what's going on at Citizendium, a lot of my criticisms of bias are muted. One final point that I'd like you to look at is the issue of GFDL violation that my colleague Stephen brings up (short version: both CZ (as evidenced in this essay) and WP (example here) are 'guilty' of doing so, which might bear mention if talking about the issue). I'll have plenty to say about edit & contributor numbers-- but I'll do that on my time. Best, --Johnsonmx 13:01, 21 July 2007 (UTC)

(after edit conflict:) A few things I noticed when I read the article:

  • You're quite positive about the CZ "Life" article; in my opinion it's much worse as an encyclopedia articele than our Life. Their article is more like an essay. An encyclopedia article should (IMHO) start with answering the most important questions, in this case: "What is it?" (the (or a) definition of "Life"). The other question that should be answered in this case: what counts as life, and what does not? (For example: bacteria are life, but viruses are not). The CZ article really does a disappointing job of covering the basics of the subject. Similarly with "Dog": an encyclopedia article on dogs should probably always start with something like: "Dogs are mammals, often kept as pets." Again, the most basic property of dogs, that they are mammals, is not at all mentioned in the article. I had not checked our article Dog before writing the previous sentences, but I'm pleased to see that it does do a good job of giving a basic definition in the fitst paragraph. (See also this blog post, which says it better than I can). Of course, your opinion may differ.
  • The CZ Felix d'Herelle article was properly marked as Wikipedia derived, until that tag was lost when the article was moved (see the article's history). The removal of the attribution was accidental, and I don't think you should give it as much meaning as you do.

I think you should make it clear that this article is largely your own opinion. I do agree with most of the points you're making. Citizendium does not seem to be failing, but it doesn't really seem to take off either. It gives me the impression of growing linearly, compared to the exponential growth of Wikipedia. Eugène van der Pijll 16:44, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

By the way, have you seen -- Eugène van der Pijll 16:53, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
Just an opinion, but the take-off metaphor may be inaccurate here. Given the different parameters for both membership and authoring, we are, in my opnion, simply witnessing a different dynamic. Linear growth--if it really is that--would seem to be the norm for a project like CZ and as such indicates a careful approach that may have structurally eliminated much of the less than structured growth of the WP. Goals are different, mission is different and means of reaching them are different. --Malangthon 02:58, 23 July 2007 (UTC)
Eugène, thanks much. I did note that with the d'Herelle article (and the John Franklin article), the lack of attribution seemed to be a clerical error. But I also found the quote striking and wanted to fit it in. Do you think I should just remove most of that paragraph? I agree with you about Dog; this is another example of the informal, sometimes patronizing tone of CZ articles compared to ours. As for Life, I didn't mean to imply that the CZ article is flat-out better, only that it is more fully developed and referenced. (In terms of ideals, I much prefer the kinds article Wikipedia tries to write.)--ragesoss 16:57, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
The quote on the talk page is interesting, but you cannot judge a whole project by one remark of a single contributor. Imagine what your conclusion about Wikipedia would be... So I agree that your current short mention of the problem is enough. On the other hand, it illustrates the problems of proper sourcing, which can have significant consequences on CZ, as the license of an article may depend on that "wikipedia" tag. (If CZ decides to adopt the GFDL for all their articles, I wouldn't think the consequences to be nearly as bad.) -- Eugène van der Pijll 17:43, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

First a note to other readers: the post at the top referred to an earlier draft of this essay, & Sage toned down the language a little in later drafts.

Eugene's link to Citizendium's statistics page is worth following. One datum it reports -- & if I were Larry Sanger I'd be concerned about -- is a steady drop-off in new contributors. Even after ignoring the February spike in new accounts, since April there has been a steady decrease in new accounts, active users, and edits. This is a problem I honestly do not want to see Citizendium have: Wikipedia has its own problem with Expert retention, & I would rather not think that we are doing the best job possible.

A last note: that observation that Nancy Sculerati was deleted is very troubling for the reasons you state, Sage. Have you verified with Sanger that it was deleted & not just moved to an "inactive user" area? (The reason it could not be found might be due to an error in updating the necessary links.) Because it is a troubling point, I encourage you to verify this fact. -- llywrch 17:35, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

I asked Mike Johnson (on his new userpage) about Sculerati. I searched for a moved page or an explanation, but didn't find one. Unfortunately, page logs are not accessible on Citizendium, so I could not tell if/when it was deleted and by whom.--ragesoss 17:51, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
Johnson tells me that Sculerati's userpage was deleted at her request, and that it is not standard practice. It's still a bit troubling that they do not retain a bio, since they do retain her contributions and they rely on the identities of editors. However, it seems more a personal issue and courtesy deletion than a widespread problem, so I've removed that section from the article.--ragesoss 19:56, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
(See Nancy Sculerati's answer below.)
The remark about page logs not being accessible seems to be wrong or outdated. The last two entries in the log for User:Nancy_Sculerati are:
  • 14:29, 23 June 2007 Larry Sanger (Talk | contribs) changed group membership for User:Nancy Sculerati from sysop to wikieditor
  • 12:50, 23 June 2007 Nancy Sculerati (Talk | contribs) deleted "User:Nancy Sculerati"
Regards, High on a tree 04:09, 26 July 2007 (UTC)

Hit job[edit]

This frankly reads much more like a hit job than objective, verifiable fact-based reporting.

Also, if the following is true:

  • "seven [approved articles] are derived from Wikipedia articles but unattributed as such"
  • after the unmodified Wikipedia articles were purged, many users added up-to-date Wikipedia content without acknowledging the source

I'd like to see the hard facts of this so it can be corrected rather than the mere charge.

Stephen Ewen 21:40, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

All seven articles are identified in the article. You're welcome to compare the articles yourself; in each case it is quite clear that the current CZ versions were influenced to varying degress by the corresponding Wikipedia articles. Several of them have the issue brought up on the discussion pages, and in two or three of the cases (Franklin, d'Herelle, and possibly Metabolism) it looks like simply no one ended up marking the WP bubble (at least for the approved version). It also seems relatively clear that there were many Wikipedia cut-and-pastes after the Big Delete, and that it took some time to mark most of them appropriately (and I have no idea how many were missed aside from the Approved articles).--ragesoss 21:58, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
As a comment on Metabolism, I've read through the Citizendium article and I can't see any of my work in it, so I don't think there has been any unattributed copying of the Wikipedia version of this article. Tim Vickers 19:50, 5 August 2007 (UTC)
Tim, it is (or was) in the history section; it's one of the very few bits that still remain from before you started working on it, I think.--ragesoss 06:05, 6 August 2007 (UTC)
Ah, I see. The remains of the stub. As a comment on the differences between the two I think the assessment of Citizendium aiming for a simple introduction is entirely correct. The Wiki version is more comprehensive and aimed at a higher level, while their version of the article looks like it is shaping up into a reasonably approachable introduction to human metabolism. With these two different approaches the Wikipedia and Citizendium articles could be complementary. Tim Vickers 15:42, 6 August 2007 (UTC)



  • your statement about CZ's article on John Franklin is simply in error, see its talk page.
  • I fixed CZ's attribution issue on Félix d'Hérelle, and it was a mere clerical oversight; as you can see I explicitly stated on its talk page that it needed to be checked prior placement of the approval template. Could you not have simply done the courtesy of bringing the matter up on the Félix d'Hérelle talk page rather than rush to put it in a signpost article?

Stephen Ewen 22:01, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

This article has not yet been published, and I would have contacted someone at Citizendium before publication had Mike Johnson not found it first. As for the John Franklin article... I overlooked Russell Potter's reply; I find some of Potter's contributions (as User:Profrap) in the WP article history, but it looks like the article evolved organically from the WP version, and Profrap's contributions don't seem to account for the remaining similarities.--ragesoss 22:17, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
For example, prose that originated from this contribution by another Wikipedian is retained in the Citizendium article.--ragesoss 22:28, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
I will look at that, Sage. But again, don't you think the professional thing to do is communicate such concerns on the article talk page or to, which is published clearly? Stephen Ewen 01:08, 21 July 2007 (UTC)
My main concern is to report accurately on the state of Citizendium and the ways it relates to Wikipedia. If some of the problems I've uncovered get fixed, that's great, but I don't have much interest in policing GFDL compliance. This seems to be an endemic problem on Citizendium, and I suspect it goes beyond just the Approved articles I examined. As a quick test, I pressed "random article" until I found an unattributed Wikipedia article. It took ten tries ([1]); the first version was marked WP, but none of the subsequent versions. Another issue is that, even if a CZ article ends up with all the original WP precise text removed, the original structure will often have a strong effect on the result, and should arguably retain GFDL status. Clearly, Citizendium cannot rely on Wikipedians to ensure compliance, as these problems have gone unreported so far.--ragesoss 01:36, 21 July 2007 (UTC)
As for bringing the matter up on the talk page: we can't. Only CZ members can edit there. Eugène van der Pijll 22:33, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
I have a CZ account. (I signed up during the 3 weeks of free-for-all signups shortly before the March opening.)--ragesoss 22:35, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
OK, I haven't said anything then. Eugène van der Pijll 22:41, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

Please see my post at Sage's blog at Stephen Ewen 05:40, 21 July 2007 (UTC)

Nancy Sculerati[edit]

For more info, see this post. That was a while ago though, not sure if it's related to the current event.

Also, the automatic account request software should be on testbed, and then live soon. It is basically an extension of mine I whipped up recently. Voice-of-All 07:34, 21 July 2007 (UTC)

  • That post is unlikely to be the reason for her departure; it's from a few months earlier, and the problems she had then (apparently, vandalism by accounts with names similar to hers) are probably no longer a problem. Citizendium has not had any large vandalism problem since the end of the open sign-up trial in February. And it is really none of our business why she left. Eugène van der Pijll 10:03, 21 July 2007 (UTC)

Chiropractic articles[edit]

Hello Ragesoss, I wanted to thank you for your comments on the Chiropractic and Vertebral subluxation articles. I think you are as accurate as you can possibly get without actually interviewing the authors and editors. I do hope your readers understand that there were countless others that helped to bring the Citizendium article to the level that it is. I am just the editor that nominated it for approval because I felt that it represented something that I could stand behind. I am not sure, but you might want to mention that I also edited the article here with some excellent quality people. Also, although I am honored to be mentioned alone, Chiropractic was actually approved using the three editor process (similar to the peer review process) which included Professor Gareth Leng and Nancy Sculerati, MD; both well qualified in their fields of medicine and neurophysiology. Before the article was approved, it was vetted by others who checked the copyright status of images, copyedited for spelling, and made suggestions for us to help clarify our thoughts, formatted references, etc., etc.. It was a really good example of collaboration with 'gentle expert guidance'.

I don't think I have to tell you that Chiropractic can be a controversial subject, but put together in the atmosphere that Larry set up, made it a pleasure to work with professionals with more qualifications than myself and be treated with the respect that everyone deserves. This is really quite a unique vision that Larry had to make these articles as neutral as possible and reliable enough that they could be used for education purposes at any level. Being an editor here at wikipedia, I hope to one day see that Citizendium develops to the point where it is reliable and verifiable enough to be referenced here on wikipedia. Then we truly will see a world with an encyclopedia that 'everyone can edit' with 'gentle guidance from experts'. Cheers to you! ---- Dēmatt (chat) 03:11, 22 July 2007 (UTC)

Dematt is far too modest and I would like to set the record straight! Dematt did an enormous amount of great editorial and historical work to bring the WP chiropractic article to the state it is in now. Before he came here it was a battle to include anything that wasn't a sales pitch for the profession, no matter how well sourced. Obstructionism and edit warring were the order of the day. Because he is a chiropractor, the other supporters of chiropractic couldn't object as much when he graciously allowed the inclusion of well-documented criticisms and aided in wording them in an NPOV manner. I have never met an editor with an opposing POV (to mine regarding chiropractic) who understands NPOV so well, and who edits in such a congenial, respectful, and collaborative manner. This guy deserves all the support he can get! -- Fyslee/talk 08:57, 22 July 2007 (UTC)
Thank you Fyslee, good to hear from you! I've been working on the Lumbalgia article on Citizendium and sure could use some help from a PT! :-) ---- Dēmatt (chat) 14:20, 22 July 2007 (UTC)

I looked at the CZ and WP Chiropractic articles a while in light of Sage's very serious charge that the CZ article is "unattributed" from WP.

"Chiropractic was founded in 1895 by Daniel David Palmer (DD Palmer)."

The above phrase is found within the CZ article,[2] with a an upload date of 23 October 2006[3]

"Chiropractic was founded in 1895 by Daniel David Palmer."

The above phrase is currently contained within the WP Chiropractic article - the phrase's upload date is 9 April 2006

The person who added that phrase to the WP article is User:AED, see here. He is NOT a CZ contributor, as far as I know, certainly not one of the three approving editors of the CZ article, Matt Inis DC, Gareth Lang PhD, and Nancy Sculeratti MD.

Note that when one Googles the phrase, "Chiropractic was founded in 1895 by Daniel David Palmer," one receives 26 hits on it from a good variety of sources.

This leads to the questions:

Did User:AED steal it too? Or is this phrase common knowledge? Is it de minimus irrespective?

Obviously, the phrase is common knowledge; yet, it appears this is the sort of thing Sage is charging against three Citizendium editors and the CZ project as a violation of WP copyright.

Sage, you need to be extremely careful about publishing something that charges real-named people, who have real reputations that can be harmed, with violating someone's copyright within a publication of theirs. This is a very serious charge to make. And clearly the charge in this instance is not true.

Stephen Ewen 07:34, 22 July 2007 (UTC)

If that would be the only phrase that is similar between both articles, it would be very meagre evidence. However, there are more distinctive phrases that are shared. Three examples (not exhaustive):
  • "DD Palmer asked a patient and friend, Rev. Samuel Weed, to help him name his discovery. He suggested combining the words cheiros and praktikos (meaning "done by hand") to describe Palmer's treatment method, creating the term "chiropractic." In 1896, DD added a school to his magnetic healing infirmary, and began to teach others his method. It would be become known as Palmer School of Chiropractic (PSC, now Palmer College of Chiropractic)." (WP)
  • "Palmer asked a friend, the Reverend Samuel Weed, to help him name his discovery; he suggested combining the words cheiros and praktikos (meaning 'done by hand'). In 1896, he added a school to his magnetic healing infirmary and began to teach others the new "chiropractic"; it would become the Palmer School (now College) of Chiropractic." (CZ)
  • "Osteopathic schools responded to such criticism by developing a program of college inspection and accreditation. DD Palmer, who had no medical education, and whose school had just graduated its 7th student, insisted that his graduates did not need the same training as medicine, ..." (CZ)
  • "Osteopathic schools across the country responded immediately by developing a program of college inspection and accreditation.[17] DD Palmer, whose school had just graduated its 7th student, insisted that his techniques did not need the same courses or license as medicine, [...]" (WP)
  • "Its growth was initially stunted by its resolution to recognize physio-therapy and other modalities as pertaining to chiropractic. [...] But a disagreement within the UCA in 1924 turned the tide for the ACA. BJ was still working to purge mixers from practicing chiropractic, and he saw a new invention by Dossa D. Evans, the "Neurocalometer" (NCM),[33] as the answer to all of straight chiropractic's (and particularly PSC's) legal and financial problems." (WP)
  • "Its growth was initially stunted by its decision to recognize physiotherapy and other modalities as related to chiropractic, but, in 1924, a disagreement within the UCA turned the tide. BJ Palmer was still trying to purge mixers from chiropractic, and he saw a new invention by Dossa D. Evans, the Neurocalometer, as the answer." (CZ)
If these similarities would be found in a student's thesis, unattributed, it would likely be called plagiarism. Now that is not really a problem, as Wikipedia was written to be "plagiarized", so to say.
I have not checked if these parts of the WP article were written by contributors to the CZ article. If so, there is no problem. But I have looked for the contributor of the Samuel Weed phrase, but that seems to have evolved, and no single contributor can be credited for that one. Which probably means that you have to attribute these texts to Wikipedia.
This unattributed copying of WP is a problem for CZ. It's not a serious problem, if it happens once. But the fact that ragesoss found this problem in a large percentage of your best (and presumably, most scrutinized) articles is troubling. And yes, if CZ takes off, Wikipedia will have similar problems with people copying Citizendium articles. That is no reason for CZ to be lax about it. Eugène van der Pijll 11:23, 22 July 2007 (UTC)
Hi, Eugene. I think if you check the history, you will see that I wrote those sentences myself and as I understand it, do not need to attribute them to anyone. As long as the sources are referenced, that is all that is necessary. If they were copyedited, it was Gareth Leng who performed that function here as well. Fyslee can verify that for you. You might also check my entire center of research that I did while here and transported to Citizendium [4]. I understand that when using a pseudonym, there are no damages, but when using real names, erroneus accusations entail taking risks. Please be careful with my, and others, reputations. ---- Dēmatt (chat) 14:15, 22 July 2007 (UTC)
Hi Matt; as I said, I had not checked the history of all of the text, as that is very time consuming. Unfortunately, the one phrase I did check seems to be the only one that was problematic: the sentence about Samuel Weed was already in our article before April 1, 2006 (when you started contributing). I now checked the other texts, and I've found the exact edit that you added the second of them ([5]), and I'm reasonably sure the others are also by you.
I apologize to you and to Citizendium for misrepresenting the situation here; I no longer think the CZ Chiropractic article is problematical. The small unexplained similarities that remain are, as Stephen Ewen says, too few and too small to worry about. Eugène van der Pijll 16:20, 22 July 2007 (UTC)
Thank you, Eugene for your honorable sense of integrity. I understand the difficulty in producing accurate pieces and I would only ask that perhaps Ragesoss consider interviewing each of the editors to find out if there are not similar situations occurring there. We all humbly appreciate constructive criticism and work hard to improve with every thoughtful exchange. I am sure that could only benefit your readers. Thanks for your efforts. ---- Dēmatt (chat) 20:55, 22 July 2007 (UTC)

Eugene, I heartily echo Matt's sentiments to you.

Also, it seems you are referencing my blogpost[6]; since the link to it here is a bit buried by now and readers may miss it, I am going to copy it below:

Sage, you mentioned things about the tone of your piece.

There is another tone you are setting that you might not be aware of that has caused me significant concern as a Citizendium contributor--and I think Wikipedians should be equally concerned about it.

Because your piece is working to set a very poor tone in a relationship. It is a tone that is beneficial to neither project.

Your piece seems to assume:

  1. WP will never borrow (or has not yet borrowed) from CZ.
  2. There has not been a good faith effort by CZ to attribute when it is so.
  3. It is both desirable and possible and to monitor the attribution situation perfectly.
  4. Wikipedians will be perfect in the issue--will never, and right now do not have, material from CZ that is attributed as such.
  5. All material in Wikipedia articles really is the original work of Wikipedians.
  6. De minimus borrowing without attribution is a huge deal and is to be exploited.
  7. When attribution problems are discovered, don't WP:AGF and don't give the professional courtesy of informing the party as the first step. Instead, exploit and publish attribution problems.

I had hoped a different tone would be set, one that accounts for WP:NOT#BATTLEGROUND and that realistically assumes several things:

  1. Both CZ and WP will borrow from one another's works.
  2. There will generally be a good faith effort by their contributors to attribute when it is so.
  3. It is neither desirable nor possible for either CZ or WP to monitor the attribution situation perfectly.
  4. Both CZ and WP, even with monitoring, will never be perfect on the attribution issue.
  5. When an attribution problem in an article becomes known, to be kind enough to communicate to one another directly about it, and to be thankful and responsive to one another in the matter, knowing that points 1 through 4 above are so.
  6. To not worry too much about de minimus borrowing, if it is found unattributed.

I hope you will do your part to set that sort of tone, not the one currently in your piece. You have my assurance that, for my part, I will.

Stephen Ewen


Just a few suggestions how to balance your interpretation/selection of stats.

Why not compare CZ directly to Wikipedia? After reading CZ:Statistics you know that with a "launch bonus" CZ human resources, as of April, were slightly bigger than those of an average 25000 entries Wikipedia. Now it declined to about 3/4 of that last.

Furthermore, you discuss in details the page creation rate. This seems to oblige to mention that CZ does not encourage creating tiny stubs and actually has more developed ("almost complete") articles than stubs (these developed articles were actively edited (they are "CZ Live"), not just imported from WP).

Furthermore, there are explicit differences in culture that can be seen in policies (e.g. 0 unexplained revert rule, professionalism). So CZ members discuss content more than WP ones ;-) In fact, the CZ has significantly higher discussion rate (ratio talk edits /total edits) than a typical Wikipedia. Remember also that the project in its early phase is devoted to create the core of its policies, structures etc., which generate relatively many pages not in the mainspace. Shouldn't you explain this when chosing the mainspace modifications (number of edits daily, page creation rate) for analyse?

Hope this helps.

Yours in discourse, Megavat 22:56, 24 July 2007 (UTC)

There is also the fact of the Citizendium Forums, which are well-trafficked and not counted in CZ:Statistics. Forums is where nearly all meta-discussion occurs at CZ. Not so at WP. Stephen Ewen 02:31, 25 July 2007 (UTC)

Citizendium's approval process already overlooked a "big error"[edit]

I think the article should note, in discussing the Complex number article, that this is an example where Citizendium's approval process has already let a simple but fatal error slip though.

The approved article stated the following basic property of the exponential function (one of the most important formulas in algebra) wrongly:

( is the correct formula)

This is not a mere typo. It is a plausible looking but very wrong formula, a typical pitfall for students, the kind of thing which could get a beginner stuck for hours if he encounters it in a supposedly reliable text and tries to make sense of it.

This error had been in the article since April 3, 2007, it survived for more than five weeks, and 168 edits by 11 different editors (Greg Woodhouse, Jitse Niesen, David W Gillette, Sébastien Moulin, Aleksander Stos, David Tribe, Fredrik Johansson, Michael Hardy, Robert Tito, Catherine Woodgold, Jared Grubb) left it untouched until it was finally corrected on May 10 - three days after the article had been approved by an editor of Citizendium's Mathematics Workgroup on May 7.

It is also interesting to observe in detail how the correction finally came about. According to the discussion on the article's talk page, the person who discovered the error (a user named Etienne Parizot who has made just two edits in Citizendium so far) only corrected it in the "draft" version, a separate page - obviously not being allowed to edit the "approved" article. Fortunately, this edit caught the attention of another user (Jitse Niesen) who notified the "Approval editor" Nancy Sculerati. He too was not daring to correct the error himself, but was obviously feeling a sense of urgency and was thinking of ways to get the correction into the article despite the "approval" freeze:

This is a big error so I want it to be fixed as soon as possible. I can't imagine any editor would argue with this change. However, I'm not sure what our options are. [...]

The Approval Editor (Nancy Sculerati) then sent an email to the user who had nominated the article for approval (Greg Martin) and after he agreed, she finally made the correction. In the meantime, another user, D. Matt Innis, had been bold and commented the approval tag out - only to restore it to the still-faulty article soon afterwards [7], presumably because of Nancy Sculerati's concern, who later called this out-of-process action a "terrible precedent" (it got him into "a difficult situation" according to this comment which apparently refers to an exchange which took place on Nancy Sculerati's talk page - can't check this since meanwhile her user pages have been deleted, she has left the project).

Now this was a simple, urgent and (to anybody familiar with the matter) obvious correction, where everyone agreed, including those who had nominated the article and supported the nomination (Nielsen: "it is embarrassing and I feel responsible for it", Martin: "I certainly take responsibility for nominating the article for approval without seeing this mistake"). Still, for bureaucratical reasons, the correction had to filter through a chain of four users connected by watchlist, talk pages and email:

Parizot -> Nielsen -> Sculerati -> Martin -> Sculerati

and on the way got another competent and well-meaning editor into "a difficult situation" with Citizendium's hierarchy.

But what about more complicated and less obvious corrections (maybe at a later time after the approval, when not everybody who was involved in the approval process is readily available)? Or in more specialized subjects? (Complex numbers are a very basic concept in mathematics, with countless well-done references readily available, and almost everybody who has studied mathematics or a related subject at university level has had to grasp it.)

One can only imagine how difficult it is to get them through Citizendium's bureaucratic jungle of Constables, Approval Editors, Approval Nominators, Approval Supporters, Citizendium Editorial council, Sysops, Citizendium Workgroups etc. (see also CZ:Approval_Process#Re-approving_revisions_to_approved_articles).

To wit, the correction on May 10 has been the last edit to the Complex number article. Several improvements on minor shortcomings made to the Draft page in May have so far been in vain.

Regards, High on a tree 14:53, 25 July 2007 (UTC)

Hi, I am Nancy Sculerati, and found this page when I googled my name. If you folks do the same, you can see who I am-albeit you might have to go a few pages to get to my work, or you may go to Pub Med and search for my publications. I point this out because -on Citizendium, or on any project when an author uses her real name, it really isn't necessary (although -admittedly, it is convenient) to have a "user page". In other words, the "user" has a real world reputation and that stands behind his or her work on a wiki just like it does on pub med and everywhere else, and that reputation and the person's body of work can be found in all sorts of ways; a google search being one of the quicker methods. Now, I donated a lot of time to CZ-and a fair amount to Wikipedia and frankly, I love all you folks because I believe that human beings benefit from being educated and that a free source of education is a good thing for mankind (meaning "H. sapiens - kind") . I think you- and I- are doing our part, best we can, in that cause. I have come to understand that there is some kind of rivalry between CZ and WP -but I don't really understand the source of rancor and I sure don't share the feeling. To me, CZ and WP seem like members of the same family. I, myself, am not so comfortable with writing on any open wiki - especially about medical stuff, unless there is active oversight that ensures a professional level "product"and that's (in a nutshell) why I have decided to devote my efforts to providing free access medical education in an alternative way to either CZ or WP. That's another story entirely. I only bring it up so those of you who are interested in CZ understand why I left that project, since there were some questions raised. (I appreciated the gentlemanly comments by Eugène on this page that it's my business, and I thank him for it- but might as well clear up the question, while I'm here.) In terms of the article,Complex Number, yes-absolutely everybody looked at this glaring error a thousand times and never saw it. It's like mis-spelling your own name on an application. The error may have made "sense" as a mathematical error, but it was not that anyone read it as it was written and thought that the wrong equation was actually right, - it was a typo that everyone mentally corrected unconsciously so no one saw it, at all. When it was pointed out, it was corrected within hours. Why did it take that long? This was the first big miserable over-looked mistake in an approved article that needed an emergency copyedit. Since an approved article on CZ is a protected (stable) version, correction needed a sysop. So, it wasn't that Jitse (and others) "didn't dare" correct it- it was that they could not correct it, not being logged in to a skin that provided the option to edit a protected page. The sysop that was immediately available was not familiar with the math, and besides- a math editor had approved the version, put his name on it. There was a brou-ha-ha and confusion and it was fixed without formally revoking approval. Approval is (or was, then)-a whole new deal in terms of articles, and we, I -anyway, did struggle with trying to get it right, you are welcome to ridicule my passion for avoiding a move that would set a precedent for revoking approval over a copyedit (even one that changed the meaning, like this) and insisting on trying to set a path that might serve as a way to amend future mistakes found in approved articles without jettisoning the approval process. A critique of the every move and statement of a bunch of volunteers trying to get a math article right - factually right and also agreeable to the editor who approved the final version (an Institute of Advanced Study trained mathematician who is a tenured professor of mathematics donating his time - not just to writing the article, but collaborating with all sorts of citizens to do it until they all were happy with the wording, and was willing to stick his neck (and reputation) out to do it) is certainly possible, and it's likely to make us (me, especially) look silly because it was not smooth. The details of the whole thing are actually available to you- look in the archives of the talk page for Complex number. It's there. Pleaase remember, CZ is not a large project, there are only a few people who have sysop privileges. There really is not a big hierarchial structure, but there are stable versions that are protected and there are editors who put their real names out there, and stand behind articles. In this particular case, the nominating editor was Greg, and it seemed to be a good precedent (to me) to make an attempt to contact that person. Had we failed to do that, we would have corrected it on Jitse's say so. I think we decided that we'd put an erratum note on top of the version in the mean time. I'm going back to my books, now. I hope this information has been of help, and I wish you all well. Nancy Sculerati (DrSculerati on wikipedia- when logged in)
Dr. Sculerati, thank you very much for the explanation. I don't plan to include the complex number error in this article, for pretty much the reasons you point to: it is the kind of problem that is going occasionally appear in any collaborative wiki; CZ's own processes were obviously sufficient to correct it; and Approved status does not confer a guarantee of accuracy. As for the userpage deletion: yes, in principle, authors are still traceable through their real names regardless of whether there is a CZ bio. But names can be shared, and CZ creates the expectation (implicitly, at least) that authors will be easily traceable through userpages. A less well-known author with a more common name might pose much more of a problem. Another issue, somewhat less important but not completely insignificant, is the deletion of the user talk page, since article-related discussion happens there as well. The openness of wiki is a constitutive feature of both CZ and WP, and while this openness can have downsides, it can be a (small) blow to the integrity of a project's content to have relevant discussion deleted (even in userspace). That said, the only reason the issue came up in the first place is because I wasn't sure whether such deletions were standard practice or not (which Mike Johnson cleared up for me).--ragesoss 03:50, 26 July 2007 (UTC)
I respect your decision not to mention this in the article. (Actually I was just thinking of adding one sentence; the whole analysis of the communication needed to get the correction despite the approval was not actually meant to be included into the Signpost article).
However I disagree with the reasoning that factual errors are less important than the other aspects of the approved articles which you covered at length in the text. Citizendium's stated raison d'etre is that the world needs a more reliable free encyclopedia (my underscores), and it calls the approved articles its "flagships". It is a notable observation that even among the few approvals that have been done so far, there are examples where CZ failed miserably to deliver on this promise (see also the other errors described below). And yes, there is such a promise, the legal disclaimer notwithstanding.
Regards, High on a tree 07:57, 31 July 2007 (UTC)
Obviously, the more extensive problems you brought up below are a somewhat different issue than the first issue, and (assuming your analysis is accurate, as I have not attempted to read the articles closely for accuracy and have limited knowledge of number theory) may indicate more of a shortfall of the process. I don't think that in general factual errors are less significant, just that a single factual error that already got corrected (even if it was after Approval) would be relatively insignificant. I considered including a brief mention of the other errors after you posted them, but decided not to stray into factual critiques since it was beyond my ken for the math article and would leave too much of a hole with all the other articles that weren't independently fact-checked. Thanks very much for bringing these issues up, though. Obviously there is room for more systematic comparisons of individual articles, and your analysis will hopefully inspire others to take a close look at some of the other CZ articles. And yes, there is a sort of promise of accuracy, but it's only marginally more meaningful in theory than the implicit promise behind Wikipedia's Featured Articles (and with the limited size of CZ editor pool at this point, probably less meaningful in practice); I interpret the disclaimer as more than simply a legal measure, since the "promise" ultimately comes down to the judgment of one or a few editors for each article.--ragesoss 08:34, 31 July 2007 (UTC)

I must say that I think you are right. I needed to end my involvement at CZ and did not think of these things. I have e-mailed Larry Sanger (Editor-in-Chief at CZ) and directed him to look at this page. I have indicated that, if he also agrees, he is welcome to restore a list of my publications to my CZ user page, and the archives of the user talk page. I am grateful to him that he did respect my wish to have that page be put in a format that makes it clear to viewers that I am no longer part of the project, and trust that he will find a way to modify the page so that remains clear- yet the record is still available. By the way, I just read the History of Biology here on Wikipedia, it's excellent. Nancy (I logged in to sign properly, DrSculerati 17:13, 26 July 2007 (UTC))

I would like to add that Dr. Sculerati's description above was right on. I was the sysop. Keep in mind that one of the things we are trying to do at Citizendium is to prevent the article changes on a daily basis, so we have made it difficult to change a page once it is Approved. Obviously, this left some details out that needed to be worked through, in this case copyedit changes that did not deal with content issues. Luckily, we had just implemented an Approval Manager position that Dr. Sculerati graciously filled. She took control and through several quick response efforts, we arrived at a procedure that later proved to be smoother and less cumbersome over the next few approvals - thanks to Dr. Sculerati. I might also add that I miss Nancy! ---- Dēmatt (chat) 21:34, 26 July 2007 (UTC)
You mean, the current procedure makes it easier to bring corrections and improvements into previously approved articles? Where can one read about the policy changes that were found necessary? Do you have some examples where such corrections happened more smoothly? Regards, High on a tree 07:57, 31 July 2007 (UTC)

Several more serious errors[edit]

Above, I tried to describe an error debate which had already happened on CZ in an NPOV way, without judging the rest of the text myself, and drew some tentative personal conclusions from it. I have now had a closer look at the article and I was quite appalled to find several more serious mathematical errors myself, which have survived for a quarter of a year in one of Citizendium's "flagship" articles. With apologies to Ragesoss (this becoming a bit off-topic here, since it is a follow-up to the discussion on CZ's approval process above, rather than still a suggestion for something to to include into the article), I am describing them here, in addition to some minor shortcomings.

To say something positive first: Overall, the article is well written. A lot of care has been put in the exact wording of several statements. As Ragesoss has noticed, it is much less comprehensive than Wikipedia's complex number, but many readers might actually be grateful for that. The writing style is a bit chatty and slightly patronizing at times - put positively, a bit more pedagogical and accessible than Wikipedia's.

Now for the errors and shortcomings:

  • "up to a scaling factor, division by z is just complex conjugation" - this is very, very wrong. The given formula says instead that division by z is the same as multiplication by the complex conjugate of z, up to a scaling factor (namely, the modulus of z squared). The author apparently confused z as the symbol for the constant by which the complex plane is multiplied with z as a variable denoting an element of this plane which gets mapped by this multiplication. (When z is actually viewed the variable in the domain, the mapping cannot be described by rotations, scalings and reflections. However, it still has a more complicated geometric interpretation, namely as the inversion at the unit circle followed by complex conjugation, see Inversion (geometry)#Anticonformal mapping property. This is a fact which can be found in most complex analysis textbooks.)
  • (Minor nuisance:) To the uninitiated reader, it remains a bit mysterious why the Schrödinger equation is chosen as an example for "Complex numbers in physics", as the description doesn't mention complex numbers explicitly. The point that should have been mentioned is that ψ is meant to be a complex valued function. The reader has to guess this from the appearance of an "i" in the equation. (Of course the point here is that the Schrödinger equation actually needs complex numbers, it cannot be written in a form involving only real numbers. The reason for this is not given, so the whole example is still a bit unsatisfying to the reader trying to understand the fundamental importance of complex numbers.)
  • "the potential function might represent the attractive force per unit mass between the nucleus of a hydrogen atom and an electron" - this is wrong for three reasons: First, the potential function does not represent this force - its (negative) gradient, the electric field does. Second, this force is not per unit mass, but per unit charge - when dealing with arbitrary particles interacting with a hydrogen nucleus. But since the author restricts himself to the example of an electron, the "per something" is nonsensical anyway, since electrons have a fixed charge (and mass).
  • "Now, there is some subtlety in the interpretation of ψ because a system can be affected by observation, and the functions ψ we 'see' must be eigenstates of the operator defined by the Schrödinger equation" - yes, actually a lot of subtleties, and of course the article can not and should not explain all of them here. However, if one chooses to say something about them, it should be correct, and I don't understand what is meant by the last statement, that "the functions ψ we 'see' must be eigenstates of the" Hamiltonian; all interpretations I can think of are wrong. There are many physically relevant states ψ which are not eigenstates of the Hamiltonian, for example coherent states. If "functions ψ we 'see'" is intended to mean states of the system right after measuring an observable (i.e. collapsed wave functions), the statement is only true for observables which satisfy a conservation law. (And more trivially, ψ can always be changed by a phase factor and still describes the same state, so ψ can never be "seen" entirely.) I'm not interested in singling out writers to blame them, but as Nancy Sculerati has (in her remarks above) placed emphasis on the formal qualification of one of the CZ users involved, it should also be noted that the author of this error-riddled section got his master's degree in Mathematics twenty years ago and seems to have worked in other fields since; and that he has commented on writing this part as follows:
Well, I've added a little section on complex numbers in quantum mechanics [...]. This was all pretty much off the top of my head while I sit here listening to the Science Channel. Greg Woodhouse 23:19, 17 April 2007 (CDT)
and later;
Frankly, I don't have a very good feel for the mathematics behind the correspondence between observables and operators - it just seems like a kind of "black box" to me. Greg Woodhouse 22:42, 24 April 2007 (CDT)
  • (Minor nuisance:) The section on Cardano's method uses "x" to denote two different things. This has already been fixed in the Draft version by Michael Underwood on May 7, but the main article has not been updated so far.

Regards, High on a tree 01:14, 31 July 2007 (UTC)

News from Citizendium: companion piece[edit]

Hi all,

My companion piece is up over at User:Johnsonmx/News_from_Citizendium. Thanks in advance for the feedback. --Johnsonmx 17:01, 29 July 2007 (UTC)