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See also: WikiPedia:user:Larry_Sanger

Note that this page must have been written stepwise over years. A lot of it is either outdated or doesn't reflect our current understanding of Larry Sanger and his role with WikiPedia.

In 2001/2002, the person in charge of WikiPedia, LarrySanger, totally abandoned the WikiWay, announcing with little irony, "I have appointed myself dictator-for-life." --AnonymousDonor

Actually, the foregoing is a bit OTT. The Larry Sanger quote, although phrased around with serious irony (I certainly believed him and I am not exactly Mr Susceptible), has just been taken out of context. --SteveCallaway?

The above, stating Larry's "declaration" and WikiPedia's "abandonment" of the WikiWay isn't really an accurate assessment:

a) WikiPedia has never followed the WikiWay [Note that WikiWay is not a clear concept]. It isn't really a wiki, but an encyclopedia project that uses UseModWiki software [This must have been written about 2001, before WikiPedia switched to its own MediaWiki software.]. If you hang around on WikiPedia for a while, you'll see that its culture, its goals and its way of doing things is quite different from the WikiWay. It always has been.

b) Larry has always been WikiPedia's "chief instigator". He's a paid employee whose job is to oversee the WikiPedia project (and, formerly, the NuPedia project as well). As a general rule, Wikipedians come to agreement as a community. Sometimes we can't come to an agreement on important issues, and that's when Larry steps in and makes the official call. His role hasn't changed.

Sorry for the long-winded reply, but I felt it important to correct the characterization above in some detail. -- StephenGilbert

It looks to me as an outsider as if there was one person who was really being obnoxious and Larry handled it less smoothly than he could have, so some people think he's being oppressive. I don't think that's really the case, though. It's as if people were complaining that Rusty was a dictator because he forced all meta articles on KuroShin to be in the meta section. I don't think that's reasonable. -- SunirShah

September, 2006. Larry has taken his dispute with Wikipedia to a new level, and enacted a fork called [Citizendium]. The initial version will use WikiPedia as a SeedPosting, but the culture will be different. All authors will have to submit their RealNames; authors may become 'editors' on a given subject by posting a curriculum vitae with links to credentials. (Larry says ['a Ph.D will be neither necessary nor sufficient'] to establish editorship.) Authors will defer to editors within their areas of expertise, but editors will not direct authors' work nor 'own' articles or subjects. Some PeerReview-like mechanism will be in place to approve good articles, or unapprove articles that have degraded. Meanwhile, 'constables' will also be chosen to deal with social problems (evicting trolls, etc.). (Use of constabulary power to enforce one's own editorial decisions will be prohibited.) Seed articles will remain automatically in synchronization with the version from WikiPedia until a Citizendium author changes them; thereafter they will be forked. Larry and the other instigators of Citizendium hope that it will be as valuable as WikiPedia, but less plagued by AbuseOfPower?, TrollAttacks?, ProductivityBarriers?, and HystericalAmateurism?.

In my opinion, Larry seriously needs to Let It Go. His baggage with WikiPedia is the biggest albatross around this project. -- SunirShah

I believe the biggest albatross about Citizendium's neck is actually people assuming that it is Larry's 'grudge match' against WikiPedia. I concur that he has not been perfectly tactful in all his dealings with WP (has anyone?); but he states real frustrations, [not uniquely his], some of which could be addressed only by a change of culture, and proposes an alternative culture to reduce them.

I love Wikipedia because it's like hanging with the nerd crowd in high school: Wide-ranging information, freewheeling discussion. Unfortunately, it's still like being in high school: Minimal reliability, marginal literacy, frequent eruptions of posers and thugs, and rotten food. Er, I mean prose style. Rotten prose style. Citizendium looks like it might be a step up, to hanging with the nerd crowd at a decent university; I find the prospect refreshing. -- NathanERasmussen

P.S.: (20 September 2006) The Citizendium-policy mailing list needs a moderator: 'Citizendium-policy needs someone with experience in lots of Internet communities, and/or who studies Internet communities. The person has at least to like (if not be totally crazy about, like me) the idea of a charter and of Citizendium being run as a "constitutional republic." Probably, someone thoroughly familiar with Wikipedia's problems and whose policy ideas about how to the solve them are pretty close to (if not *exactly* the same as) those in the proposal on http://www.citizendium.org.' If such a person exists, I suppose s/he reads MeatBall. And such a person could do a lot towards making Citizendium turn out right. Go volunteer, eh? -- NathanERasmussen


Larry Sanger resigned on March 1st, 2002. He won't even stay as a volunteer. The project now no longer has a leader (or, put another way, everyone is a leader now). AnonymousDonor

That's not quite true. Jimmy Wales, WikiPedia's co-founder, has stepped into Larry's shoes, although he won't be able to lead as a full-time job. --StephenGilbert


I agree with NathanERasmussen that "he has not been perfectly tactful in all his dealings with WP (has anyone?); but he states real frustrations, not uniquely his, some of which could be addressed only by a change of culture, and proposes an alternative culture to reduce them.". I get the impression that Larry's concerns about WikiPedia are shared by many academics and others who think it's too unauthoritative (as well as too much of a time committment for many would-be expert contributors). I'm glad that he finally has time to fork it, and wish him the best of luck.

I'd also like to point out another effort to make a more authoritative collaborative encyclopaedia, http://scholarpedia.org/. Although this effort is going to start out by convincing respected academics in a particular topic area (neuroscience and nonlinear dynamics) where the founder happens to have expertise.

Personally, I think the need for a single criterion of "authoritativeness" is over-rated. I think decentralized rating and endorsement systems are the way to go (see ViewPoint) (whether this can be combined with wiki-style editing of individual pages remains to be seen). But maybe I'm wrong; so I think a more authoritative collaborative encyclopaedia should definitely be tried. -- BayleShanks


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