Citizendium and the criminally insane!

Josh Catone has an interesting article comparing Wikipedia and Citizendium, with Josh coming out in favour of Wikipedia!

Citizendium is an online encyclopedia, similar to Wikipedia (indeed founded by Larry Sanger, a co-founder of Wikipedia) but where it differs is in its requirement for contributors to use their real names and on its use of ‘experts’ as editors.

From Citizendium:

As a rule of thumb, editors in traditionally “academic” fields will require the qualifications typically needed for a tenure-track academic position in the field, while editors in more “professional” fields require the usual terminal professional degree in the field plus significant experience and publishing

Coincidentally, I was on the TodayFM‘s The Last Word last week speaking about Wikipedia and Citizendium with presenter Matt Cooper and Larry Sanger.

Unfortunately it was a short piece and I didn’t get to ask Larry the question I wanted to:

Larry what processes do Citizendium have in place to ensure that your editors/contributors are not, for example, convicted murderers in an institute for the criminally insane?

Had Larry come back with a stock answer about how all contributors will be vetted and no-one will be allowed add to the encyclopedia with that kind of background I would have pounced. William Minor, one of the single most prolific contributors to the first Oxford English Dictionary (>10,000 contributions) was a convicted murderer, later diagnosed with schizophrenia, who at the time of his contributions was incarcerated in Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum.

The English language would have been worse had it not been for the contributions of this man (who had no qualifications in etymology whatsoever).

Of course, if Larry had said “We welcome contributions from the criminally insane Tom” my clever plan was out the window!

3 thoughts on “Citizendium and the criminally insane!”

  1. I didn’t get to hear the interview on the last word myself but it’s an excellent point, just because a person is crazy doesn’t mean they are wrong or don’t have a valid point. Also, just because a person is qualified doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of misinformation. Korean Hwang Woo-Suk and his fake stem cell research is an example of this.

  2. Hi Tom,

    Simon Winchester has written a wonderful novelization about William Minor, called The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder,Madness and the Oxford English Dictionary in the UK (see the entry), and The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English Dictionary in the US (see the entry).


  3. Eoin,

    thanks. I read it a couple of years ago. That’s how I knew about William Minor! It really is a fascinating read

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