Wiki Oscurity : Wiki's Which Failed

A survey

This article will review websites using, or modeled upon, the MediaWiki software, which however, even given at least two year's time, did not develop sufficient traction in the online marketplace of ideas. And furthermore did not even fulfill their objective of comprehensive coverage of their target area or purpose.




In the works.



Scholarpedia fails, but in an interesting way.  Scholarpedia is a wiki using the MediaWiki software.  Their main page is at this link.  The idea behind this wiki, is to allow "scholars" to publish articles, which are then peer-reviewed, just as an academic print journal does.  On the main page, we see that the curator of that page is Dr. Eugene M. Izhikevich, Editor-in-Chief of Scholarpedia, so I assume that he is the founder as well.  We see at the bottom of this page that it was created in Feb 2006.  For those of us counting, that was three-and-a-half years ago.  And indeed scholarpedia seems to have attracted a fair amount of attention, getting eight hundred thousand page views in that time.  However, examining the side-panel we see that Scholarpedia only has the following sub-sections: "Biology, Math, Physics..."  All so-called "hard sciences", only a few of those, and only a small number of articles under each topic.  No soft sciences -- no history, biography, sociology, anthropology.  No popular culture articles -- no music, drama, political science.  In addition to all of that, the coverage even under those topics covered, is spotty and lopsided.  Some areas of these hard sciences are intensively examined, while others have nothing at all.  For this wiki reviewer that is a dismal failure.  No matter how many intellectuals you can get to pin their hope on a site, if you cannot create a popular following, then you fail.  If in four years, you cannot even create enough of an interest to have comprehensive overviews of each topic section, then you fail.  The general public is not interested in an "encyclopedia" that is exclusive of the vast majority of items with which the public is interested!  That shouldn't be hard to comprehend.  As of Dec 2010, Scholarpedia only has in the neighborhood of 250 to 300 articles.

In addition, scholarpedia claims to allow election of authors by the public.  That is both true and false.  You cannot nominate a person anonymously, and you cannot vote except anonymously !  The public cannot participate in scholarpedia at all, except by revealing their IP address, something the majority of the public would not want to do.  You cannot create an account without being affiliated to a university.  That is not the public, perhaps Scholarpedia needs a dictionary so they can see exactly what the word "public" means.



Main page is at this link. As you may know, Wikipedia was co-founded (although some object to this word) by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger.  At some point they fell out, and Larry created a new project Citizendium.  The main difference between Wikipedia and Citizendium is supposed to be that Citizendium articles are reviewed by "credentialed topic experts".  Citizendium was announced in 2006 but not publicly launched until March 2007.  As of Dec 2010, Citizendium has only 155 approved articles (see this link).  That's right.  They have been in existence over three years and only have 155 approved articles.  Citizendium is a dismal failure, not just a kinda failure, a real train-crashing-into-a-brick-wall failure.  But why?

Citizendium requires users, when they attempt to sign up, to submit a biography.  The sign-up page does not state that this is a requirement, but yet rejects users who submit nonsense in their biography.  When this is mentioned, the owners of Citizendium react with hostility and defensiveness, instead of correcting this oversight.  The public has not taken to Citizendium principally because Citizendium works on the assumption, proven invalid, that the public has nothing to offer to Citizendium.  Citizendium's position is that the citizens of Citizendium are going to give the public a free gift.  However the public does not want free gifts unless it can participate in the creation of that gift.  Wikipedia's success has made this clear.  That's the very nature of Web 2.0 i.e. user participation.  Citizendium doesn't comprehend this simple situation.  And so they also fail.

Just recently I posted to Foundation-L that Citizendium is an authoritarian oligarchy.  That is, a group of expert leaders decide, with no checks and balances, what should stay in an article and what should go.  Perhaps that's not a fair statement, because Wikipedia has been accused of the same behavior. There is, after all, almost no way to get around an ArbCom ruling.  How is Citizendium different?

Citizendium has subject-area experts, who are credential-verified.  I'm not exactly certain to what extent a credential is verified other than merely presentation.  This is one conflict that Wikipedia had early in its history, the vetting of experts.  It was rejected on Wikipedia, as Wikipedia strives to be the encyclopedia built by the people for the people.  Not built by experts for the people (and if the people don't like it, then the people must be wrong huh?)  Now it seems Citizendium is struggling financially to the point where they cannot even afford their hosting fees.  I say, good riddance.

Citizendium is failing.  Their current appeal for donations falls flat.  A supreme irony is the recent cry to Wikimedia to host their content, temporarily.  Larry Sanger has left the building.  It's possible of course that Citizendium's article will end up being folded into some other site, but really... what's the point?  A hundred and fifty five articles in the approved state?  That's worth about a buck fifty.



Wikinews is a sister project to Wikipedia.  It grew out of the concern that news doesn't really belong in an encyclopedia, but many Wikipedians wanted to report news anyway.  So Wikinews was developed to allow that, and the thought was, this would shunt that news off Wikipedia.  Wikinews has been in existence for several years now, and yet (as of 2009) the English-language version had only 15,000 articles.  Considering that Wikipedia has already surpassed three million articles, that is a sad testimony to the effort to keep Wikinews alive.  News by its very nature should be many times larger than an encyclopedia, not many times smaller.  Wikinews for the most part merely regurgitates news already covered elsewhere, and no other news outlet, to my knowledge, quotes Wikinews.  Wikinews never fulfilled it's objective, and should be allowed to die a graceful death.

In addition to that, Wikinews has been allowed to be taken over by a clique of individuals pushing a power play to silence any opposition, either to their own point-of-view or the point-of-view of their e-friends.  That is anathema to any free society project.  Whenever one group uses power to punish opposition, and that opposition has no actual and effective recourse (there is no appeal process), than the project must be shut down. When a conflict occurs and it is deemed useful to dole out punishment of any sort, the entire conflict must be reviewed and all sides punished in an equitable fashion.  Wikipedia learned this rule, only after creating thousands of vandals, some of which are still going strong.



An interesting example, deletionpedia was supposed to archive everything deleted off Wikipedia.  As you can see yourself, from their Recent Changes page at this link, they stopped doing that back in June 2008, or at least they are only updating things deleted more than a year ago.  Their statistics pages at this link, shows that they have 63,174 pages.  Apparently deletionpedia must have been created by some disgruntled editor who had their own work deleted, and after a while they decided to stop updating it.  Or else their bot broke. Maybe some page reader can tell me whether there is any history of that sort with this owner DBatley.   Wikipedia has an article on Deletionpedia at this link, where they state that the site is only adding things which were deleted in some obscure time frame last year.  So they are a year behind. Update: I sent an email to the owner of that site.  Evidently when he reviews the deletions he reads them thoroughly to make sure they don't contain libel, vandalism, etc. and only loads them after doing that.  That explains why he is so far behind.  In addition he stated that he has to deal with people asking him to take down their pages off his site.  So there you go.  Now you know why it's a year behind.  It was a great idea, but that approach doesn't work.