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Medicine in Wikipedia and Citizendum

I’ve recently got permission to be an author in Citizendum. I’ve already described how the medical part of Wikipedia works. Now, I’d like to present some of the processes of the health issues in Citizendum. First, some notes about the system itself. In Citizendum, authors can edit the articles (like me), but an editor has to approve it to make it visible for the readers. At this moment, there are 27 authors and 29 editors in the health science category. They’ve created plenty of checklist-generated categories to make sure that the articles are divided into sections:


What does, for example, developed article mean?

These are Health Sciences Workgroup articles, which have been checklisted, and which are complete or nearly so. They have not been approved, however. They are not merely copied from Wikipedia, or some other source, but have been significantly changed so that our copy is either original, or importantly different from its source. In other words, they are internal articles.

It’s complete or nearly so. Ok, I took 2 examples. Erythropoietin and irritable bowel syndrome. The first one, in my opinion, is far better in Wikipedia than in Citizendum. The developed article in Citizendum only has two more references, but has fewer and shorter sections. The only changes in this article during it’s Citizendum career were a copy-paste and fixing the references. No external link, no image, no infobox.

The second one has been improved with 8 references and some of the sections are better, but I wouldn’t be so brave to say that it’s importantly different from its source.


Look, I’m working on Wikipedia to create a great medical database for laypeople. To create a universal resource of knowledge. If it’s called Citizendum or Wikipedia, I really don’t care. The members of Citizendum and mainly Larry Sanger have always told us that the approving system of their site is much better than the one of Wikipedia. If we take a look at these examples, then it’s not true.

I know, there are much more contributors in Wikipedia, and Wikipedia has at least 2 years of advantage, but what I’m criticising now is the system itself. If they fail in the first part of the way, then what to expect from the future. I didn’t apply for becoming an author in Citizendum to find ways how to criticise them, but to find out how to organize the two projects’ medical works. How to help each other.

In Sanger’s project, there is no manual of style for the medicine-related articles. In Wikipedia, there is one. It’s obvious that Citizendum doesn’t want to compete with Wikipedia in the number of atricles. As it strikes me, their only aim is to provide quality content. So the first task should have been a line of manuals created to organize authors and to help editors how and when to approve an article.

Anyway, I don’t know how authors can be convinced to edit articles if those changes have to be approved first. Many of the authors now have only a few edits on their own user page or have no edit at all. If they want to create reliable content, then it can also be done in Wikipedia with proper and perfect references. If they want to create content for experts, then what about the medical wikis created by specialists for specialists?

In my opinion, like that, they have no chance, but believe me, I’m one of their biggest fans.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Give Citizendium some time. The project barely started.

    We’ll see in a year or two if it takes up or not.

    This is what Wikipedia looked like after a year. :)

    April 7, 2007
  2. Hi ncurses,

    I’m a member of the Citizendium Executive Committee. Thanks for the coverage. However, I do take issue with some of your points.

    First, I’d like to clarify that editors need not approve your contributions for readers to see them. If an author edits a standard article, people will see that change instantly with no expert approval needed. One does need expert editors involved in the formal approval of an article, a difference from Wikipedia.

    Also, we do have a general manual of style but we do not yet have a specialized manual of style for medical articles. That’ll likely come from the relevant workgroup, which is in the process of being organized.

    In general, I think it’s worthwhile to step back and consider fair comparisons: we just entered ‘public beta’ a few weeks ago, whereas Wikipedia has a five-and-a-half year head start. Very few of our processes are in their final form. That said, we’ve made tremendous progress- much /more/ than Wikipedia had at the same point (bless their hearts)- and every single day we make more progress on many fronts.

    You might get something out of perusing our introduction to Citizendium for Wikipedians:

    As well as our guide on how to get started as an author on Citizendium:

    They will likely answer a number of your questions and concerns.

    Best wishes,
    Mike Johnson

    April 7, 2007
  3. Dear Mike,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I did mention the approving system and I’ve also read those pages. Look, I’m a real fan of Citizendum as I also need a universal medical database which is reliable. I joined your community to find ways how to help your work.

    But you have a great advantage, you’re able to see how many mistakes Wikipedia has done so far and you can learn from those. So if we, users, can expect anything from Citizendum is that to have a perfect start with clear guidelines and manuals for every workgroups.

    Mike, keep up this great job and I’ll try to lend a hand where needed. Thanks for dropping by,

    Bertalan Meskó

    April 7, 2007
  4. Mikael Häggström #

    I’m also a Wikipedian who has started as a medicine author in Citizendium. I agree that CZ is far from perfect, but the best thing is, it’s only getting better and better all the time. Wikipedia is like an entrance – everybody go there now because there are articles covering everything there. However, sooner or later people, readers as well as editors, want reliability as well, so they’ll sooner or later follow the external links right into Citizendium.

    In short, Citizendium isn’t THE place to seek for information today, but it very probably will be.

    August 1, 2007
  5. Mikael, I’ll be the happiest person and I’ll struggle to help CZ if you’re right. Our goals are the same!

    August 1, 2007
  6. To whoever wrote this poem:

    You are a genius! Thank you for writing it and thank you for sharing it. Your poem not only is brilliantly humorous but deeply insightful.

    Now the question is: who’s next?


    July 19, 2011
  7. Give Citizendium some time. The project barely started.

    We’ll see in a year or two if it takes up or not.

    This is what Wikipedia looked like after a year. :)

    July 19, 2011

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  1. Seeking health information online: does Wikipedia matter? « ScienceRoll

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