From Citizendium to Eduzendium

Great initiative, read via Peter Suber.


“…Traditional teaching saw students laboring to produce essays that to them felt onerous and oftentimes pointless. Once read by the lecturer their writing was generally consigned to the dustbin….

[T]he online reference encyclopedia project Citizendium, in collaboration with expert teachers and lecturers, has launched Eduzendium. The Eduzendium project allows students to write their assignments online on the Citizendium on a given topic allocated by their teacher.

Students can take responsibility for their work for course credits, and teachers grade the finished work based on the quality of the final article produced from each student’s input.

But students not only get to earn grade credits, they add to the global store of [OA] knowledge….

Perhaps best of all, students actually get to learn in a highly collaborative real-time way, enjoying direct online access to highly competent help with their work, in the form of the Citizendium authors and expert editors. The community is small, but growing and quite lively. It is also polite, in no small part because real names are required. For these reasons, the Eduzendium program differs crucially from using Wikipedia in a similar way.

And many basic topics are still wide open….

The Eduzendium initiative was proposed by Dr. Sorin A. Matei (Purdue University). In collaboration with Dr. Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia and now Editor-in-Chief of the Citizendium, and a group of Purdue graduate students, he has designed a set of template policies, rules and educational methods that allow incorporating wiki style collaboration in the educational process. The policies have been pretested at Purdue and will soon be released to the educational community through Eduzendium….

Matei believes that the early tests were a success….”Eduzendium is a wonderful way of training our students, making their knowledge matter and helping students and professors reconnect with the broader societal issues that surround them. Our initiative is somewhat similar to the SETI project. Just like the famous initiative, which harnesses the idle cycles of our computers, crunching data behind screensavers, we hope to recover some of the passion, energy, and creativity invested by our scholars and students in papers or assignments that are meant to be read only once by one person,” says Matei….

According to [Lee Berger, an educator at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa], “What we found almost immediately was that students responded well to the online approach of CZ. Not only were we delighted to find that their articles as a whole were better written than traditional essays, but the students benefit–and most importantly learn from–the constructive guidance of others,” says Berger, who is on the Executive Committee of CZ and was among the first to test the program with his fourth year Honours class last semester….

Berger said grading assignments was no problem as the wiki software makes it easy to verify how much students have contributed to each article.

Following the success of the EZ pilot, the experiment is now being tried with larger classes–up to eighty students at University of Colorado and Temple University–and with students at varying levels of education. So far academics at six major Universities in Africa and the United States have tried, or are about to try, the EZ experiments in classes ranging from Anthropology to Finance…. “

18 Comments From Citizendium to Eduzendium

  1. AvatarRichard Norton

    Many in academia hate wikipedia, because it is not ‘authoritative. Is this new project just a way to “validate and legitimate truth” through the old traditional educational systems?

    I don’t care if it is sponsored by one of the Wikipedia founders, that type of authority doesn’t give it legitimacy to me either.

  2. AvatarS Rhodes

    I’m no fan of aspects of wikipedia, but not because of authority or lack thereof. They are really a basic filter of no ads and a guaranteed relevant overview or introduction to information, from which I can get a general enough idea about something to dig further somewhere else. If I find out they’re off, so be it. Most reasonable people use it in this same way.

    My biggest problem with wikipedia is that it does not control for people dominating it through spending a lot of time on it, or far worse, tagging, obfuscating, and DELETING content. Rule #1, Do not delete content, you gain nothing and lose a lot by cutting off the long tail.

    The problem with wikipedia in academia isn’t wikipedia at all, because I think they were, and are, just another social organism that’s provided valuable lessons about p2p. The problem is that academia is still largely technophobic–or if that is too strong, technoresistant–and clueless about p2p and information, i.e. I go to google scholar and can’t read minimum 75% of the research. Academics are no longer just at universities, and locking up authority makes no sense. PLoS has gotten a clue, but how long will it take for all the other publications?

    If most academic authority remains locked up, it is necessary to create academic authority outside those walls. Wikipedia’s perceived dominance as any sort of “deep” research authority is a reflection of academia’s failing, and we would all be well served by opening up those silos of information.

  3. AvatarJon Awbrey

    As a lifelong critic of almost everything “establishment”, I was more than a little bemused to find that it was actually possible to do things worse, but Wikipedia and Citizendium showed me that it was.

    Whether Eduzendium can escape the Randroid fardels of Sanger and Wales remains to be seen, so I will leave that case open for now.

    Recent reflections on the Danger To Society that Wikipedia poses are posted here.

  4. AvatarRichard Norton

    I have worked as a librarian in a university for the past eight years. I am aware of the joke about the dog saying that on the internet no one knows that he is a dog. However, I am sick and tired of faculty, and the Director of the Library where I work telling students about the uselessness of information gleaned from Wikipedia or straight off of Google.

    Instead they are directed to State sanctioned databases where they collect rather generic stale articles on various topics. Instead we should be teaching them critical thinking skills to evalutate information with.

    The “traditional processes of validating and legitimating truth … are suddenly challenged …” (Paul Hartzog). Peer to peer methods are diffusing the academic sphere so that there is no longer a distinct line between the amatuer and the academic.

    Most academics are too locked into the same old traditional ideas that they feed their students.

  5. AvatarMichel Bauwens

    Hi Jon,

    Despite my own critique of Wikipedia, I take a slightly different view on the Wikipedia as an overall project. I basically believe that peer production and peer governance, are a more dynamic mode of production and governance, despite the flaws and dysfunctionalities that we may discover in it. To take a historical analogy: feudalism had qualities and weaknesses but undoubtedly, capitalism was more dynamic and efficient. This means that however flawed Wikipedia might be, it is still this kind of processes which will largely replace earlier modes in knowledge production, such as private exclusionary encyclopedic production a la Brittanica. So, the locus is on either reforming, or offering alternatives to Wikipedia, within the format of peer production of knowledge, the key being the successfull marriage of wider participatio, with processes for the selection of quality and excellence. I do believe that the basic process of opening up knowledge production to non-credentialed experts is a sound one, and if it can work for free software, it can work for more soft knowledge production as well.

    What is not clear to me yet is the nature of your critique of Citizendium and Eduzendium, quite different animals from Wikipedia. What do you see as ‘wrong’ with those?

    Is your alternative a return to classic expert-written, paid, private IP proprietary, knowledge production ventures?


  6. AvatarZbigniew Lukasiak

    Hey Jon – why are you joining Wikipedia with Citizendium? My understanding is that Citizendium was an attempt to cure the failures of Wikipedia – even if it was not that successful – then applying all Wikipedia critisism to Citizendium without any supportive argumentation is rather unfair.

  7. AvatarJon Awbrey


    All of the the Library/Information Science folks that I know have been teaching what they call “Information Literacy” — basically just critical thinking applied to emerging media — for many years now.

    The problem with Wikipedia is not so much with the content — it’s mediocre to misleading, but it could be fixed in time if it were not for the warped practices that appear doomed to prevail there — it is the conduct that malleable minds “learn by doing” from the doings there.

    My serious concern, based on two years of experience watching it happen, is that the best lessons of Information Literacy are being undermined by over-exposure to the warp of the Wikipedia culture.

    I have collected previous comments on this theme at this page of The Wikipedia Review.

  8. AvatarJon Awbrey


    I don’t know what to say. If you believe that Wikipedia exemplifies the ideals of a peer community then I fear to wake you from your dogmatic slumbers — I have seen how grumpy people get on being roused from such a dream as that! Wikipedia has its elite. That elite did not “emerge” from the grass roots of some self-organizing e-lysian field — that elite has been carefully elected and empowered by the ownership of Wikipedia. Wikipedia maintains an Iron Cage like none I’ve ever seen before. Maintain your ideals, but learn to recognize those who would use your ideals against you.

  9. AvatarMichel Bauwens

    I am NOT saying that the Wikipedia ‘exemplifies the ideals of a peer community’, I’m saying that it IS an expression of actually existing peer production and governance, and exemplifies the possible dysfunctions of it. Think about it: who is getting paid to produce the wikipedia, who orders the volunteers to write the articles, etc…?? It is neither a market, nor a corporate command structure, but a dysfunctional peer production process, that is nevertheless, despite all its weaknesses, overtaking Brittanica.

    This means that reforming Wikipedia to make it into a corporation of paid workers, or a market of freelancers, is not an option, but that it is within that very dynamic of voluntary contributions and universal availability that solutions need to be found, i.e. from dysfunctional to more functional and democratic methods that are more productive in terms of selecting for excellence etc… or failing that, creating alternative projects that do.

    Peer production and governance is an actual practice, that carries with it certain potential and ideals, which may or may not be fully realized, and subject to its own problems and dysfunctions, which cannot be understood in terms of previous mode of productions and governance.

    That is the point that I’m making.



  10. AvatarJon Awbrey


    Let’s back up a little then.

    I have been assuming that the word peer connoted equal. For instance, the word umpire derives by incorrect division from the Middle French nomper for not equal. So I would not call something a peer system unless all of the people in the system had equal status, that is, no umpires. Wikipedia is so remote from being anything like a peer system that it really makes no sense to apply the concept in any positive way.

    I view the economics of motivation and reward in somewhat broader terms than the purely monetary, and I have gotten some sense of what rewards, or prospects of reward, motivate various classes or workers in Wikipedia.

    But the fact remains that Wikipedia is exactly like some of the most regressive systems that we have seen in the past — where the majority of the monetary rewards are going to classes of people who OWN the means of production and distribution, and who spend their time figuring out how to increase their control and their exploitation of that production, as opposed to producing anything themselves.

  11. AvatarMichel Bauwens


    that’s the problem between definitions and real life.

    Peer production has three aspects: 1) voluntary contributions; 2) participatory processes; 3) commons oriented output.

    Clearly, the Wikipedia has one and three, but the participatory process has gone astray.

    A different issue, but of course related, is the relations between the commons and the businesses that live from it. What you have here is I think a similar issue to why democracy invented the separation of powers. What you decry is that the group of people that you say are profiting from it, are perhaps also responsible for the degeneration of the participatory process.

    This is entirely possible, but I think that it can also degenerate on its own (tyranny of structurelessness), or it is the degeneration that subsequently creastes possibilities of privileged capture.

    What I’d like to know is details about how you see that mechanism of exploitation, and how it impacts the process. Are you sure that the deletionists have the same agenda, and are beholden, to the individual business interests of some in the wikimedia foundation?

    My provisional sense is that this is not necessarily related.

    At the start you said ‘back up a little’.

    So let’s do that. Take the difference between stalinism and fascism. Both are despicable totalitarian systems, but they proceeded from entirely different premises. The first was a degeneration of an egalitarian ethos, the second an actual carrying of an inegalitarian ideal. No matter how rotten the first was, it was originally an attempt for an egalitarian society.

    The Wikipedia is similary an instantiation of an egalitarian ideal, that has gone astray. However, we have to keep a sense of perspective on these things, it is still a matter of voluntary contribution, and still a matter of universal availability.

    The exploitation part seems very relative to me: how much money are Wales et al. actually making of Wikipedia? Unless you know things that I don’t, I don’t see much evidence of it But I’ll keep an open mind for your answer.

  12. AvatarJon Awbrey

    Zbigniew Lukasiak, 31 Jan 2008

    Hey Jon — why are you joining Wikipedia with Citizendium? My understanding is that Citizendium was an attempt to cure the failures of Wikipedia — even if it was not that successful — then applying all Wikipedia critisism to Citizendium without any supportive argumentation is rather unfair.


    I participated in a couple of the projects that Larry Sanger carried on in the interval between Wikipedia and Citizendium and I participated in the early phases of the Citizendium startup itself.

    Based on that experience I would have to express the following evaluations:

    Sanger rightly saw the need to fix one of the big problems with Wikipedia, namely, the lack of accountability and responsibility that is engendered by the use of pseudonyms, but he failed to learn almost every other lesson of Wikipedia’s failings, and he is characteristically impervious to any significant criticism of the underlying Wikipedia model, the lion’s share of which he himself crafted.

    His feeling appears to be that it was only the implementation of his basic policies that went off track, not the foundation itself that was flawed.

    This has resulted in an even more rigid adherence to the fundamental Wikipediot Dogma than we find at Wikipedia itself.

    I do not expect anything new to come of that.

  13. AvatarMichel Bauwens

    Hi Jon,

    tried to fix it.

    I wonder then, if what you are putting into question is not the very process of peer production itself, i.e. the volontary contributions, the non-credentialism, the a posteriori selection through collective choice systems? Or are you just rejecting it in the case of producing encyclopedias?

    what then is the alternative?

    My own view is that producing based on voluntary contributions is sound, a major social innovation bringing many benefits, but that it poses the challenge of selecting for excellence, and that this is the area we have to work on. But I do not question the fundamental innovation of Wikipedia of creating an encyclopedia through voluntary contributions, and making it universally available, and having a participatory process of decision-making (which in this case, seems flawed as it does not select for excellence in a satisfactory manner)


  14. AvatarJon Awbrey


    I haven’t been questioning the validity the peer ideal, so far as I understand your understanding of it, but I do begin to be surprised that you think Wikipedia has much if anything to do with it.

    If I seek to explain the divergence of perceptions here, my first hypothesis would probably be that we have different levels of experience with the actual workings of Wikipedia itself.

    I see in all of us a strong desire to believe in a certain types of social organization, in particular, a learning community that is dedicated to distributing the sum of human knowledge as widely as possible.

    There was a time when I imagined that Wikipedia might have been founded for just that purpose, a time when I imagined that the rules of its order might have been reasonably well-suited to achieving that end.

    Increasing familiarity with the realities of Wikipedia have taught me that neither imagining has substance.

    In our discussions at The Wikipedia Review, I have often referred to the distinction that Argyris and Schön made between espoused values and enacted values. I am sure that everyone recognizes the distinction under one name or another.

    But it’s critical to note that not every organization that espouses certain ideals is really determined to enact those ideals, whether this discrepancy occurs through deliberate deception, “bad faith” self-deception, or merely through incompetence.

    Whatever the case, it is not really necessary for us to figure out whether a leader is a fool or a liar on order for us to decide that we do not want to follow that leader any further.

  15. AvatarZbigniew Lukasiak

    The question is how much of wikipedia is it’s leaders. Even if you question the leadership of wikipedia – then there are still the contributors who work in good faith and there is the knowledge that is freely distributed.

  16. AvatarJon Awbrey


    I understand about being a good faith contributor in this or that quiet corner of the steppes, one that the wikipolitburo has not got around to noticing yet. You will be a good faith contributor right up until the Central Committee declares you to be a heretic, because it is they, not you, who decides what is good faith and what is not. Then you will find yourself banished from the land and tried in absentia by a lynch mob of your, um, “peers”.

    That is what amounts to “faith” in Wikipedia.

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