Citizendium (/ˌsɪtɪˈzɛndiəm/ SIT-i-ZEN-dee-əm; "the citizens'
compendium of everything") is an English-language wiki-based free
encyclopedia project launched by Larry Sanger, who had previously
co-founded in 2001.
It was first announced in September 2006 as a fork of the English
Wikipedia, but that idea was abandoned prior to its March 2007
public launch in favor of emphasizing original articles. The project
aims to improve on the model by providing increased
reliability. It hopes to achieve this by requiring virtually all
contributors to use their real names, by strictly moderating the
project for unprofessional behavior, by providing what it calls
"gentle expert oversight" of everyday contributors, and also through
its "approved articles". Approved articles have undergone a form of
peer-review by topic experts with credentials, and are closed to
By 27 October 2011, the site had fewer than 100 active members. As
of November 2017[update], it had 16,938 articles, of which 160
had achieved editorial approval, and around 5 contributors making at
least 1 edit a month. The last managing editor was Anthony
Sebastian, until the office was vacated in 2016.
1 Founder viewpoints
1.1 Planning for succession of editor-in-chief
2 Nature of the project
2.1 Fork of
2.2 Project goal
2.3 Policies and structure
3.1 Pilot project
3.3 Later developments
5 Further reading
6 External links
Larry Sanger, founder and former editor-in-chief of Citizendium
Sanger said in a 17 October 2006 press release that
soon attempt to unseat as the go-to destination for general
information online". In August 2007, he captioned its pages: "The
world needs a more credible free encyclopedia." The project began
its pilot phase in October and November 2006.
On 18 January 2007, a change of plans was announced. Sanger announced
on the CZ mailing list that only articles marked "CZ Live", those
which have been or will soon be worked on by
would remain on the site, and all other articles forked from
would be deleted. Not all
Citizendium contributors were supportive of
this change, but Sanger emphasized that this deletion was "an
experiment" and a new set of articles could be uploaded if
the experiment were deemed unsuccessful.
Planning for succession of editor-in-chief
In May 2009, Sanger reduced his direct activity at Citizendium, and,
in a message on 30 July 2009, he reminded those on the Citizendium-l
mailing list of his previously declared intention not to serve as
editor-in-chief for more than two or three years after the start of
the project. Sanger has reiterated his call for the Citizendium
community to prepare an orderly process for choosing a new
editor-in-chief. Sanger said that he was spending more time on his
WatchKnow project, partly because he needs to earn an income—he
said the "
Citizendium project doesn't earn me a dime"—and partly
Citizendium community had demonstrated that it could
function effectively without his close, daily involvement, and because
"there are squeakier wheels in my life just now". He added that
stepping aside may "precipitate something of a constitutional crisis,
considering that we [Citizendium] never adopted a proper charter".
Citizendium finally ratified its charter in September 2010. On 22
September 2010, Sanger stepped down as editor-in-chief and
subsequently gave up editorial powers and rights to the project.
Sanger did not appoint a successor or interim editor-in-chief, and the
project's financial position did not become clear until after his
Nature of the project
According to statements and essays on Citizendium, the
project was initially intended to begin as a fork of,
carrying a copy of each article—under the rules of the GNU Free
Documentation License—as it existed on at the time of
Citizendium's launch. However, after initiating the idea of not
forking, and then soliciting comments on the matter from Citizendium
mailing list and web forum members, Sanger said that a complete fork
at launch was not a "foregone conclusion". On 18 January 2007,
Sanger announced that the pilot would, as an experiment, only carry
articles that had been, or would soon be, worked on by Citizendium
contributors, instead of a complete set of articles. He
stated that the experiment "represents a reconception of our project's
No announcement has yet been made on
Citizendium editions in languages
other than English, but Sanger has stated in his essays that they may
be forthcoming after the English-language version is established and
successfully working. In a review of Andrew Keen's book The Cult of
the Amateur, Sanger comments ironically on Keen's favorable treatment
of Citizendium: "The first example of a 'solution' he offers is the
Citizendium, or the Citizens' Compendium, which I like to describe
briefly as with editors and real names. But how can
Citizendium be a solution to the problems he raises, if it has experts
working without pay, and the result is free? If it succeeds, won't it
contribute to the decline of reference publishing?"
The stated aim of the project is to create a "new compendium of
knowledge" based on the contributions of "intellectuals", defined as
"educated, thinking people who read about science or ideas
Citizendium aimed to foster an expert culture and a
community that encourages participants (to be called "authors") to
"respect" the expert contributions (by what he referred to as a
"gentle process of guidance").
Experts are required to verify their qualifications openly, for
transparency and publicly accepted authority. This contrasts with
the open and largely anonymous nature of, where subject
specialists have neither any verifiable special knowledge of their
subject nor agreed special status. Sanger stated that editors would
not have pre-approval rights over edits by ordinary authors, though
editors would have somewhat undefined authority over articles that
fall within their specific area of expertise.
Policies and structure
Citizendium does not allow anonymous editing.
Participants must register under their real names with a working email
address. Sanger decided that
Citizendium administrators would be
called "constables", and need a bachelor's degree to qualify. He also
instituted a minimum "maturity" requirement—25 years of age—for
constables. The "head" constable is the Chief Constable (D. Matt
Innis), and the head editor is the Managing Editor.
Originally, Sanger operated as Editor-in-Chief, the "main individual
in charge", part of and answerable to a Board of Directors. Sanger
stated that final decisions about management structure will not be
made "until more of the (future) primary stakeholders are on the
Citizendium articles are subject to an "approval" process after they
have achieved reasonable quality. An "editor" can determine when an
article is ready to be approved.
The project is being carried out under the auspices of the Citizendium
Foundation, and was initially phased under the
Tides Center as an
Breakdown of articles in December 2007
Citizendium original articles are available under the Creative Commons
Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-SA). "Articles
that originated in part from are also available under [the]
GNU Free Documentation License
GNU Free Documentation License [version] 1.2." The decision
was announced on 21 December 2007, about a year after the launch of
the pilot project.
Number of articles from launch of the pilot project until late 2014.
The project was announced by Sanger on 15 September 2006, at the
Wizards of OS
Wizards of OS 4 conference in Berlin. He gave no deadline for the full
launch of the wiki. However, on 2 October 2006, Sanger
released a pilot project announcement that envisioned a fully
functioning wiki within "one to two months".
In an apparent attempt to quicken the pace of the project, on 2
Citizendium web forum moderator Peter Hitchmough
suggested what he called an "alpha test" of the concept. Hitchmough
proposed the forking of a limited number of articles to a
Citizendium web forum and mailing list members could
"rewrite a complete section" of content.
Larry Sanger reacted enthusiastically to the idea and at first
suggested his already existing Textop wiki as the site for the alpha
test. Sanger later posted that Textop would not be a good choice, but
showed continued interest in the proposal. He envisioned a
"restricted-access" wiki where the idea could be tried and requested
No access to the pilot version of Citizendium, even read-only, was
allowed to the general public. Sanger stated: "Only invited people
will be able to view and edit the pilot project wiki." Sanger also
said that constables for the pilot project will be chosen by the chief
In a press release on 17 October 2006, Sanger announced: "the
Citizendium Foundation will launch a six-week pilot project
open to potential contributors by invitation". Several editors and
other project leaders were named. It was also announced that the
Citizendium Foundation had "started the process of applying for
501(c)(3) status [non-profit status]" and had "received a firm
commitment for a significant seed grant from a foundation, as well as
small personal donations". In a follow-up post to the press
release, Sanger said that the initial group allowed access to the
pilot would consist of "ten editors, three constables, six authors,
The pilot project began operations on 23 October 2006. On 8
Larry Sanger reported that 263 user names had access to the
pilot wiki, 183 articles on the wiki were "live" (meaning "someone is
or intends to be working on them") and there were about 300 total
edits to the wiki on 7 November.
Creation rate (articles per day) until late 2014.
In a 17 January 2007 post to the
Citizendium forum, Sanger stated that
"we have had only 10–20 (very) active people out of 500 accounts
created". As a result, Sanger decided to delete all articles besides
those marked "CZ live" from the pilot project in an attempt to
motivate greater participation. On 22 January 2007, Citizendium
experimented with a new self-registration procedure: read/write access
was granted automatically after creation of the account. There
were a few instances of vandalism after this change, though the
vandalism was quickly reverted. On 19 January, Sanger announced
the formal organization of
Citizendium as a legal non-profit
On 16 February 2007, in response to rising site vandalism, automatic
account creation was put on hold while increased protections were
being put in place to counter vandalism. The next day, page moves
were limited to constables as an additional measure against
vandalism. In addition, Sanger continued the process of un-forking
Citizendium from by inviting contributors to delete any
content that had changed only superficially since it was
Default style of the homepage through early 2008; users can choose
from a number of "skins", or formats.
On 25 March 2007,
Citizendium ended its pilot phase and went live,
into its beta phase, and the site became publicly readable. The
launch coincided with a feature-length
Associated Press article that
ran widely, with a title in
USA Today of "
Citizendium aims to be
The day prior to launch, Sanger released an essay, "Why the
Citizendium Will (Probably) Succeed" in which he stated that activity
Citizendium grew from 100 edits a day in the first month to over
500 prior to launch. After the launch, on 27 March 2007, a press
release quotes Sanger as saying "You don't have to choose between
content and accountability. We have shown that we can create open and
credible content. We can, in fact, be open to all sorts of
participants, but still hold people to higher standards of content and
behavior as a community."
Sometime after the launch, it was noted that Citizendium's
family-friendly policy would mean the project would likely tend to
avoid articles on slang terms for sexual activity, and particularly
explicit articles on sexual practices. The
Citizendium has a
"professionalism" policy for editors, which Sanger said is different
from most online communities.
On 29 June 2007, Sanger announced an initiative via the project-wide
mailing list that he dubbed "
Citizendium 2.0". Characterizing his
comments as a "project planning document", Sanger detailed a series of
initiatives designed to launch
Citizendium into its next phase of
development. The document outlined plans for a judicial board, an
advisory board, a personnel manager, a new chairman of the editorial
council, wider participation in the project by volunteers, a system of
subpages for articles, and an expanded article checklist.
Number of users making at least one edit in a given month, until late
At the project's first anniversary in September 2007, Citizendium
included 3000 articles written and revised by 2000 people. A
number of media reports appeared in late October and early November
2007 about the anniversary of Citizendium. A story in the Financial
Larry Sanger predicting strong growth for the project:
"At some point, possibly very soon, the
Citizendium will grow
explosively – say, quadruple the number of its active
contributors, or even grow by an order of magnitude. And it will
experience that growth over the course of a month or two, and its
growth will continue to accelerate from that higher rate." (See
chart at right; active contributors slowly went upwards during the
remainder of 2007, then bubbled higher in the first quarter of 2008,
but after that point steadily declined.)
Citizendium was honored on 5 December 2007, as an award finalist of
the Society for New Communications Research. The Society describes
itself as a nonprofit global think-tank "dedicated to the advanced
study of new communications tools, technologies and emerging modes of
communication, and their effect on traditional media, professional
communications, business, culture and society". The Society chose
Citizendium for an award because it considered it "a leading
organization" in these respects.
Library writer Walt Crawford noted in April 2009 that Citizendium
appeared to be in an "extended lull", with a constant rate of creation
of new articles at around 13–14 per day and a decline in the number
of active authors. In August 2009, Richard Waters wrote in the
Financial Times technology blog: "At best,
Citizendium could be called
a qualified success. Launched in March 2007, as of August 2009 it had
11,810 articles – 2,999,674 fewer than the English-language
version of." Mathieu O'Neil, Principal Researcher at the
Australian Department of Broadband, Communication and the Digital
Economy, wrote in a March 2010 article on crowdsourcing that "new
participants to know that their contributions will have a
significant audience; becoming a editor is trivial and
instantaneous; since it lacks this immediate quality, Citizendium
failed to attract the crowd".
In March 2010 the project had 90 contributors who made at least one
edit, with a core of 25 contributors who made more than 100 edits.
Median word count dropped from 468 words per article in October 2007
to 151 in May 2010. In June 2010, the number of users making 1, 20
or 100 edits per month all were at their lowest point since the
project went public in March 2007. By October 2011, only about a
dozen members made edits on a typical day, and an Ars Technica
headline called the
Citizendium project "dead in the water". In
September 2015, only seven editors had been active in the previous 30
days. As of September 2017, there was an average of 5 edits made
In November 2016, a referendum was held to abolish the governing
Citizendium Charter and the Council in favor of-style
discussion and consensus. It attracted nine votes, and was passed. A
new Managing Editor was to be elected at the same time, but there were
^ "Citizendium.org Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved
^ a b c Lee, Timothy B. "
Citizendium turns five, but the
fork is dead in the water". Ars Technica. Retrieved 27 October
^ a b "Welcome to Citizendium", Citizendium. Retrieved 2017-11-21, and
"Statistics", Active users (Users who have performed an action in the
last 30 days), Citizendium. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
^ "CZ:About – Citizendium". En.citizendium.org. Retrieved
^ Bergstein, Brian (25 March 2007). "Sanger says he co-started
Wikipedia". MSNBC. Associated Press. Retrieved 25 March 2007. The
nascent Web encyclopedia
Citizendium springs from Larry Sanger, a
philosophy Ph.D. who counts himself as a co-founder of, the
site he now hopes to usurp. The claim doesn't seem particularly
controversial — Sanger has long been cited as a co-founder. Yet
the other founder, Jimmy Wales, isn't happy about it.
^ Moody, Glyn (13 July 2006). "This time, it'll be a written
by experts". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 March 2007. Larry
Sanger seems to have a thing about free online encyclopedias. Although
his main claim to fame is as the co-founder, along with Jimmy Wales,
of, that is just one of several projects to produce
large-scale, systematic stores of human knowledge he has been involved
in. […] "[Jimmy Wales] saw that I was essentially looking for
employment online and he was looking for someone to lead
[…]" Career: 1992–1996, 1997–1998 Graduate teaching associate,
OSU; 2000–2002 Editor-in-chief, Nupedia; Co-founder and "chief
^ Andrew Orlowski."founder forks, More experts,
less fiddling?", The Register, 18 September 2006. In software
engineering, a project fork occurs when developers take a copy of
source code from one software package and start independent
development on it, creating a distinct piece of software.
^ "The Citizendium's Statement of Fundamental Policies". Citizendium.
6 September 2007. Retrieved 25 February 2008.
^ McCarthy, Caroline (23 January 2007). "Citizendium:
co-founder Sanger's riva l". CNET News. Retrieved 13 April
^ Anderson, Nate (25 February 2007). "Citizendium: building a better
Wikipedia". Ars Technica. Retrieved 13 April 2009.
^ "[Citizendium-l] New Managing Editor and reduced Council sizes". The
Mail Archive. 1 July 2012. Archived from the original on 2016-05-21.
Retrieved 1 July 2012.
^ a b Larry Sanger. "Co-Founder to Launch Edited Version of:
Pilot Project for the
Citizendium to Launch This Week" Archived 5
November 2006 at the Wayback Machine., Citizendium, 17 October 2006.
^ "CZ:Monthly Write-a-Thon". Citizendium. 1 August 2007. Retrieved 1
^ a b Larry Sanger. "OK, let's delete the articles (an
experiment)", Citizendium-l mail list, 18 January 2007.
Larry Sanger [Citizendium-l] My recent absence Archived 20 July 2011
at the Wayback Machine.
^ "WatchKnow". WatchKnow. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
^ "CZ:Charter". Citizendium, en.citizendium.org. 23 September 2010.
Retrieved 8 December 2010.
Larry Sanger blog post,
^ Jones, Russell D. "Announcements", Citizendium, 6 November 2010.
Retrieved 23 November 2010.
^ "CZ:DeWPify". Citizendium. 26 April 2011. Retrieved 1 April
^ "CZ:FAQ – You began as a fork of, and then decided
not to fork after all, but start most of your articles over from
scratch. Why?". Citizendium. 27 February 2012. Retrieved 1 April
^ "CZ:Statistics". Citizendium. 4 March 2012. Retrieved 1 April
^ Larry Sanger. "Why we should fork all at once", Citizendium-l mail
list, 29 September 2006.
^ Larry Sanger. "Forking argument summary" Archived 29 September 2007
at the Wayback Machine.,
Citizendium forum, 29 September 2006.
Larry Sanger (17 July 2007). "Review of Keen's "Cult of the
Citizendium Blog. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
^ Larry Sanger. "Toward a New
Compendium of Knowledge (longer
^ a b c Larry Sanger. "
Citizendium Policy Outline" Archived 3 July
2007 at the Wayback Machine., Citizendium.
^ Rosenzweig, Roy (2006). "Can History Be Open Source? and
the Future of the Past". The Journal of American History. 1:
^ a b Larry Sanger. "Constables, editors, and the Citizendium
Foundation", Citizendium-l mail list, 23 September 2006.
^ Larry Sanger. "How should we manage growth?" Archived 29 September
2007 at the Wayback Machine.,
Citizendium forum, 2 October 2006.
^ "Project Directory:
Citizendium Foundation". The Tides Center.
Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 5 June
^ Sanger, Larry (21 December 2007). "The
project picks a Creative Commons license". Retrieved 25 December
^ "Citizendium:Main Page". Citizendium. Retrieved 14 September
^ Sanger, Larry (22 December 2007). "An explanation of the Citizendium
license". Archived from the original on 25 December 2007. Retrieved 22
^ Larry Sanger. "
Citizendium launch plan as of 26 September" Archived
20 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine., Citizendium-l mail list, 27
^ WOS video stream containing Sanger's announcement
^ Peter Hitchmough. "Proposal: Fork and launch with some
A1-class model subjects" Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback
Citizendium forum, 2 October 2006.
^ Larry Sanger. "Administrivia: interesting pilot project proposal",
Citizendium-l mail list, 2 October 2006.
^ Larry Sanger. "Call for applications to participate in the
Citizendium Pilot Project" Archived 3 November 2006 at the Wayback
^ Larry Sanger. "Pilot Project Application Review Procedure",
Citizendium-l mail list, 13 November 2006.
^ Larry Sanger. "Ad hoc steering group kicked off", Citizendium-l mail
list, 18 October 2006.
^ Jason Potkanski. "Developers Wanted: forge.citizendium.org Open"
Archived 29 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine., Citizendium-l mail
list, 23 October 2006.
^ Larry Sanger. "Stats",
Citizendium blog, 8 November 2006.
^ Larry Sanger. "Would you contribute more if the wiki were blank?",
Citizendium forum, 17 January 2007.
^ a b Larry Sanger. "Self-registration begins!", Citizendium-l mail
list, 22 January 2007. The first act of vandalism was carried out via
an account named 'Chris Nguyen', to vandalise three pages including
the main one and that of Larry Sanger, apparently before the
announcement was made. The account was indefinitely blocked a little
over half an hour after the first improper edit.
Citizendium pilot wiki. "Main page revision history" Archived 12
March 2007 at the Wayback Machine., 23 January 2007.
^ Larry Sanger. Upcoming announcements; your help requested Archived
29 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine., Citizendium-l mail list, 19
^ Vandal Assault, at the
Citizendium Blog Archived 27 February 2007 at
the Wayback Machine.
^ "Page moves now require constable help; and semi-automated
hand-approval of new accounts?", Citizendium-l mail list, 17 February
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Citizendium blog, 25 March 2007
^ Bergstein, Brian (25 March 2007). "
Citizendium aims to be better
Wikipedia". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 25 March
2007. "This week, Sanger takes the wraps off a
alternative, Citizendium. His goal is to capture's bustle
but this time, avoid the vandalism and inconsistency that are its
pitfalls." — Brian Bergstein.
^ Larry Sanger. "Why the
Citizendium Will (Probably) Succeed" Archived
8 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine., Citizendium, March 2007.
"Our activity has grown from 100 edits per day in the first month to
over 500 prior to launch. Every day, a large variety of people from
many fields sign on and do some work. This is all in a period in which
the project has been visible only to those who have applied to the
project. In addition, while it has received a fair bit of press, we
have done very little in the way of recruitment—but with good
results when we have. More aggressive recruitment is our trump card,
which we haven't played."
^ Larry Sanger.
Citizendium Opens its Free Online Encyclopedia Project
to the Public Archived 27 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
Citizendium, 27 March 2007.
"The modest success of our pilot project shows that there is hope that
we can correct exactly the sort of abuses that people demonize Web 2.0
for," said the project's Editor-in-Chief, co-founder Dr.
Larry Sanger. "You don't have to choose between content and
accountability. We have shown that we can create open and credible
content. We can, in fact, be open to all sorts of participants, but
still hold people to higher standards of content and behavior as a
^ Sanger, Larry. "CZ:Family-Friendly Policy". Citizendium. Retrieved 7
June 2007. Probably, we will not have graphic depictions of the sex
act or photographs of human sex organs; we will have few articles
about pornography; we will not catalog every sex position and every
fetish; we will not have gratuitous, and truly shocking and
disgusting, pictures of gore (e.g., crime scene photos); and so
^ Sanger, Larry. "CZ:Professionalism". Citizendium. Retrieved 15 July
Citizendium differs significantly from other online
communities in its commitment to professionalism—that is,
professional behavior—and low tolerance for incivility and
disruption. For there to be efficient content output and motivated
contributors it is crucial that we all treat each other
"professionally," and each other's work respectfully.
Larry Sanger (29 June 2007). "Toward CZ 2.0". Citizendium-l.
Retrieved 29 June 2007.
^ (in French) Comment le web change le monde : l'alchimie des
multitudes, Francis Pisani et Dominique Piotet, éd. Pearson, 2008
(ISBN 978-2-7440-6261-2), p. 120
^ Waters, Richard (5 November 2007). "
Financial Times. London. Retrieved 15 November 2007.
^ Report: http://www.newsobserver.com/1566/story/803518.html. The
Society for New Communications Research website: http://www.sncr.org.
Citizendium Blog entry.
^ "Society for New Communications Research to Honor Organizations and
Individuals from Around the Globe at 2nd Annual Excellence in New
Communications Awards, December 5th in Boston". Business Wire. Boston.
30 November 2007. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
^ Crawford, Walt, Cites & Insights Volume 9, Number 5 (April
2009), ISSN 1534-0937.
Citizendium founder ready to jump ship". The Financial Times,
blogs.ft.com. 25 August 2009. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
^ O'Neil, M., 2010: Shirky and Sanger, or the cost of crowdsourcing.
Journal of Science Communication 09(01) C04.
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Retrieved 8 December 2010.
^ "Recent changes". Citizendium. 25 September 2015. Archived from the
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^ "Election November 2016". 2016-11-08. Retrieved 2016-11-25.
United States portal
Guess, Andy (28 April 2008). "Making Wikis Work for Scholars". Inside
Higher Ed. Retrieved 28 April 2008.
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