From Everything Shii Knows, the only reliable source

This website is an archive. It ran from 2006-2010. Virtually everything on here is outdated or inaccurate.

Citizendium is a website that panders to people's fears about Wikipedia while addressing none of the problems of Wikipedia.

What are people's concerns with Wikipedia?

  1. Bias: editors slyly writing articles to favor their point of view.
  2. Lies: citing sources that, while they might be reliable, do not give an accurate representation of the facts.
  3. Lack of accountability: Wikipedia itself is not responsible for the things its editors put on the page.

Citizendium pretends to resolve this issue the old-fashioned way, by banning pseudonymity and forcing people to use their real names. People born before the 1980s may associate pseudonyms with bias, lies, and lack of accountability, so they will fall into this trap. People born in the Internet generation, of course, know exactly who a pseudonymous person is: it's a person. The fact that they are using a pseudonym is not particularly relevant to anything.

Let's look a little closer about how Citizendium is just as bad as Wikipedia.



In our ideal, happy little world, the fact that Citizendium editors use their real names will make them deathly afraid of ending their careers by posting biased material on the Internet or holding POV wars with people. Wait a minute... I think I've heard of this before... wasn't it called "Usenet"? Oh yeah, that ended well.

Obviously, I can only pontificate so much about theoretical mistakes with this model. Let's take a look at an actual Citizendium article:

This article describes the chiropractic term "subluxation". Note the message on the top saying that it has been "approved" by the "Healing Arts Workgroup". This is the sort of article that Citizendium wants you to see. And what's it full of?

The "Vertebral subluxation model" of disease incorporates this well-accepted account [of spinal alignment], and goes on to suggest that there are many other important consequences of suboptimal spinal alignment and function. It asserts that, when the information the nerves convey to the brain and spinal cord is disturbed, this affects the organs and tissues that receive a nerve supply from the affected region of the spine. As a result, chiropractors believe that an organ problem is linked to the region of the spine that innervates it. They integrate this information with the other signs and symptoms that were gathered to formulate a rationale for treatment. For instance, they would consider midback pain, tightness between the shoulders and indigestion all to be related to the same condition (See this Flash animation for examples.).

Mmmm. That's the smell of pseudoscientific bullshit. For an actual explanation of "subluxation", consult an actual scientist:

Chiropractic theory is rooted in the notions of Daniel David Palmer, a grocer and "magnetic healer" who postulated that the basic cause of disease was interference with the body's nerve supply. Approximately a hundred years ago, he concluded that "A subluxated vertebrae . . . is the cause of 95 percent of all diseases. . . . The other five percent is caused by displaced joints other than those of the vertebral column." [1] He proclaimed that subluxations interfered with the body's expression of "Innate Intelligence"—the "Soul, Spirit, or Spark of Life" that controlled the healing process. He proposed to remedy the gamut of disease by manipulating or "adjusting" the problem areas.
Chiropractors also differ about how to find "subluxations" and where they are located. In addition to seeing them on x-ray films, chiropractors say they can find them by: (a) feeling the spine with their hand, (b) measuring skin temperature near the spine with an instrument, (c) concluding that one of the patient's legs is "functionally" longer than the other, (d) studying the shadows produced by a device that projects a beam of light onto the patient's back, (e) weighing the patient on special scales, and/or (f) detecting "nerve irritation" with a device. Undercover investigations in which many chiropractors have examined the same patient have found that the diagnoses and proposed treatments differed greatly from one practitioner to another.
Subluxation is also a medical term. The medical definition is incomplete or partial dislocation—a condition, visible on x-ray films, in which the bony surfaces of a joint no longer face each other exactly but remain partially aligned. No such condition can be corrected by chiropractic treatment.
My advice about "subluxations" is very simple. If a chiropractor purports to locate and fix them—"killer" or otherwise—seek treatment somewhere else.

Yet, on Citizendium subluxations are described as science! Could this be because a biased editor with a "M.D." in chiropractic decided to soften the heavy criticism of the theory described in her "Flash animation"? It remains to be seen.


The Citizendium model for dealing with lies is the same as the Wikipedia model: no original research, only reliable sources. Alas, this works most of the time, but not always. Sometimes the reliable source may be inaccurate and a self-published pamphlet written in response will describe the real deal, but you can't cite the pamphlet. So, how could you do better than insisting upon reliable sources that are accurate most of the time? I won't discuss that here-- suffice to say Citizendium does not solve this problem.

Lack of accountability

Wikipedia and Citizendium run the same software. On Wikipedia, Seigenthaler-style slander can be linked only to IP addresses or usernames, and it takes extra work to find the official names behind those semi-random names. On Citizendium, slander is immediately attributable to people. Here's the catch: while people might be less willing to slander with their real names, it will still happen (however subtly) and the website itself is still not responsible.

Perhaps this is a controversial statement, because people such as Seigenthaler have been quoted as calling the lack of real names on Wikipedia "cowardly". It is not the name, though, but the edits it produces that the website will or will not be held accountable for. I don't think you need proof of the statement that people are willing to lie with their real names. Citizendium is a juicier target for this than Wikipedia because people who believe the "real names are better" meme will be more likely to accept Citizendium at face value.

If something like this happens, although it probably won't because Citizendium is so minor in comparison to Wikipedia, the website will undoubtedly place the blame on the editor that contributed the slander. This isn't like Britannica where you have an organization that puts everything together, publishes it, and answers complaints directly. It's still a wiki anyone can edit.

So, what is to be done?

See Shii's Solution to the Problem of Wikipedia.

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