In a few weeks, a small group and I will be announcing a major new educational project, free and non-profit, with very significant funding from a retired businessman. We will be meeting in New York City early next month, talking to some potential advisers and funders. I am sorry to have to be so vague. For now, suffice it to say that everyone will benefit, but school children most of all — and the effort will answer the petition I mentioned earlier, which I hope you will sign if you have not done so already. That’s why I want to mention this, even without any detail: there are philanthropists who will get behind that sort of project. I know, because I have met one; his generosity inspired that petition in the first place. I also had to let out a little of the excitement! The idea is a corker!
March 25, 2008
March 24, 2008
If you agree with this appeal, please sign this petition of support!
This is a public appeal to philanthropists who are supporting the education of children. The author (Dr. Larry Sanger) is co-founder of Wikipedia and editor-in-chief of the new Citizendium. Originally posted March 22, rewritten March 24. This petition was featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education blog, the Chronicle of Philanthropy blog, and elsewhere.
Dear Philanthropist,We (the undersigned) have a simple, deeply powerful suggestion: “liberate” the best educational content. Buy or commission truly excellent content, aimed at school children (K-12). Then post it online for free. Let children reap the rewards of your generosity forever. Just think:
- Free, top-grade textbooks about everything, free to everyone online
- Free, in-depth, expert-designed educational software
- Free, high-quality educational videos
Just imagine the possibilities of good this would do for the whole world.
Isn’t this already happening? No. Most educational content you find for free online lacks either detail or high quality. But we want the best for our children: for that, we still must and do pay. There is not much truly excellent free educational content online.
Why not? We do not know. Perhaps because those who create and support educational content generally view the Internet either as a dangerous competitor or as an adolescent free-for-all. Perhaps. But also think of the Internet as an amazingly efficient and cheap distribution mechanism. You (philanthropists) can single-handedly use it to provide curricula to the entire world, for free. You choose the type of content, the subject, the grade level, the authors, everything. You need not ask anyone’s permission. If you spend the money, content will appear online — and millions of children will benefit. It is up to you!
Let us put this in perspective. Back in 1960, if a billionaire wanted to give the best possible textbook to every child in the world, that would have been too costly even for the richest billionaire. But no longer. Even those with small fortunes can provide a textbook (etc.) to everyone with Internet access–hundreds of millions of children. Philanthropists, you could do this.
You have been spending millions of dollars annually to improve education, but we believe you have largely ignored this key opportunity. Sometimes the simplest ways are the best. If you want to answer, “But the problems with U.S. schools do not have to do with our textbooks or content,” we might agree with you. Perhaps it has to do with teachers being low-paid, or parents not being involved, or something else. We do not offer an answer to that.
But this opportunity is “low-hanging fruit.” High-quality, free content undeniably and directly benefits the world, the entire world, through the magic of the Internet. Educational content gives knowledge to children. Why not pay for it? What is stopping you? After all, it is not only collective “Web 2.0″ efforts that can liberate content. You have a fantastic mechanism for distributing free curricula to virtually every school child in the U.S., and the whole world can benefit, to boot. Why not use it?
Regards and deep thanks in advance,
P.S. Follow-ups to the petition will be posted both on this blog and the mailing list SharedKnowing. Sign up to that mailing list if you want to be sure to receive info about how this petition fares.
September 14, 2007
I am hereby calling for formal (or semi-formal), well-reasoned position statements, from anyone – including people outside the Citizendium community — about what licensing scheme the Citizendium (http://www.citizendium.org/) should use. The issues are covered in an incomplete and semi-systematic way on three separate pages here (under “License”):
There are many interesting issues involved, but it boils down to one: under what license should we release articles that we have created ourselves? (Articles that originated in part from Wikipedia are now available under the GFDL.)
I am giving us a deadline: we will have made the final decision on the license by November 15, two months from now. So the essays should be received by, let’s say, October 20 — if you want the decisionmakers to be able to absorb them.
Citizens may post links to their essays here:
If you like, you can make your essay a subpage of that page. Please don’t make your essay a subpage of your user page (that’s actually contrary to user page rules).
Non-Citizens can host the essay yourself, or send it to us and we will host it, in HTML, PDF, or MediaWiki form. Send links to me (or another Citizen) to post.
Because this is an issue that deeply affects the future and vitality of the project as a whole, I will be taking a strong personal interest in it. I myself will be writing an essay summing up my own views, but I would like to have the benefit of your essays, first!
Please forward this important call for essays to potentially interested parties. I personally will be putting it only on Citizendium-L, Citizendium-Editors, and the blog.
February 16, 2007
Over the last 48 hours, a vandal or group of vandals has been maliciously assaulting the wiki.
I am not sure what the appeal to vandalism is. Perhaps it is like a rock star trashing a hotel room. Either way, gathering enemies achieves a sort of relevance. So to the vandals…thank you for making us relevant.
When this project was created, we foresaw the possibility of attacks and prepared our hosting provider (Steadfast.net) to harden both the box and switch against attacks.
Hardening the wiki is a different matter. Each method used must be carefully chosen to avoid CPU, memory and bandwidth bottlenecks. What is in place now is stop-gap, but I believe it will survive slashdotting. The new software stops all bot/script activity at a cost of logging a lot of data.
Sadly, anti-spam/anti-vandal software solutions are not mature or even in alpha stages. Obvious solutions are lacking, such as throttling. I have not been able to find a CAPTCHA extension for new account creation and may have to write a homegrown one.
Stopping vandalism requires time. Time is money. I hate burning money. Like IRC in the early days, when you could split servers and create spoofs…the code will just get better inevitably.
November 3, 2006
So asks Danielle Sacks. She thinks that the advent of the Citizendium says something interesting about open source generally:
This of course raises the central debate of the entire open-source movement: does the revival of the expert mean we’re already over the whole utopian idea of a democratic, user-generated world? Have we realized that it just doesn’t work?
Well, I wouldn’t go that far. Danielle takes hold of the less-hip horn of a false dilemma that a lot of OSS advocates have purveying: either you’re a top-down elitist who rejects the benefits of open source and open content, or you’re a bottom-up amateurist who embraces the free stuff movement. Right now I seem to be a voice in the wilderness, advocating that experts and the general public can come together on roughly equal terms, as part of a bottom-up collaboration, with experts making final decisions as necessary, and the work of everyone being released under a free license. In fact, there’s no reason we can’t view open source itself as involving experts, in a way; it’s just that experts outside of the field of software development need to learn from the “bazaar” model of production.