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Jason Calacanis: OK everybody, welcome to another episode of CalacanisCast. I believe this is the old “22”. We are cooking with oil. We are moving quick. Let me tell you something, the greatest thing I ever did in my entire life was get a producer. Tyler, you are doing an amazing job! I can’t believe the level of guests that are on the program. How are we getting this level of guests that are on the program? Is it your hustle or my reputation? What is the story here?


Tyler (Producer): It’s the money I’m putting into this out of my own…


Jason: Oh really? So you’re spending a little cash on the side. You have a producer for the producer? You hired a second producer?


Tyler: Yeah.


Jason: I can’t believe the level of people we are getting on the show. The CEO of Revver... Then the co-founder of Tell Me...


Tyler: The day after they sold the company…


Jason: For $900 Million dollars. Then we get Ev Williams brilliant entrepreneur, great guy, doing Twitter and all this stuff. We had the CEO of PayPerPost.com. I’m not going to say he’s a “high caliber” guest, but the guy did write CalacanisCast on his forehead! The fall out from that’s going to be felt for years, but even still the fact that he came into studio for a show was incredible. Jason Chan show was great. He’s like one of the most influential Bloggers over there in China. The guests just keep rolling and today’s guest I have to tell you out of all of these guests, I have to say I’m more excited to have him on the program then I think. Maybe he’s up there with Ev Williams for me because Twitter’s obviously exposed a lot of questions there that need to be answered, but I mean I’m really excited to have this guy on the program because he’s doing a lot of interesting stuff. He’s done interesting stuff, I mean he’s really in the Zeitgeist and has a lot of contrarian views and there’s a lot to talk about. A lot.


Jason: But let me start by thanking our sponsors: GoDaddy, go buy a domain and use the code Jason1 and PodTech, I love you guys at PodTech doing great work over there and everybody knows that we don’t make any money off of this. This whole show, all the revenue from it goes to the Bay Ridge Preparatory schools opportunity fund. That scholarship fund is for, and that’s why they call it an opportunity fund and not an achievement fund it goes to disadvantaged kids basically in Brooklyn where I grew up foster kids get to go to a private school education, it’s pretty cool. No downsides, it’s huge. They already have one that’s going to go for five years and with the money we’ve raised almost over $100,000 dollars from the show will be able to put a second kid into private school. Some people have a thing with private school “oh you know whatever”, but all we’re trying to do here is help like two people. If we could help like two people have a better life isn’t it worth it?


Tyler: Yeah


Jason: Somebody got in my face about it’s like why don’t you just give all the money to the public school system and you know make it one percent better for all these other and it’s like You know what? You find one or two people, try to change their life, make their life a lot better then they will go on and do the same, really try to create a big impact. So that’s my interpretation but if people disagree with that, some people disagree with it and they’re giving me a hard time. You’re welcome to go do you’re other…sponsor the show, that’s actually true, if someone wants to sponsor the show I’ll thank they every show, we’ve done 22, you get thank you on the next 800. And they can be praised for helping people out, but you do your own show give to the charity that you like. You don’t have to hate on my charity. Everybody’s go their own charity.


Jason: Anyway, so today’s guest is Larry Sanger. Larry Sanger is the co-founder of Wikipedia, although some people don’t like to give him credit for that and we’re going to get into that issue. But more importantly. More important than even that is that he is the founder of Citizendium*. And you have to write Citizendium here, put the logo and everything on the video because I can’t spell it and people are going to have a little bit of a hard time with the name, but Citizendium, I believe, is going to become a viable Wikipedia co-exister. That’s a nice way of saying “Competitor”. And Larry’s laughing… but welcome to the Program Larry! I’m really excited to have you.


Larry: Well thanks for having me on.


Jason: So Larry, lets get the first piece of business out of the way. I’m researching having you on the show and I wanna talk about Citezendium we’re gonna spend our time on that, I don’t wanna do this back history thing but there’s one piece we have to settle right up front. There’s a group of people that say you’re not the co-founder of Wikipedia. I looked through all the history and the records and it seems like you pretty much are. And I was having dinner with Jimmy Wales at the Wikimania or no I was talking to him on e-mail and I say “Oh yeah you know” and I said something like I wrote on my Blog co-founder of Wikipedia and he flew off the handle and told me “Larry is not the co-founder he was just the guy who did this” whatever, and sending me links. I’m like, Jimmy, calm down, you’re supposed to be Jimmy “Jesus” Wales, you’re supposed to not be angry about anything like he walks around like this guy whose going to save the world why are you getting so angry about sharing credit? What is the story? Larry?


Larry: Well, gee, the story as far as the credit goes, I mean there’s a huge amount of story to tell so I’m going to have to be focused... I think the issue began sometime in 2004 or 2005 when I started speaking out publicly. I won’t say against, but in some mild criticisms of Wikipedia. And at about the same time Jimmy stopped including me in the story or the origin of Wikipedia. It just went downhill from there. The fact in the matter is that I was credited in Wikipedia’s first press release as a founder with Jimmy and also in the second and third press releases for which I wasn’t responsible at all after I left the organization in 2003 and 2004 I was also accredited as co-founder or founder in all kinds of press coverage beginning in September 2001 in a story in the New York Times.


Jason: I mean all this stuff is on the Wikipedia. There are thousands of citations with you as the co-founder! And, in fact, not only are you the co-founder... you probably are the most important person! If it wasn’t for you there would not be a Wikipedia. Many people have argued you played a more important role in the creation of Wikipedia because you’re the one who put the Wiki in Wikipedia you cam up with the idea of getting off whatever dumb ass content system Wikipedia was running on out of frustration and say lets use Wiki software correct?


Larry: Well, that’s one story anyway. What I would say is that the new Pedia wasn’t quite as bad as you described but Jimmy and I both agreed quite well that we needed another source of content that was easier to contribute to because I mean I was personally worried at the slow pace of production that newPedia had in 2000 so it was my full time job to lead Bomis* encyclopedia efforts and so it was my job to solve newPedias slow production problem and so yeah I proposed a number of different things and it was eventually the proposal that I made for a Wiki encyclopedia that lead to Wikipedia and it was my job in the first year to actually organize the project.


Jason: Let me stop you there for a second Larry. You just said - and this is well documented - You were the person. You were working for Bomis*, which was Jimmy Wells commercial company. Was involved in a couple of different things and one of them was Newpedia which was a four profit encyclopedia and you were charged with coming up with a better publishing system and you came up with the idea of a Wiki plus an encyclopedia. Jimmy had come up with the idea of an online encyclopedia. You were the one who burned the connection; the synapse was burned in your mind to put a Wiki and an encyclopedia together, that’s the fact.


Larry: Yep.


Jason: And how anybody could argue that he is not a co-founder, I would argue that he is the person who is responsible for the Wikipedia. Wiki plus encyclopedia burned in Larry’s brain, you are responsible for the Wikipedia. Jimmy Wales should have no problem giving you credit, in fact he should tell the world it was your idea - because it was! I am disgusted by the fact that you don’t get credit for this. I am outraged by it in fact and I don’t know who but I feel like the Wikipedia community has a grudge against you because you were honest about some of the short fallings and they just are after you. I am on the English Wikipedia list and the launch of Citizendium, these guys have been criticizing, I don’t know if you read the list.


Larry: I don’t bother at all.


Jason: They are so critical of you.


Larry: Oh yeah I know. They have been for a long time.


Jason: And the hatred is so deep. And you have to wonder because these Wikipedia guys you know we had Andrew one whose a great guy Andrew Lih and he’s on and all these Wikipedia guys act so pias and high and mighty that we’re doing this whole thing and you cant give the guy who came up with the idea credit for the fact that he started whole ball in motion and if it wasn’t done with the Wiki software, Wikipedia would not be ten percent of what it is today. That’s the bottom line, I’m telling you the world right now, Larry Sanger is responsible for the Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales role was secondary to Larry’s. That’s what I’m saying. Jason Calacanis is saying that.


Larry: Well, I appreciate that Jason.


Jason: It’s really outrageous I mean are you not outraged by this? It must hurt your feeling tremendously.


Larry: I’ve had many years right now to be outraged - I guess so I don’t really have the desire to…


Jason: Yeah, you’re a cool guy; I’m not trying to put you on the spot. I researched this because when Jimmy Wales got all upset at me I quoted the Wikipedia cause it said co-founded and so I wrote co-founder, it’s his thing, he’s claiming his response for Wikipedia so Jimmy says I’m responsible for Wikipedia, the Wikipedia says he’s the co-founder and that Larry came up with the idea of Wiki plus encyclopedia and Jimmy Wales gets upset for quoting the Wikipedia which he claims it was his idea when in fact it was not. Look at the levels of intellectual dishonesty in that, Tyler. I’m talking to my producer here for a second and he’s nodding. Jimmy Wales is being intellectually dishonest and it’s not the first time he’s been intellectually dishonest with me. We had a massive intellectual you know when he came to human bio pages, living bio pages and some other things as well as the advertising discussion which I had with him he outright lied that he didn’t remember having dinner with me so I don’t know.


Jason: This is two strikes against Jimmy Wales, and he acts so…I’m sorry to go on a rant here Larry I know you’re on the program to talk about Citizendium we’re gonna get into it in a second, but I have to say Jimmy Wales should be on this program and Jimmy Wales is giving me a hard time saying he had a conflict of interest of Wikia competing with Wikipedia you know what that’s three strikes against Jimmy Whale’s number one he lied that he didn’t remember having dinner with me because he asked me at least ten fifteen questions about advertising on the internet so either he lied or he’s got no memory which I don’t believe cause this guys pretty fricken’ smart.


Number two, he lied about Larry Sangers’ role and did it to me directly. I’m not saying this like this is my first person experience; he told me Larry is not the co-founder. That’s a lie. Number three, with his conflict of interest, he told me that, he demanded that I correct myself and do an apology on my Blog because I said he had a conflict of interest between Wikia which has advertising and is doing competitive projects with Wikipedia and is hiring Wikipedians from the Wikipedia project. That competitive and he’s making the decisions about should Wikipedia have advertising or not when he has competitive company, that to me screams of conflict of interest. Now I’m not saying the guy has and ethics problem, I’m saying he has a conflict. That’s two different things. I’m not accusing the man of anything, but when there is a conflict like that you are supposed to recuse yourself. I mean, do you see that conflict Larry about the advertising thing with Wikia and Wikipedia?


Larry: I never really thought about it actually, but I guess I do…I think that as far as accusing himself I thought that he, last fall, had stepped down as the chair of the board of directors and that he was essentially leaving the direction of Citizendium up to others. I was surprised to learn that he still possessed the authority to appoint people single-handedly, well, with oversight, but to appoint people to the Wikipedia arbitration committee.


Jason: Yeah, that’s bizarre to me. That’s really funny. I think Jimmy, he wants to let Wikipedia go, but then he’s like I’m not in charge but then I’m on the English list he’s appointing people through the arbitration committee. It’s kinda like a Sopranos kind of things where they put Junior in charge of the family and hes the front but then Tony Soprano’s actually running it, it’s a little bit like that it’s like oh I’m not in charge except I put the judges in. It’s a little bit…enough of this Larry we could sit here all day long and criticize Jimmy Wales. That’s not why you’re here, you seem like a guy who doesn’t have an ounce of ego about him in terms of this, you’ve moved on.


Larry: That’s total bullshit.


Jason: Oh, You do! Oh, there you go. Larry is a little pissed off and I like that.


Larry: I’m just saying that I have some ego about this.. It’d be totally intellectually dishonest for me to let you say that on my behalf. But I appreciate it.


Jason: I know. But you seem like such a nice guy. Larry left, he started Citizendium. Citizendium his basically is doing the obvious things that Wikipedia should do like maybe credentialing people, like maybe having experts look at things. All of the obvious things that Wikipedia is going to wind up doing. Larry is saying lets do that! And this is the guy who came up with the concept of it. So when you think about who should maybe dictate where this goes, Jimmy Wales, the guy who just employed him or the guy who actually came up with the idea - I go with Larry. Larry please explain to the audience why you created Citizendium and why there is a need for it when the Wikipedia is at scale right now.


Larry: Well. For a long time I thought that Wikipedia was going to take its reliability problems and the problems regarding irresponsibility of its community into hand. I, for a long time, thought that they would finally make good on their many promises or claims that they would start up new approval systems. We’ve been talking about approval systems for Wikipedia since long before I left actually, since at least the middle of 2001, but it’s never happened! And I have to wonder why, I think I do know why, but I wont try to explain in any detail. I eventually came to the conclusion at the end of 2004 that it might turn out that the Wikipedia community is simply intransigent to be able to make the fundamental changes that would be necessary in order to solve its problems and that a fork might be necessary.


Jason: And when you say a fork, just explain to the audience who doesn’t know a fork.


Larry: A fork would be a version of Wikipedia - makes use of Wikipedia articles - but puts them on another website under different management and essentially starts the project again from there with a new group of people. In many cases it would involve dividing the community in to two. Well, what happened really was we decided not to fork after all, we decided to start over all together because Wikipedia articles, they encode policy decisions that we want to make for ourselves and it really is just too much trouble and too…


Jason: Right. Fixing all the Wikipedia articles over a million and a half of them is more work than starting from zero.


Larry: I think you’re probably right.


Jason: And your community said, I remember reading about this because I’m on, I think I’m on the mailing list I think I read somewhere on the message board your community said it’s just too frustrating and de-motivating that to fix them you’re better off just starting from scratch and writing something. I mean you can go read it. And you guys launched this week at Citizendium with a thousand articles?


Larry: Yeah, eleven hundred, anyway, something like that.


Jason: Which is respectable, that was like year two of Wikipedia right?


Larry: No, no, no, no. Actually, compared to Wikipedia in terms of months we’re a little bit behind where they were after four or five months, but the difference of course is that the Wikipedia articles were at that time after four or five months were really, I mean you think they’re bad now perhaps, but they were a complete joke back then. And moreover, the project was wide open. It was not only wide open in terms of view, it was open to anyone to contribute to so of course it’s gonna grow.


Jason: Grow faster, but grow more wild. Your garden is a little bit more tended to.


Larry: A little bit but I think in the end a lot more people are going to enjoy the quality of the community and are going to want to get more involved that’s actually what we’ve seen this week we’ve had a whole bunch of new people sign up.


Jason: So let me just see if I can explain the difference between the projects for the audience just cause some of them are sort of neophytes. You guys require registration to make changes, you require that people use their real names and take ownership of their edits. Is that really the main difference? The authenticity of the user and requiring that people cannot edit unless they because in Wikipedia you can edit if you’re not logged in, you can make up a fake name like EssJay did and lie to the world, lie to New Yorker Magazine, lie to Jimmy Wales and go work for Jimmy Wales’ company even.


Larry: Well that’s one of the big differences and the other really big difference is that we have a special role for experts in the community. The work shoulder to shoulder with everyone else. It isn’t experts only, right, but they also have the authority to approve articles and also to make decisions when decisions need to be made - which isn’t very often really.


Jason: So when things sort of hit an impasse and expert will come in and say listen I am a P.H.D in Biology, I am going to answer this question about amoeba thank you for this contribution. This is the answer I’m going to give and here’s my rationale?


Larry: Something like that… right.


Jason: What if there’s two experts who disagree? You just write that they disagree and here’s their two positions?


Larry: Well that would be one way forward. So far we haven’t had to confront that problem and that’s going to be a hard one to solve. I think ultimately it’s going to involve the mediation of perhaps a group of people from the relevant editorial work group. See we’ve divided our editors and authors into a number, about two or three dozen different groups, so for example there’s astronomy and biology and philosophy and literature and…


Jason: So you have like some taxonomy for all this stuff and then you put people as leaders and experts in those groups. So that means…I’m trying to stay with you here because you move pretty fast and you’re a smart guy. People must use their real names. Totally different then Wikipedia where you can go in anonymously and change stuff and people do all the time with a vengeance, with agendas. You require people to log in with their real name, which to me seems like the biggest no brainer in the world. I said a year ago that Wikipedia should have done this, you probably said it four or five years ago I’m guessing.


Larry: Well it was a while ago.


Jason: I don’t see why if you shouldn’t want to edit Wikipedia this late stage in the game, I understand early on ok let anyone do it you want to get into critical mass, but now they should make you log in and verify your name through some process and if you want to make edits to these top articles you should have to have credentials and that could be as simple as saying if you want to edit the Wikipedia you need to give us your credit card, make a donation of 10 cents, at least you would know if they had a credit card with their name on it.


Larry: I’ll tell ya, the problem is that it’s really pointless to tell the Wikipedia community that they should do such a thing because the chances that they will are zero. There’s absolutely no likelihood whatsoever that they will make any such radical change.


Jason: Why?


Larry: Moreover there isn’t any process in place whereby they could make such a radical change.


Jason: What just a second. I mean, I could see them say like okay, for these five hundred pages you need to have this level of account to edit it. Why would that be so difficult to do? There’s some religious reason against it? Philosophical reason? Or there’s some pragmatic technical reason?


Larry: Very much a philosophical reason.


Jason: And what is that reason?


Larry: The idea ultimately is rooted and this is something that I will be arguing in the next couple years probably in a book.


Larry: I think it’s really rooted ultimately in a sort of radical egalitarianism which says that everyone should be equal in their authority to claim that something is known and that taken to its most radical extension requires that people be able to edit the Wiki without others knowing anything at all about them. The idea is that it’s just not supposed to matter WHO you are. It’s just not supposed to matter.


Jason: But of course in reality, now that this thing has become such a trusted resource and really the reason it become such a trusted resource is because Google as anointed it, so Google has anointed Wikipedia… They were responsible for sixty percent of their traffic so I understand and probably much more than that in terms of introducing people to the brand. So now they’ve been anointed. Now that they’ve been anointed, I think a different model might be necessary for certain sections. I don’t know. I do kind of like the ideal. I can’t see how anybody wouldn’t like "anybody could contribute it" just seems so cool and it doesn’t matter who you are - but it should matter that you are somebody and we can track you.


Tyler: It’s too risky. OK fine anyone can contribute but why do you have to be anonymous.


Jason: Right and they mix those two issues? Is that correct? Are we getting it right Larry?


Larry: No, I think you are absolutely. I think that generally speaking, I mean, obviously there are people who will acknowledge - of course we understand the difference - but the point is that the deep community reason as it were for the commitment to anonymity is this notion as I say that there are no differences among us in our ability to say what is true and what is false.




Jason: Right, of course because you may not know this Larry, but I can perform open heart surgery and you may have not seen me do this but I could walk a tightrope between the twin towers and I can solve Pi to the ten thousandth equation. Even though I have no expertise in any of those things I can do it.


Tyler: I think Wikia is hiring somebody with those credentials…


Jason: Wikia is looking for someone with those credentials absolutely they should apply. We are joking here but the truth is this question has been answered in all practicality by the HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/ESSJAY case. Larry you must have tracked the case, maybe you can explain to the audience what happened there and what your impressions of it.


Larry: Well. The way that it blew up was it turns out that after this very long article was written about Wikipedia in the New Yorker last year the New Yorker came out with a correction toward the end of last month. And the correction was “It turns out we said that there was this guy called HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/ESSJAY who was a tenured professor of theology at a major eastern college” or something like that “it turns out that in fact HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/ESSJAY is a 24-year-old guy with no degrees at all and in itself that was no big surprise right? Especially to anyone whose familiar with Wikipedia. What was really interesting was when they sought out a comment from Jimmy Wales, Jimmy Wales said “I consider it to be a pseudonym and I don’t really have a problem with it.


Jason: This is a very critical point that you bring up. Jimmy Wales said it’s just a pseudonym it’s fine that he lied about who he was. That, to me, was stunning.


Larry: Yeah, it was stunning to me to.


Jason: Listen, Jimmy’s got a like, when I hear the guy talk, I spent time with him at Wikimania and I talked to the guy a bunch on e-mail, we’ve been fighting back and forth about stuff I wont get into it because it’s private, but he acts so pious and you hear him talk and like he’s gonna save the world and it’s okay to lie, it’s okay to deceived everybody. I heard that and I said you know what even Jimmy Wales is not going to be able to weather this storm because it’s apparent I mean and this guys weathered a lot of storms. He’s not going to weather this one. Continue.


L.S.: That was exactly my reaction as well, I mean it seems like such a clueless thing to say, and because it was such an obvious scandal essentially the Bloggusphere* really blew up about it and then the mainstream media picked it up whereas Jimmy had been defending ESSJAY|HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/ESSJAY] even after this correction made by the New Yorker on Wikipedia. He finally back peddled essentially and said that he was asking for S.Js resignation.


Jason: The deception was so great that he had to let him go.


Larry: Right


Jason: But the irony of all this is, and this is where the conflict of interest comes in and if think if Jimmys watching you need to be honest about this is with everyone you have a massive conflict of interest because the Wikimedia foundation suggested that HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/ESSJAY be in this story. I’m assuming that when they say that management suggested him they mean Jimmy. I don’t know that for a fact, I’m assuming that.


Larry: You can’t really assume that.


Jason: I guess you can’t maybe it could have been somebody who works for free for other people but anyway they recommended it.


Larry: Yep.


Jason: Jimmy hired the guy to work at Wikia!


Larry: Yeah.


Jason: Jimmy is hiring the top people at Wikipedia, from what I understand, I mean its co-founder from what I understand a large number of people working at Wikia are Wikipedia people. If Wikipedia made money through a modest amount of search advertising etc. Wikipedia would hire these people, not Wikia. So what is happening is, Jimmy Wales is taking the position that there should be no advertising on Wikipedia, the community listens to him. This is my sort of my assessment of being an outsider, take it for what it’s worth, I’m not an insider, but sometimes an outside perspective is good...


Jason: You have Jimmy Wales with the front profit company doing Wiki’s, hosting Wiki’s doing these vertical Wikis. Something that Wikipedia could do, why shouldn’t Wikipedia host Wiki’s? That’s part of the foundations mission couldn’t they do these other sub Wikis, they’ve got plenty of sub Wikis that are sort of floundering from what I understand. Those people he’s hiring could be working at the Wikimedia foundation doing Wikipedia full time if they had a modest amount of advertising on the search boxes alone it would make a couple million dollars a month, they would be funded to the level that Firefox and Mozilla Foundation is which employs forty of fifty people. So what do you think of that Larry is my proposal insane or I mean would these people be working at Wikipedia foundation or Wikimedia foundation?


Larry: I don’t know, you’re making a two-pronged proposal and you can easily separate the two, I mean, one thing you’re purposing is that the Wikia should be entirely separated from the Wikimedia foundation, however that might be achieved, and then you’re also suggesting that Wikipedia should sell advertisements use the proceeds to do more good non-profit work.


Jason: It doesn’t even mean they have to sell ads, they could just put a rotating Google AdSense or Yahoo publishing network, Microsoft you know the text links on the search page, not even on the articles and that alone would make them millions of dollars a month and make them sustainable.


Larry: Uh, could be!


Jason: So anyway, that’s a total aside. So the HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/ESSJAY thing blows up, HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/ESSJAY’s a liar, Jimmy supported him, Jimmy backed down which was obviously an undefendable position he fired him from Wikia and this is exactly the kind of thing that if the Wikipedia community had listened to Larry years ago would not have happened. Somebody of that level, you would have required that you know who they are, correct?


Larry: That’s probably right.


Jason: Probably! You cant edit the Citizendium without saying who you are.


Larry: Yeah, but that doesn’t mean that-


Jason: Oh, you could be lied to.


Larry: It’d eventually experience some fraud. Every publishing platform is going to experience some fraud eventually, I suspect.


Jason: Oh so you could have gotten taken for a ride by him too. If this guy was a clepto you know who just was determined to lie to you.


Larry: That’s another question. I don’t think we would have been taken by HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/ESSJAY. First of all HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/ESSJAY used a pseudonym HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/ESSJAY we actually required that someone make up a name at some point and lied to us. They also had to make up a biography and if they’re going to be an editor they have to make up a CV and they have to make up a web presence and some other means of establishing a bono fides.


Jason: A bona fides?


Larry: Yeah, good faith. And then they have to, let’s see…


Jason: But they have public scrutiny! So you put this stuff out there and you know okay, you’re a professor at this University… that can be pretty easily checked. Go search the website at the university.


Larry: It’s possible that certain actions when they have deceived an entire system this way that they could be open to a lawsuit.


Jason: Ahhh, very interesting.


Larry: At any rate, I think that the biggest difference, I mean all of those are big differences, but the biggest difference between Citizendium and Wikipedia that would make it very unlikely for the HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/ESSJAY scandal to happen the way it did is that if it were discovered that HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/ESSJAY were not a tenured professor of Theology but a 24 year old internet college dropout, then not only would we not give the guy a job… we also wouldn’t promote him to the…


Jason: Administrator level?


Larry: Yeah the arbitration committee and we would certainly….


Jason: He was on the arbitration committee?!?! Wow, this guy was on Armcom? Wow.


Larry: Jimmy Wales personally and deliberately after knowing who he was that he wasn’t the tenured professor of theology; put him on the arbitration committee.


Jason: Oh, wait a second, wait a second; this is a whole new wrinkle that I don’t think that I was ever aware of.


Larry: I think a lot of people aren’t aware of it.


Jason: This is incredible… Jimmy…


Jason: You’re the greatest guest ever and that’s coming after we had the guy from PayPerPost on and he was really, wow, out of his mind, but total aside… this is incredible! Jimmy not only hired the guy for his private venture back company Wikia – he was a known liar - he put the known liar / community college dropout who lied about being a professor, a tenured professor, he put him on the arbitration committee knowing he was a liar! He promoted him to the highest level of Wikipedia as a liar and then defended him when the guy came out he’s a liar. This is insane! Why did he do all of this!


Larry: He made him comment about HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/ESSJAY to the New Yorker before he was put on the arbitration committee because I mean The New Yorker doesn’t work that fast. He was put on the arbitration committee on the 23rd of March or February and, right, February, that means that after he knew that the New Yorker was going to be, you know, exposing HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/ESSJAY’s lie, this fraud, he nevertheless put him on the arbitration committee.


Jason: I mean, you’re right, this is like if you…Jimmy Wales, put a known liar, a fraudster, a huckster, a grifter, perhaps a clepto who knows what makes a person lie to that level, I mean this person HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/ESSJAY also…we’ve gotta get him on this show - him, Jimmy and Larry that- would be the highest ratings of any show ever. When’s the last time we talked to Jimmy public, in person or ever, have you talked to Jimmy in the last five years or is it so sour it’s over?


Larry: He actually came to visit the Digital Universe Foundation in the Fall of 2005, so that was the last time I think that I talked to him.


Jason: What’s it like between the two of you? I mean you guys worked together for all this time.


Larry: Oh, shit, it seemed like we were gonna make up.


Jason: And what happened?


Larry: Well, the next thing I heard he was editing his page. Anyway I’d rather…


Larry: Yeah, yeah we’ll keep talking about Citizendium anyway, but this is an important point, the failure of Wikipedia is the reason that forced Citizendium. I believe you basically ran this project until you saw this needed to be fixed, and couldn’t be, and you came up with a better solution. This is going to be one of the most fascination dog races and intellectual paradigm shifting lessons of the next 10/20 years I believe. Wikipedia is destined to become the number one site on the internet based on its growth rate and it has just scratched the surface of international growth.


Jason: Larry has a much better mousetrap, he has a better methodology, the guy knows it. When you project that where you are going to be, do you have any indication of how many articles you will have at the end of the first year, second year and you know…


Larry: It all really depends on how many people we can get involved and there really isn’t any way to know that particularly because the whole nature of the project has just changed because we opened to public viewing, so the wiki, since Monday, since Sunday, when we opened up to public viewing has really taken off in a very nice way.


Jason: How many pages?


Larry: Um, well…


Jason: Millions, hundreds of thousands, tens of millions…?


Larry: Thousands, actually we broke 1,200 and about on the same day in fact that we broke 1,200 authors.


Jason: So about 1,200 authors, 1,200 articles…what about the page views, the traffic?


Larry: Live articles, those are articles that we’re taking credit for as articles that we’re actively working on.


Jason: Oh so you have categories of articles, what are the categories of articles?


Larry: Basically articles that aren’t marked Live are ones that maybe someone important from Wikipedia but no one is working on them and so there’s probably a total of something like 1,700 articles in the main namespace. But we’re going to be deleting a fair number of them in the not too distant future.


Jason: How are you guys funding this? It’s a non-profit right?


Larry: It is a non-profit and right now we are funded through basically donations. There’s some other idea’s obviously that we have for doing some other kind of fundraising but that’s our current business model.


Jason: So advertising on certain pages? What’s your view?


Larry: Well, I think that advertisement in general has two bad effects. One of them is real and the other is psychological. The psychological effect is that you alienate a large number of people who basically don’t want to contribute simply because you’re supporting advertisers.


Jason: So do people who are in the demographic who are attracted to contributing to an online encyclopedia by definition are not psyched about seeing ads on their work.


Larry: Right.


Jason: Right, which was Jimmy Whale’s argument which is a good argument which I think leads to like what if you just put ads on the search pages, anyway keep going.


Larry: I’m sure Jimmy and I have the same arguments actually on this. The other argument is that basically the creditability of the website is undermined and if you get the camel’s nose into the tent, it’s hard to tell where ultimately what it’s going to lead to.


Jason: So there’s that sort of X-Files paranoia that you know Google has their ads up there, Google controls it, Google will turn off their traffic from the search index if they don’t put the ads on and you know bla bla bla bla bla…


Larry: And that’s maybe one thing and of course the nightmare scenario is an advertiser who pulls funds when…


Jason: A negative story comes in…


Larry: Well, yeah a negative article is published.


Jason: Well, see, I have a solution for that, a very simple solution - I told this to Jimmy when we had our hour-long conversation that he doesn’t remember and I asked him a dozen questions - I said it’s really simple, I’ll set up the advertising relationship with you, we’ll get five different companies we’ll rotate their ads randomly, they’ll each get, you know, twenty percent of the inventory. If any one of them misbehaves or in anyway tries to influence that editorial then they will be banned, forever, and the other four will split the remaining advertising and they’ll get twenty five percent each and that’ll be enough of any incentive for them to never actually bring it up. In addition you can block with these services and this is where Jimmy doesn’t even know what he’s talking about when it comes to advertising on the Internet… When you’re using a service like you know Google AdSense or the Yahoo Publishing Network you can say I never want ads from this Viagra company, as a matter of fact I don’t want any Viagra ads and I don’t want this specific URL, or I don’t want this advertiser, so you can actually take total control of your advertisements and say I don’t want these ads on these pages I don’t want these advertisers. They’re banned forever. So if somebody were to say “oh I don’t like my article” you can actually be pre-emptive, you take their ads out and have no negative side effects.


Larry: It’s an interesting idea and I personally am a bit torn on the issue, but I do have to tell you that ultimately, you know, I on this especially I really have to respect the wishes of the community because I mean it literally is, even to a greater extent then with Wikipedia, I want this project to be a community project and among other things what that means is that there isn’t going to be any “God King” of the Citizendium - I’m going to step down, I’ve told this…


Jason: By “God King” you’re referring to Jimmy Wales’ title of Wikipedia given to him.


Larry: Yes, there’s going to be no such position. And in fact my own authority in the Citizendium is going to be steadily declining this year as new and independent sources of authority are set up, but they have to be set up properly in response.



Jason: Yes, of course, and that’s been Jimmy’s argument like, “I’m gonna step down, I’m gonna be less involved, I’m not gonna be the spokesperson for this, I have a board and blah blah blah”, but then he continues to rule with, I’m not gonna say an iron fist and yeah and he rules and everybody gets out of the way. He could sort of say like, “well just suggesting stuff as the founder and everybody’s listening to me but it’s up to me if everybody wants to dissent, but nobody dissents”. So yeah it’s kind of weird.


Larry: That’s something again that, what I will probably do is work on a brand new kind of project, it’s something called Textop, and I’m actually a lot more excited about that as I am about Citizendium itself to tell you the truth.


Jason: Text stop, it’s T-E-X, T…


Larry: No, no its T-E-X-T-O-P.


Jason: What’s that?


Larry: [Textop.org|Textop.org], it’s an idea that I had, actually had it for some time, but I really developed it and we worked on a pilot project for a short time last spring, so about a year ago actually. I wont go into it except to say that it could be revolutionary and world changing in a way that Wikipedia and Citizendium are not because it’s a way to tap deeply into the well of wisdom into the book of the world that has never existed. We’ve seen encyclopedias before. We’ve seen huge collections of reference works before, but what we’ve never seen is a way to deeply search and integrate the results well. To deeply search, integrate the contents of knowledge contained in books and articles.


Jason: So like Lexus/Nexus kinda stuff?


Larry: Not exactly. You’ll have to go and look at it. It’s kind of hard to describe.


Jason: Okay, well we’ll all have to go check out Textop.


Jason: I have to say like I could probably speak to you for probably three hours, you are a fascinating guy, you are the co-founder of Wikipedia, you came up with the concept of putting the Wiki in Wikipedia, you should be revered by Jimmy Wales and the rest of the community not, what’s the opposite of revered? Chastised? No it’s even more than that, they’ve done more than chastised you. It’s just outward hate. One of the things I was watching this last week, because I’m on the list, they were like making fun of you because you hadn’t picked a license for Citizendium, and then they started picking it apart cause Wikipedian’s are smart people who know how to argue. You can say what you want about them but on a mailing list if you cannot argue and debate and be obsessive of your debate and take peoples words apart you can’t survive in Wikipedia Land. These people are deft of arguing.


Larry: I actually disagree. The arguments that are typically praised on the Wikipedia mailing list are for the most part, one fallacy after another. It’s, that’s one reason why I just don’t care what happens on that list.


Jason: Anyway, they were just whipping you for not picking a license. Like, is it gonna be a free license. What is the license going to be? Have you thought about that? I know obviously you have thought about it cause you’re discussing it, which was funny because they made fun of you discussing it.


Larry: Right, well I can tell you that for articles that are sourced from Wikipedia, we are going to be using the GFDL and the GFDL alone. We have been discussing what we will, how we will license the other articles for a number of months and quite frankly I think the community has not yet realized the importance of certain aspects of the license question. I think the editors in particular don’t really understand the import and even if from my point of view the decision between the GFDL and Creative Commons licenses are pretty trivial and I really don’t care about the nuances. On the other hand there are other decisions to be made that are potentially very important, like the decision whether we’re going to allow commercial use for our articles. And even if I think that I doesn’t matter that much which license we use, I think that if they knew more about it our editors probably would care and I want to basically raise the issue with the editors in our soon to be created Editorial Council and basically get the feedback from there and from them. What we’re doing now is we’re constructing arguments that will just basically martially our arguments carefully on both sides about basically the questions that go into deciding our licensing issues. Anyway, I think there’s three choices, three choices that we have to make for the non-Wikipedia sourced articles: There’s the GFDL itself, which is the simple choice, but it means choosing a bad license basically, and then there is the Creative Commons attribution.


Jason: Right, which means you can use this, but you have to say where it came from.


Larry: Right. And share-a-like. You have to use that license itself. And then there is the Creative Commons attribution non-commercial share-a-like license.


Jason: Which means you can use it but not make money off of it. So right now I could take all of Wikipedias content, put it on JasonPedia, put ads around it and make that money. And that’s what Answers is doing.


Larry: There is another business model that, for whatever reason, there’s some resistant to that on the face of it doesn’t seem to me that implausible and I also don’t think there’s anything particular illegal about it, nothing obviously so, or unethical for that matter, and the business model would have us… well it would give non-profit websites and non-commercial websites the right to reproduce Citizendium articles, but if Answers.com or Yahoo or whatever wants to make use of our stuff then they have to buy a license, a commercial license.


Jason: Which is, right now, how much is Answers making off of Wikipedia?


Larry: I don’t know.


Jason: They’re got to be making tens of millions of dollars, millions-to-tens of millions, I gotta think because you type in a term and a lot of times Wikipedia and Answers are the first five results so why shouldn’t Wikipedia get some of that money?


Larry: Right that’s the thing, and the idea I think that basically a lot of people feel like no one should make money off of…


Jason: Yeah it’s so crazy…it is…


Larry: Bu the problem is of course the Answers does make money...


Jason: Tons, millions…


Larry: So if someone is going to make money through the commercialization, if anyone is going to make money shouldn’t it be ultimately the organization that’s actually making the product??


Jason: Larry you’re making way too much sense here. This is way too logical. This would never fly on the English Wikipedia discussion list. It’s way, way too logical that the creators and the organization that made the context should in someway benefit from it. They should suffer and let all the benefit go to capitalists who have nothing to do with the project and contribute nothing back. Larry, now I know why they’re thrown you out of the organization and hate you. It’s because you’re just coming up with these ridiculous proposals. It’s unbelievable. It’s just nuts. They are actually I heard Answers is paying a fee to have dedicated tech resources to pull the data down.


Larry: Yeah, I think I’ve heard that too.


Jason: It’s like tens of thousands of dollars, plus Answers.com paid for a sponsorship to the Wikimania event. It’s just like okay, big deal. Did you go to the Wikimania?


Larry: No.


Jason: If you went there would they just be like hissing you?


Larry: I have no idea. I think I got a little bit of a taste of what it might be like by going to the Wizards of OS conference and you know various people would come up to me and talk but for the most part I was you know, sort of stared at as a curiosity.


Jason: Yeah, well, let me just say something. I think you’re a brilliant guy. You obviously have tremendous insights, correct insights, in my opinion to how this should evolve, you are responsible in large part for the success of the Wikipedia, you are certainly responsible for setting the ball in motion, there is no problem for calling you a co-founder in fact maybe you should be called the creator of it. Actually that is the word. From now on that’s what we’re going to do. I want the title of this Podcast to be the creative of Wikipedia. Larry put the Wiki in Wikipedia and we should start that meme and we should hammer it home. I think it’s only fair. Larry, it’s okay if we did that? You don’t have to answer. I think it’s so weird, this whole Wikipedia thing, you know people always call it a cult and cult it sort of a strong word, but it is such an insular, weird, nuanced group of people and you see these apparitions that come out and I think Larry is probably one of the best examples for this they behave very weirdly like why is there so much hate for Larry and so much reverence for Jimmy? It’s like weird. Maybe, like, why is Jimmy supporting people who are lying and doing deception and then Larry is saying lets not have lying a deception and he’s hated for it! It’s just totally backwards; it’s like a Bizarro world. Anyways, Larry, you’re a really smart guy. I think this might be the most interesting CalacanisCast, to date we’ve done 22 of them, this debates going to continue, I’m going to be watching Citizendium very, very closely. I’ve been watching it since the beginning honestly.


Larry: I’ll tell you Jason. The sort of debate we’re having is only going to get more interesting this year not only because The Citizendium is going to keep growing, but also because of Andrew Keen’s new book that’s going to be coming out in June. What is it called…”The Cult of the Amateur” or something like that.


Jason: Andrew Keen.


Larry: Yeah you should get yourself an advanced copy of that book and get him on the show.


Jason: Tyler you’re on it? Andrew Keen the author of the “Cult of Amateur” something. Okay, final two things: Number one, you should fly out with me on my private jet to Wikimania in Taiwan. The tail number on my jet it Jetblue or Southwest and you should come with me. And, second, if I gave you like a million dollars or somebody gave you ten million dollars would you hire the experts and pay them fifty grand a year or something like that and hire twenty of them to actually work on the project? Does the Citizendium have an anti-paying people for work concept?


Larry: Nope, we don’t have an anti paying people for work concept. I think that if the money were there to pay the full-time chief subject editors, we would probably do that.


Jason: Okay, so there you have it folks. I am asking somebody out there who believes in the power of Wikipedia Citizendium and social contributory content creation, to get out their check book, somebody out there can do this, there’s gotta be somebody who believes in this concept. Give Larry a million bucks, let him give that money and he’ll guarantee, cause I’m telling you he’s gonna do it right now, he’ll guarantee that money goes a hundred percent to those people.


Larry: We certainly could use it! We’re on a shoe string.


Jason: A million bucks is nothing. Give a million bucks to Larry, he will hire either 50 people at $20k or 20 people at $50k to work from home as independent contractors and they will with a fine tooth comb make sure that the articles are produced at the highest quality possible while letting people contribute and for a million dollars a year somebody gives him, give him a 5 million dollars run, give him a million dollars this year and if he does a good job give him 2 the next, 3 the next, 4 the next, 5 the next and you know he’ll boost the success of online encyclopedias and knowledge for free…awesome. There’s gotta be somebody out there that’ll give you a grant?


Larry: That’d be great.


Jason: Alright, so somebody out there, Ford Foundation…it’s gotta be like Ford Foundation or something like that. Somebody that’s listening to the CalacanisCast email the Ford Foundation, this guy is a brilliant guy, he’s gonna fix all the problems that Wikipedia had and make a better product that is less corrupt with liars and people doing deceptive stuff and all that sort of vindictive troll culture, and really produce high quality stuff that’s important and I’m not saying it replaces Wikipedia, it doesn’t have to, it could be an alternative, it could be an adjacency, it could be something to help the worlds knowledge, somebody out there cut a check to Larry Sanger and his Citizendium project. Larry you’re a fascinating guy, where do you live?


Larry: Central Ohio right now.


Jason: Ohio. When you’re in Los Angeles or some conference I would love to have a drink maybe dinner with you or something like that. He’s a smart guy - right Tyler? You’re a smart dude man. You’ve got a P.H.D huh?


Larry: Yeah, yes.


Jason: Is it a real P.H.D or did you make that up? Is that an essjay P.H.D?


Larry: Pretty sure it’s real.


Jason: It’s real? You did a dissertation? You went to school?


Larry: I did a dissertation, yeah.


Jason: Listen, it doesn’t matter if it’s real or not, I mean, don’t worry about it. It’s a what did Jimmy call it? It’s a presence it’s a pseudonym? It had a term, what was the term he said it was, what did he say before Larry, he said it was an alias? That the word he used?


Larry: It’s a pseudonym.


Jason: Oh, it’s just a pseudonym! Come on! On the CalacanisCast I want to put Jason Calacanis, P.H.D in Information Sciences and it’s just an alias or something, don’t worry about it. Alright Larry, great talking to you, thanks for taking the time it was a fascinating interview.


Larry: Alright, thanks a lot Jason, I really appreciate it.


Jason: Cheers now, take care, bye, good luck with it.

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