This post is all about the essential problem with Wikipedia, and how we can fight back effectively.
Wikipedia has become a key tool in shaping public opinion. It fits right in with Big Tech tools that push Establishment narratives. As a result, it has become harder to find a balanced assortment of information that empowers readers to decide issues for themselves. That is why the encyclosphere project has started collecting all the other free encyclopedias into a single, distributed database. Aggregating many encyclopedias and making them searchable from many places does for encyclopedias what the blogosphere did for blogs.
The Knowledge Standards Foundation is spearheading a multi-pronged campaign to address these challenges. What is the most important way you can help? Get writing high-quality, alternative articles. Really! In this blog post, I detail four excellent ways to get your articles into the encyclosphere. Want total control over your own articles? Write from your blog (as I did!) and then submit your articles via the EncycloShare plugin. Want to make more neutral versions of Wikipedia articles? That is the mission of the new, open Justapedia project. Like the idea of writing under your own real name, on a more polite and low-key wiki that focuses on readable writing? I would direct you to Citizendium. Or do you simply want a no-fuss way to write an article by yourself and contribute it to the encyclosphere? That is what Enhub (encyclopedia hub) is for.
Writers of the world, get writing!
1. The problem.
The problem with Wikipedia is that it is centralized. It has gathered in one place—and controls—millions of hours of knowledge-archiving work. Only one article per topic is permitted. As Wikipedia has become more biased, that means only one point of view per topic is permitted. Alongside traditional news media and education, it has become a key tool in shaping public opinion.
How has Wikipedia captured this influence? The causes are complex.1 In hindsight, three reasons stand out. First, Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo have heavily pushed Wikipedia articles. It is worth dwelling on this a bit. Most people don’t deliberately choose Wikipedia due to its pristine reputation for objective truth-telling; they just end up there because of its position in search results. Wikipedia is frequently used by generative AI, and so Google’s reliance on AI algorithms has if anything made this problem worse. Wikipedia is in a very dominant position.
There are other reasons. Second, the project’s radically open and collaborative editorial process meant it could quickly put up articles on things nobody else covered. And third, Wikipedia immediately established a clear brand identity, so people have clicked on its articles because they know what they’re getting. In short, Wikipedia serves the public’s need for particular facts, and Google pushes it. This is how Wikipedia became the dominant force that it is. Should any website have such a monopoly on knowledge?
As I have argued in a series of blog posts and various alt media appearances, Wikipedia’s centralized power has increasingly been used to push Establishment narratives. Worse, it is now used to silence and discredit competing ideas and people. Its editors hide behind anonymous identities that shield them from liability. So its articles can be remarkably vicious against disliked targets. As a result, Wikipedia has worldwide effects, not just in the United States. Wikipedia stifles political speech, favors particular parties, and weakens representative republics. Since I inflicted Wikipedia on the world—if I had not started it, it would not exist—and since I have gone on to start and help a number of alternatives, I have a platform I can use to at least try to repair some damage.
Let me be clear about what I mean. I mentioned the Establishment, and I say that our free speech rights in the West have been rapidly eroded in the last ten years. “How?” ask many of my liberal friends. “We don’t believe it.” Believe it. The organs of the Establishment are all now online, and their instruments of social control are described as “Big Tech.” This includes Google, YouTube, Twitter/X, Facebook, Bing, and others. Wikipedia is another organ of Big Tech information control—a huge one.
Big Tech is now used quite deliberately to shape public opinion. And who gets to shape public opinion? Not you and me, that’s for sure. Beginning around 2015, politicians, NGO leaders, public intellectuals, and corporate executives all rather suddenly started decrying the rise of what they call “misinformation.” They seem entirely deaf to the totalitarian overtones of this word. In their mouths, “misinformation” no longer means stating made-up falsehoods. It now means any talking points in favor of Brexit, Donald Trump, and the notion that the 2020 election was “stolen.” It also means any talking points against the Israeli bombing of Palestine, war with Russia, BLM riots, the internationally organized responses to COVID-19 (especially the “vaccines”), the aggressive demands that children be indoctrinated with transgender ideology in schools, and whatever else is the “current thing.” Do you think Wikipedia on board? On these issues, its bias is more evident than the news media’s.
The Establishment is, in short, all the varied institutions and the more or less interchangeable people within them that are attacking free speech by taking control of information on Big Tech, decrying supposed misinformation, and pushing the current thing. This sort of manipulation of public opinion in supposedly liberal republics is contrary to Western ideals of free speech. The public must insist that it is simply wrong for their political views to be manipulated in this way. Such manipulation is a disaster for freedom.
Wikipedia is indeed a key part of this disaster. Is this the platform we envisioned for democratizing knowledge? When I reflect that I got it started, I feel genuinely mortified and that I positively must do what I can to undo the damage.
2. Use the encyclosphere. (And share it!)
Now that I have made the problem clear enough, I want to spend the rest of this post addressing an important question: what can we do?
If you can help it, you should not be giving Wikipedia.org your traffic. For the English Wikipedia (and several other languages, as well), you have no reason to do so. If you must use Wikipedia, you can find the same articles, in their latest versions, on EncycloReader, which aggregates many encyclopedias.
You could install the encyclosphere Chrome browser plugin. With the plugin, any Wikipedia search results from Google and DuckDuckGo will not go to the Wikipedia website; instead, they will load the Wikipedia article right in your browser via WebTorrent. You won’t even be visiting any other websites, nor will your online activity metadata be recorded.
EncycloSearch, another encyclopedia search engine/reader, includes even more English language sources. In particular, EncycloSearch includes more proprietary, free-to-read encyclopedias, tracking only metadata, because their licenses do not permit republishing articles. This is important, too: we want to make it as easy as possible to search all the encyclopedias.
These are all part of the encyclosphere, a project to network together and empower all the other encyclopedias. I organized the nonprofit Knowledge Standards Foundation in 2019—there is now a lot happening on multiple fronts. We were honored to receive FUTO’s first Legendary Grant. (We are looking for other philanthropic support, by the way.)
We “eat our own dog food.” I use EncycloSearch and EncycloReader all the time. I love that when I feel compelled to click on a Wikipedia article that pops up in my DuckDuckGo search, I don’t have to go to Wikipedia.org. Thanks to the Encyclosphere browser plugin, the article appears in my browser without a web address. It is no hype to say these (and other) tools are already very useful.
Now, that’s just me and the still relatively few people who are aware of the Encyclosphere project. I hope you will start using these resources too. I also hope you will link to (up-to-date) copies of articles in EncycloReader and EncycloSearch, rather than Wikipedia. Help get the word out on Reddit, Twitter/X, Quora, etc. Is this the first time you’ve heard of the Encyclosphere? It will be for many people. That’s a problem.
Wikipedia remains dominant and massively supported by the #1 website in the world, Google.
Let me be honest about an important point: a lot of the content in the Encyclosphere is still sourced directly or indirectly from Wikipedia. As long as Wikipedia continues to represent the Establishment view, we are not making significant inroads against the narrative control that Wikipedia represents.
We must do more. We must fight back. Here is how.
3. A multi-pronged campaign.
I propose a multi-pronged writing and building campaign. Who are these writers and builders? Us. You and me. You can help, and I’m calling on you to help. We are still in the early days of an organized response to the abusive dominance of Wikipedia. We are getting no help from the mainstream media and virtually no visibility on Google. We’re grateful for interviews with Tucker Carlson, Epoch Times, Glenn Greenwald, and Russell Brand have helped. But these go only so far.
Your help is badly needed. If thousands of us were to start our own encyclopedia projects—yes, really, small encyclopedias are now more doable than ever—and if we all start rallying around the Encyclosphere, things will start happening. We’ll get harder and harder to ignore.
So, what can we do? I will list some ways and then describe each.
First, write articles, and make them part of the encyclosphere:
- Express yourself by writing encyclopedia articles on your own blog. You can submit them to the Encyclosphere if you want.
- De-bias Wikipedia articles on Justapedia.
- Contribute articles on any subject on Citizendium and Enhub.
This is not a waste of time. Generally speaking, your content will show up in search engines, if it’s substantive and original. And the advent of the encyclosphere means your content can live on forever in an organized, searchable fashion.
Next, if you’re a techie, you can support this important and burgeoning network by installing our software:
- Install another aggregator, with an encyclopedia editor built in (ZWINode).
- Install an aggregator, with search engine and reader built in (EncycloEngine).
- Add encyclopedias to the encyclosphere by using EncycloCrawler.
- Help the developers with thorough user and technical testing/feedback.
Publishers and others can help, as well:
- Publishers can get in touch if you want to discuss how to get your work into the Encyclosphere.
- Nominate encyclopedias for inclusion in the Encyclosphere. We have a large and growing rough database of all the encyclopedias we know of. We have not made them all into ZWI files yet.
- Especially if you are a philanthropist, donate to the Knowledge Standards Foundation!
In what follows, I will explain exactly why we need all of this work to be done, and how it will help to fight Wikipedia’s information control.
4. Writers, get writing!
Could you write a good, detailed, well-researched encyclopedia article, on some (any!) topic? Do you complain about Wikipedia’s stranglehold on reference information online? Do you think you could improve on their work or write something quite different (perhaps superior)?
Then you need to get writing, and the sooner, the better.
If an army of us start writing encyclopedia articles outside of Wikipedia—especially if we write new, high-quality, well-researched, human-written (!), detailed encyclopedia articles—Wikipedia will lose its seemingly unshakable stranglehold. I have good reasons to think so.
First of all, the Google-Wikipedia juggernaut is not complete. Yes, Google does push Wikipedia articles. Yes, this is nasty. But it indexes other encyclopedias and blogs.
For example, sometimes other encyclopedias appear before Wikipedia in Google results, or they appear high up, anyway. In the Google search for “Bathsheba,” the Wikipedia’s article is listed third after one from the Jewish Women’s Archive and a Britannica article. For “Thomas Reid,” the (far superior) article from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy appears before the Wikipedia article. And so forth.
And sometimes Wikipedia has no article about a relatively obscure topic. (I wrote one; see below.) If you look for an article on Kant’s aesthetics on Google, you won’t find one from Wikipedia, but you’ll find two from other free encyclopedias.
Get writing. Don’t let Wikipedia fill in all these gaps. You do it. Fill them in outside of Wikipedia, and the Encyclosphere project will organize them into a truly decentralized and distributed database that is bigger and better than Wikipedia. Isn’t that the kind of legacy you would like to leave? Join me in writing more and new articles!
Ah, but write where? We have a wealth of options.
4.1. Bloggers become encyclopedists with EncycloShare
In fact, I have proven that it’s possible for a humble blogger to write an encyclopedia article on some relatively obscure topic, and to get that article to rank on the first page of Google results, before any Wikipedia article on the topic appears.
I did it, as I’ll explain. I challenge you to do it. Pick a topic that is likely to be useful to others, at least a few others, and write an excellent article on the topic. My first article is about a very nice park that I appreciate in central Ohio; here it is: Chestnut Ridge Metro Park. (4184 words, 44 images, 30 footnotes, and one big fat reference PDF.)
This work is in the ZWI file that I automatically (with the press of a button) submitted to EncycloSearch. You can read it there. The ZWI format packs up everything into a single, self-contained file suitable for both reading and storage. As a result, this article will now live forever as part of an open, public, distributed, and decentralized database of free encyclopedia articles.
You could do the same. Would you, please?
If you have a WordPress blog, you can install the Knowledge Standards Foundation’s brand new plugin, EncycloShare, right now. I have a dream that thousands of small blogs, with hundreds of different focuses, will write millions of articles, all of it done independently of Wikipedia. Then, many different independent aggregators bring all that work together. Your work appears in many, many places. (But it is digitally signed, which means you can prove it’s yours, wherever it winds up.) There is no controlling center; like the blogosphere in general, it is all by and for the people, globally.
This is actually one of the most significant things we could do to fight back against the Establishment’s attempts to control the narrative. And the more early adopters get doing this, the better the chance of the whole thing becoming an effective, independent network.
4.2. De-bias Wikipedia articles on Justapedia
Justapedia is a new fork of Wikipedia, launched publicly a few months ago, with leadership by a long-time contributor (Betty Wills). Betty is a genuinely nice and intelligent retired professional. She became fed up with Wikipedia’s bias and the irrational, unprofessional behavior of its community. The Knowledge Standards Foundation is partnered with Justapedia, which is entirely independent.
I think Justapedia has a solid chance of success, because it is laser-focused on making Wikipedia articles more neutral. This is a badly-needed project. I dare say millions of people around the world agree that a more neutral version of Wikipedia is, indeed, badly needed. Justapedia aims to be that version.
Did you have a bad experience as a Wikipedia contributor? I couldn’t possibly remember all of the horror stories I’ve heard. Justapedia is different. If you want to contribute, you are entirely free to do so. Make an account and get to work: it’s as easy as that. No kowtowing to petty little admins. No toeing some party line. It is far more open and easygoing than Wikipedia. I’ve tried it out myself and I can vouch that it captures the spirit of the earlier, better Wikipedia.
Also, within a few months (at the outside), all significantly changed pages on Justapedia will be included in at least two Encyclosphere aggregators (or more, if the aggregators so choose; it is up to them). Your work will live on. Work you do now will help. A lot. Early adopters are essential to the success of projects like this. (Believe me, I know.)
4.3. Citizendium: a place for writers
There is no shortage of alternatives to the 800-pound gorilla that is Wikipedia. Many of them accept outside contributions.
One alternative that I started back in 2006 is called Citizendium, “The Citizens’ Compendium.” I am no longer the owner of the project; I gave it to Pat Palmer, a long-time contributor and retired computer programmer and professor with a background in the liberal arts. Three of its distinctive policies are
- a requirement that contributors use their own real names;
- a personal, official endorsement of its governing document; and
- a special focus on readability and avoidance of Wikipedia’s tendency toward dry, boring formulations.
Nevertheless, as with Justapedia, it is not hard to get involved in Citizendium. To make an account, fill out this form and they’ll respond soon. They want good writers, and the project is serious and high-minded. It is a good use of your time.
Citizendium arguably takes its neutrality policy more seriously than Wikipedia does, but it is by no means a “conservative” encyclopedia. (It is hilarious that one might be inclined to infer from neutrality to conservatism, but that’s a sign of the times.) My understanding is that Pat is open to multiple articles on the same subject, using that as a solution to endless edit wars that afflict other wikis.
And as with EncycloShare, your Citizendium article can be added to the Encyclosphere with the press of a button (labeled “ZWI Export”).
4.4. Enhub: focused on simple connectivity with the Encyclosphere
One of the leading Encyclosphere developers (Dr. Sergei Chekanov, CERN physicist who created EncycloReader) runs a website that will publish your article, if you just want to drop it into a web form. It’s not a wiki or a fancy editing program. It’s intended to be another, simpler way to get content into the Encyclosphere. You will have control via a password you set, making access very straightforward.2 Scientists can also get their content into the Encyclosphere via Dr. Chekanov’s Handwiki.org, which is also automatically added to the Encyclosphere.3
This is part I of a two-parter. I leave you with this thought:
It can seem impossible to stand up to a giant to like Wikipedia. But then, that’s what Britannica looked like when we started Wikipedia. A lot of people tried to discourage us. But you know what was most empowering? The thought that there must be millions of people who are willing to work, to some extent, on the project. We just had to get the word out, and we did. And it worked…for a while.
You know what? I think there are millions of people who are willing to write newer, better articles than the lame ones you see on Wikipedia, and to bring a genuinely decentralized encyclopedia network into being.
Let’s get to work. Do your part! And share this article everywhere!
Part 2, focusing on ways techies and others can get involved in the encyclosphere project, will be posted soonish.