Modeled After the Decentralized Blogosphere, the New Encyclosphere Aims to Incorporate All Existing Encyclopedias
At a cultural moment in which the media is becoming ever more opinionated and centralized—and less trusted to report all the facts—Dr. Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, is announcing an initiative to decentralize the world’s encyclopedias. A new non-profit aims to promote technical standards and software that will make it easier to find high-quality information and a global range of opinion. Sanger and a group of like-minded technologists incorporated the non-profit Knowledge Standards Foundation (KSF) late last year and have been making preparations to launch a deep-dive seminar / discussion group that will hash out the details. The mostly-volunteer group has started several software projects.
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We are not making an encyclopedia. We are making standards to drive the technology that will connect the world’s encyclopedias in a single, open network.
The KSF, which has applied for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, has a weekly virtual meeting of employees and volunteers. Over 4,000 people are signed up for the newsletter, with over half of them, by KSF estimates, being software developers. “We have noticed a massive grassroots interest among developers to address restrictions on free speech and to route around centralized control of information,” Sanger said. In its first year of operations, the group has raised $200,000, and is poised to accelerate fundraising activities.
Four week-long sessions are planned to kick off the KSF’s organizational seminar titled, “The Technology of Decentralization: How and Why to Use Neutral Standards to Build the Encyclosphere and Other Decentralized Networks.” The seminar is free and open to all. It is virtual so no travel is required. Participants should sign up on the KSF’s website, encyclosphere.org.
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“Open standards made the internet explode in popularity. Email, web browsers, and blogs became killer apps because they were based on open standards. A public conversation needs to happen so there is agreement on encyclosphere standards. This seminar facilitates that conversation about the universal network of encyclopedias,” technologist Tim Chambers, KSF Treasurer, said. “We are not making an encyclopedia. We are making standards to drive the technology that will connect the world’s encyclopedias in a single, open network.” Sanger added, “In the end, we want to make it as easy to find excellent articles hidden on obscure academic, professional, and even amateur websites as it is to find Wikipedia articles.”
Among the developing projects KSF supports with funding or other assistance are EncycloSearch.org and FactSeek.org, two different encyclopedia search engines. To illustrate and practice the same sort of decentralized network concepts behind the encyclosphere project, Minifeed.org will enable everyone to turn an ordinary WordPress blog into a self-owned social media feed.
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