TheStar.com | News | Wikipedia: The next generation Wikipedia: The next generation http://www.thestar.com/News/article/273317 It's called Veropedia. Its goal: To create something that students and teachers can rely on Nov 04, 2007 04:30 AM Leslie Scrivener Feature writer Anyone who has ever warned a student about the perils of relying on Wikipedia for a project might welcome the arrival of its more scholarly offspring, Veropedia. Veropedia, which launched just three weeks ago, aims to be more disciplined than Wikipedia, the massive online encyclopedia with a Wild West sensibility. The plan for Veropedia – from the Latin for "to make true" or "verify" – is simple: articles by Wikipedia contributors will be reviewed by experts and academics before they appear on the website (veropedia.com). Once on the site, the content is "stable" and cannot be edited by the mischievous. So, a recent vandal attack on the George W. Bush entry in Wikipedia, which described the U.S. president as a "Muppet in a chimp suit," would not likely appear on Veropedia. Nor would the work of the Wikipedia prankster who attributed a quote from the comic-strip character Dilbert to French mathematician René Descartes, says Veropedia founder Danny Wool. "The idea of Veropedia is to improve Wikipedia, to create something serious and stable that students and teachers can rely on," says Wool, who was raised in Toronto. "There's so much great stuff in Wikipedia, but it can be better – in its reliability and sourcing of articles. We focus on the encyclopedic content, moving away from pop culture, which is permeating the site." What makes Wikipedia appealing are its idealism and democratic accessibility. Wool understands the attraction but insists on accuracy, too. "I'm not opposed to freedom of speech ... but I don't want it to be so completely anarchic that anybody can say anything and present it as fact." News of a reliable, academically sound online encyclopedia was welcome to Joanne Lombardo, the collections librarian in charge of electronic material for the Toronto Public Library. "It brings it back to what we do: taking information you're not sure about, checking it to make sure there aren't any errors, making it stable so another person can't write over it and make changes and giving it to experts to adjudicate. "That's what we've been doing in the library for a hundred years. It's like standing on the dance floor and waiting to get recognized." While anyone with a Toronto library card has access to 100 research databases, Wikipedia is not among them. "I don't think Wikipedia is off the rails, because there are experts in the field who contribute," says Lombardo. "It just doesn't have the rigor I need." The Toronto District School Board also doesn't include Wikipedia on its online list of resources for student research. "It's not accepted as a sufficient authority," says a board spokesperson. Still, encyclopedias like Veropedia, which are lively and innovative, provide a model of sorts for educators and librarians. "Our challenge is to be reflexive and extremely current," says Lombardo. "That's the message behind it: Source matters, authority matters. And that's what we have to do – get hipper and out there." About 100 of Wikipedia's editors and contributors have joined Wool in Veropedia. They are not competing with Wikipedia, his former employer, only cleaning it up and making it more reliable, he says. He says his disagreements with Wikipedia, which he left six months ago, were over "management issues." "It was losing touch with idea of creating an accurate encyclopaedia," says Wool. No hard feelings, though. "We welcome Veropedia to cyberspace!" wrote Sandy Ordonez, speaking for the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. "The more free content projects of high quality, the better for the world. We hope they do very well indeed." While Veropedia is free to users, it will, unlike Wikipedia, accept advertising. "I was in charge of fundraising for Wikipedia, and I feel a lot more comfortable taking ads from Amazon than the donations of high school students," says Wool. Wool attended the Jewish day school Or Chaim, and his mother, Sari Wool, still lives here. Now 44, he's been an editor of popular reference books, including the Biographical Dictionary and the Encyclopaedia of the Peoples of the World and Dr. Ruth's Encyclopaedia of Sex. He was too busy working to finish his degree at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he says. Though Veropedia is online, with nearly 4,000 articles, Wool says it's still in its test-drive "beta" phase. They haven't signed on their experts, whom they're still interviewing. "We want to attract academics who've been involved in Wikipedia – like world-class historians and astronomers." For now, the articles have been "vetted by experienced Wikipedia editors (but not academics), and they cannot be edited, so the version you see will stay that way." Veropedia's focus is students. "If you're doing a high school report on the Medulla oblongata, you don't need references to South Park," says Wool. "That's not going to get you an A."