The Knowledge Standards Foundation is doing something new

So, what is the Knowledge Standards Foundation up to?

This mail isn’t a thorough update. It’s an argument: the case for the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Knowledge Standards Foundation. This mail launches a series of weekly missives that will introduce you to some part of our work. Today I’m going to argue that the world needs the encyclosphere—badly—and that we, in turn, need your support.

The criticism: what’s the point? “What the heck is this encyclosphere project even for, anyway?” I imagine a critic saying. “You’re just organizing encyclopedias that are already freely available, right? Isn’t that what search engines do? Who needs another search engine?”

A search engine? That’s just the first step. We are doing a lot more than that. We are building a decentralized encyclopedia network. More precisely, we are networking together all the encyclopedias (past, present, and future, free and proprietary). But what does that mean, and why is it important?

We are keeping the world’s knowledge available, searchable, and findable for future generations. Do you remember going to the library and searching for a book on the shelves and then finding a plethora of other books nearby that were interesting, useful or more relevant? Do you remember researching a topic without wondering if you are seeing all of the information or being steered towards the same limited sources? We are building a decentralized network of the world’s knowledge, current articles, historic discourse, antiquated reference books, and specialized encyclopedias, where you can access all the encyclopedic sources across the world, all at once. Encyclosphere-powered search engines, like EncycloReader and EncycloSearch, already give you a foretaste of what it will be like to sift through all the encyclopedia articles on a particular subject.

Help us invest in our children’s future freedom to access the world’s knowledge uncensored, unfiltered, and unsolicited.

Besides, free search engines for all the encyclopedias is actually a game-changer. We already have (the KSF has already built) search engines that let you quickly sift and read over 15 (and counting) encyclopedias: EncycloSearch (ES) and EncycloReader (ER). Because we are still in the process of iteratively developing and testing all the standards we need, we have indexed (and, in the case of free encyclopedias, made readable and shareable) only a small fraction of everything that will be made available in the giant encyclosphere databases of the future. (We have over 700,000 articles and article references across our network at present, and this number will soon top 1 million.)

In the end, you will be able search many, many more articles than Wikipedia has. You won’t feel you have to rely on Wikipedia anymore. This will be a game-changer, a massive benefit to the world, because the universe of all encyclopedias is much bigger and more useful than Wikipedia. And you will be able to contribute to that universe much more easily than at present. And no—-neither Google, nor DuckDuckGo, nor any other search engine gives you quick and easy access into that universe. The experience is already different on ES and ER, and will only become more so as we add new sources.

“Free”? “Decentralized”? Why is that a big deal? Look at it this way:

• The data (i.e., our databases of free encyclopedias and of metadata about proprietary encyclopedias) is free. Individual encyclopedia articles are already available in the KSF’s newly-defined standard encyclopedia ZWI file format (ZWI = “zipped wiki”); two different (and growing) collections of collections are also freely available. Are you a developer? Interested in building on top of this database? Go ahead.

• The software that is used to search and display encyclopedias, as well as to crawl and to share (in a standardized, networked fashion) data is free (EncycloSearch and the vast bulk of our software is 100% OSS).

• Our two lead developers have independently developed two different aggregators (EncycloReader and EncycloSearch), and have worked together a lot to settle standards that make sense for every aspect of this network (not just the ZWI file format). We strongly encourage other developers to set up their own aggregators, with our help (with our software, if you like). The more aggregators, the less controllable and centralized the network is. No one aggregator will be able to control and filter the encyclosphere for everyone else.

• The software used to push data to this network from stuff you own, in the form of plugins for WordPress, MediaWiki, and DokuWiki, is free(OSS)Versions of these plugins are already working, and will only get better.

• We are designing a system that makes it free and easy to push articles you write and own, that live on your own websites, or even just on your computer, into a free, open network. You do not need to please Wikipedia administrators to get your articles into the encyclosphere, and we’re working on several ways to make this easier for everyone. You will be able to contribute to the encyclosphere, and others will be able to find your work. (Although the end user will ultimately be in control of what sources to search across.)

• Again, we have started making free, portable encyclopedia files out of lots of interesting old, public domain encyclopedias. “Oldpedia” is almost ready to launch. If you put all that together, think what it means. Just like the blogosphere or the internet generally, the encyclosphere is an open, decentralized network that gives no one the awesome power to control it all. Anyone will be able to build on, host, and provide their own unique window into the encyclosphere, without asking anyone else. That is in the spirit of freedom that made the internet what it is today.

But we need your help. “Really? You need my help?” I hear you say. “Aren’t you a co-founder of Wikipedia? Aren’t you rich? Isn’t this a Wikipedia project or something?”

If that’s what you think, you’re sadly mistaken. I am not rich. I have never been anything but middle-class my entire life. I am long gone from Wikipedia, and the Wikimedia Foundation has given this project nothing, nor will they. This project is an honest, old-fashioned, genuinely public-spirited non-profit—started by people who actually need the money, not by fat cats who need to launder ill-gotten gains. I can’t fund this project myself, because I’m not even well-to-do; I started in academia and then made a career of starting underfunded educational nonprofit websites, contributing to the world’s knowledge. While we did receive generous grants from FUTO.org in 2020 and 2022, including their first “Legendary Grant,” we cannot assume we will continue to be supported by them.

The bottom line? Yes, we actually need your donation. Unlike Wikipedia, with over a hundred million dollars in their war-chest, and which takes in over ten times as much money every year as is needed to run the servers. Right now, we are not bringing in enough money to cover expenses; we are burning through the last major donation, and if we don’t raise more, the project will switch to all-volunteer, and who knows if we will be able to pull it off then.

Are we paying people loads of money? Don’t make us laugh. Start-ups would be shocked at how low our burn rate is, given the amazing amounts of high-quality work we’re doing. I’m the only full-time employee, and I am not paying myself a lot. The senior developers and other professionals who have been working on various aspects of our network are massively underpaid or are volunteers, and they are able to pursue this only because they do it part-time. We are very blessed because they’re very productive and motivated. We are all driven by the vision of truly free knowledge. Help me pay these people who are bringing free knowledge to you.

We will not accept donations from governments, from large corporations, from reference publishers, or from any organization or individual that we feel represents a threat to the independence of this endeavor. Does this mean we’ll have more trouble raising money? Fine, I don’t care.

So, yes, we do need your support. We would love to see larger donations from wealthy freedom-loving individuals and foundations, as long as the donations are without strings; and any amount over $5,000 means that I will have to fly out to meet you face-to-face. If I’m going to take that much money from you, I need to know you.

We would love to have your $5, $25, or $100. DONATE HERE. Every little bit helps.

Best,
Larry

Dr. Larry Sanger, President, Knowledge Standards Foundation
([email protected])
encyclosphere.org/donate
The Knowledge Standards Foundation is building a #decentralized network of encyclopedias where anyone, anywhere can access all the free encyclopedias easily. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

By Larry Sanger

See this page for my bio. Welcome to this site! Thanks for being here!

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