Conservapedia claims to be a better encyclopaedia than Wikipedia, because it doesn't have Wikipedia's faults. To some extent, that is true. It certainly avoids Wikipedia's bias against Christian things. However, Conservapedia has faults of its own, and that includes non-trivial ones. Because of my frustrations with Conservapedia, I've written this to document the problems and what I perceive to be their causes.
What I'd like for Conservapedia
Unlike many at RationalWiki (chapter 5) and elsewhere who would like to see Conservapedia fail at its goal, like some others I wanted it to succeed at what it ostensibly is—a good, accurate, family-friendly encyclopaedia suitable for students written from a "conservative" or Christian point of view.
Unfortunately, I simply cannot see that happening, and my opinions have changed. See more below.
For an Australian, at least, the use of the term "liberal" on Conservapedia seems odd, as it is not often used in the same way in Australia as in America. It seems that in America, "liberal" is used both of anybody who is politically left-wing and anybody who is theologically liberal.
I'm not opposed to bias per se. Everyone is biased according to their worldview, but it's possible to minimise that bias and keep an objective mind about things. Critics often accuse Conservapedia of hypocrisy, because Conservapedia, whilst criticising Wikipedia for bias, is also biased. I've responded to such charges by (correctly) pointing out that Wikipedia's problem is not bias per se, but having bias whilst claiming to be neutral. Conservapedia, in contrast, acknowledges its bias.
Unfortunately, although that point of logic is true, it's also true that bias on Conservapedia against "liberals" is extreme.
One editor, explaining their reason for leaving, bemoaned the lack of content on major subjects, and offered their opinion as to why:1
Nobody seems to want to actually write encyclopedia articles. Certainly not among the leaders. Instead they seem to spend all their time having debates2 or attacking biologists or writing pseudo-articles like Liberal bias or Hollywood Values.
That is only part of the answer. The other part is that, through paranoia and heavy-handedness, the administrators succeed in driving away almost all good editors, except those who think the same way they do.
Any web-site available for people to post messages suffers from idiots trying to be funny in their own minds. This includes people posting profanities, pornographic pictures, deleting content, trying to stir up anger (known in the cyber-world as "trolls"), and advertising their own web-sites.
High-profile web-sites such as Wikipedia naturally attract more vandals than less-conspicuous sites. Conservapedia has had a fair bit of publicity, and although not as well-known as Wikipedia, probably suffers proportionally much more vandalism than does Wikipedia. This is, to a fair extent, because Conservapedia, being Christian, threatens their worldview.
However, I also believe—and often argued this point with the other senior administrators—that Conservapedia's overly-harsh stance against editors invites much of the vandalism (although that doesn't justify it, of course).
I examine the problems with the administrators in chapter 4. One administrator in particular caused considerable angst, and I relate the events surrounding him in chapter 6. It also illustrates some of the lack of objectivity shown by some other administrators.
The Buck Stops Where?
Ultimate responsibility for the site rests with the creator and owner of the site, Andrew (Andy) Schlafly. However, the problems are not just ones that Andy needs to accept ultimate responsibility for. He himself is part of the problem, as I explain in chapter 3.
My new approach to Conservapedia
In mid-June 2008, I started writing this. I also realised two things.
One, I wasn't sure that I wanted to continue on with Conservapedia. The problems that it had were only getting worse. The user and former administrator named Fox had openly questioned all the anti-liberals articles, and when he got no response to that, started creating a few more to highlight the absurdity of them. This quickly earned him a demotion back to ordinary editor, yet most if not all of his new articles were allowed to stand!
Three days after I started creating these pages, one of the more senior administrators, DanH, resigned in protest over the Barack Obama article. Another administrator had told me in an e-mail that he was also dissatisfied and was considering resigning in protest. I wondered if I should too, but also realised that such an act of protest was not seen by Andy or other administrators as cause to reconsider. In fact, one administrator didn't realise DanH had left, and later asked what happened to him. And another administrator even blamed me for his departure!
The second thing I came to realise was that Andy would not remove my administrator status. My thinking on this was helped by someone on RationalWiki also expressing this view. The reasoning is that Andy cannot admit that he is wrong, and to remove my administrator status would be an admission that he was wrong about me. This may or may not be true: Andy has, although only rarely, admitted he was wrong about something, and he had removed Fox' administrator status, as well as that of a few others, although in most cases they turned out to truly be trouble-makers.
However, having arrived at the point where I would be content to separate from Conservapedia, I decided that my course of action would be to confront Andy head on. Either I would win out, and Conservapedia would be improved, or I would have my administrator privileges removed, and perhaps be blocked, in the process. Either outcome could be considered a good outcome.
A short absence
I had an absence from Conservapedia for a while in July and the first half of August. When I returned, I wrote a message on my talk page explaining my absence. Apart from my wife's health at the time, one of the reasons I listed, almost in passing, was "An increasing dissatisfaction with Conservapedia". Without asking further what I was dissatisfied about, Andy jumped on that comment, and, perhap understandably, got defensive.
So I took him on over the Catholic views of evolution article. I discuss this briefly on the page about Andy (chapter 3).
My new plan
As I explained above, I wanted Conservapedia to succeed. And I would still want that, as long as it was what it purported to be.
However, it is not, and never will be, an encyclopaedia. It gives Christians, creationists, and conservatives a bad name by operating in ways that do not match Christian and conservative values. As long as it is like that (and it shows no signs of improving), I want it to fail.
Unfortunately, there was no other English-language Wiki general encyclopaedia to take its place as a voice for Christian views. So I decided to start one. This finally came about in March 2009, and can be found here.
22nd November, 2006
Conservapedia is created
17th March, 2007
I join Conservapedia
3rd April, 2007
I am made an Administrator
25th April, 2007
First Admin. e-mail group.
25th May, 2007
Ed Poor proposes me as "template manager".
5th January, 2008
Letter to Andy about wise counsel
28th April, 2008
Bugler joins Conservapedia
around June, 2008
I'm feeling more and more uncomfortable with associating myself with Conservapedia.
11th June, 2008
Bugler gains block rights.
17th June, 2008
I start writing these pages.
20th June, 2008
31st December, 2008
Bugler loses rights.
1st January, 2009
2nd January, 2009
Bugler outs himself.
22nd March, 2009