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Carnalpedia: PR possibly premature

Is the new sex encyclo really the best place to get your RDA of RTA?

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Looking for cunnilingus? Fellatio? Or how about urolagnia? Despite marketing hype to the contrary, Wikipedia may still be your best bet for researching those - and a host of other slightly more exotic sexual practices as well.

Online moralists were tutting this week at the announcement that a new online project, Carnalpedia, was seeking to plug the holes left unfilled by Wikipedia. "Should parents worry?" was the self-fulfillingly worrying headline to one article.

According to Carnalpedia creator Jeremy Haddock, his project is a good thing, designed to separate the smut from the rest of the world. He said: "The fact that Wikipedia has a certain type of audience leaves a lot of information about sex and the adult industry either blocked or censored."

All article pages that go up on Carnalpedia will be labelled with the Restricted To Adults (RTA) tag which will help to parents who are seeking to restrict their children’s access to adult subjects by using packages such as NetNanny. The site will also be trying hard to prevent Carnalpedia from turning into yet another place where people go to swap pictures: so only "authorized individuals from approved sources" will be allowed to upload images.

The theory implied by their PR is that Wikipedia is a stuffy, respectable resource which provides very little information on topics of an adult nature – and that Carnalpedia will therefore fill in the gaps for all those interested in exploring their personal sexual fantasy through the medium of an online index (encyclopedophiles?).

Unfortunately for the theory, a short browse through Wikipedia reveals perfectly good, descriptive articles on practices such as "cunnilingus" and "fellatio", as well as a variety of articles on practices previously unheard of at El Reg, including "dacryphilia" and "autogynephilia" – which appears to have nothing at all to do with cars.

More seriously for the publishers of Carnalpedia, their work appears never to have heard of these terms either.

As Wiki rather sniffily observes of its upstart challenger: "Carnalpedia advertises itself as 'the largest sex encyclopedia on the Internet' (although it appears to currently - as of June 2009 - lack many key sex topic articles and consists almost entirely of articles on sell-able products like videos, and the people that appear in them)".

This seems to be a fairly accurate description, as a large part (around 60 per cent) of Carnalpedia’s present 121,000 entries appear to detail movie titles and porn stars. Carnalpedia is currently attracting some publicity in the blogosphere, suggesting recent PR activity on its part.

The risk, if the product does not live up to its claims, is that surfers will give it a resounding thumbs down, which will be remembered long after any improvements turn it into a resource worth going to. On current showing, it is mostly a porn catalogue – albeit a well laid-out one - making use of the mediawiki software to give users of Wikipedia a reassuring sense of familiarity.

Whether or not the web actually needs Carnalpedia, only time will tell. ®

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