To knol or not to knol

Google is taking the initiative once again. Today, they unveiled they will be (private beta-) launching “Knol“, a term that stands for a “unit of Knowledge”. The goal “…to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it“.

This is how a knol looks (or might look):

Google knol

From the launchpost: “The key idea behind the knol project is to highlight authors. Books have authors’ names right on the cover, news articles have bylines, scientific articles always have authors — but somehow the web evolved without a strong standard to keep authors names highlighted. We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content.” … “A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read. The goal is for knols to cover all topics, from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions. Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content. All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors. We hope that knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line. Anyone will be free to write. For many topics, there will likely be competing knols on the same subject. Competition of ideas is a good thing.

The discussion about whether this will be a Wikipedia-killer is sweeping on the internet. Here’s a few valid points of view in this discussion that’s quickly heating up:

  • Zaadz: This is Google’s direct assault at the “walled garden” of knowledge like Wikipedia, Wikia, and Squidoo. Knol will attempt to solve the problem of chaotic collective anonymous editing (and vandalizing) of wikis and its unfriendly user interface by providing a more user-friendly editing tool for knowledgeable authors “who will put their reputation on the line.”
  • Mashable: Any time you create a tabula rosa [sic] set of tools with the intent for some sort of high-minded community to develop from them, but exert no editorial control on the genres or quality of content, you’re going to end up with something significantly different (or lackluster) from what you previously imagined. Knowledge-bases aren’t exactly the sexiest application of Web 2.0 technology, so it isn’t going to have the userbase draw of a YouTube, and those that do end up using it will likely be doing so for reasons other than creating “news and scientific articles.”
  • Techcrunch: “When it comes to Google, nothing should surprise us any more. Last month it was Digg style social voting on search results, this month its a new project called “Knol” (which apparently stands for a unit of knowledge), a user generated knowledge project that combines parts of Wikipedia and Squidoo (and to a lesser extent Mahalo) into what could easily turn out to game changer in this space.”
  • Rough Type: As the ad-free Wikipedia has risen to dominate the results for many common searches, it has become a de facto competitor for Google (while also being a source of content for Google services like Google Earth). Now, the competition between the two web giants promises to become much more explicit. The success of Knol is, of course, far from assured, but the ability of authors to sign their names, take ownership of their work, and compete with other authors may well be a lure for many people. … For the past year, Chief Wikipedian Jimmy Wales has been doing a lot of trash-talking about taking on Google in the search business. Now Google’s striking back.
  • Read/WriteWeb: I think this is going to be a game changer. … Somewhere Jason Calacanis, his soul icy as it is, is aglow knowing that his Mahalo concept has been validated by a company that’s arguably the most important in the last 100 years. Likewise, there’s probably some melancholy toasts due at Squidoo headquarters. Those companies may or may not survive but the real battle will probably be with Wikipedia. Google-built pages may be the only pages that have a bigger advantage in search than the widely linked Wikipedia reference pages.”
  • Techdirt : However, in looking over the details, this doesn’t seem to be a Wikipedia “competitor” so much as another reference for static information. It seems that the goals of this project are quite different than Wikipedia’s — which is focused on narrowing in on a clear, factual description of something. The idea of knols is almost completely antithetical to that concept. It’s about recognizing a single individual’s perspective on things, and allowing multiple people to put forth their perspective. Google is even hoping that people will create knols based on opinion, rather than trying to create factual pages. That’s quite different.
  • Danny Sullivan at Searchengineland: I have concerns about Knol in hurting independent authorship, just as some of the other services I’ve named do as well. Go back two years ago, and searches rarely came up with Wikipedia pages. Today, it almost feels required that Wikipedia gets one if not two listings on Google, due to its indented results feature. The traffic that Wikipedia gets from Google has inspired others. Yahoo Answers pages show up in Google for topics; Mahalo would love to rank for top terms — and I’ve already mentioned Squidoo’s presence in search results. Now Google gets into the picture to have its own hosted content compete for the dwindling diversity of results on the search results page. It begins to feel like the knowledge aggregators are going to push out anyone publishing knowledge outside such aggregation systems.
  • Om Malik at GigaOm: Whether it will be successful or not remains to be seen. Now if you think about it, the knol, despite its fancy name, is nothing but a classic move by a quasi-monopolist that wants to ensure it keeps getting the raw material (in this case, content on knols) for free, so that it can keep selling it at a premium. I stopped believing in Google’s “do no evil” ethos a long time ago…

Google Pages … Google Scholar … Google Knols … look to me in the same vein of thinking. Get some content inside of google, not just in google …

Now the question remains: where to get those knol invitations?
Being there first, is like the Moon, or the North-pole right now, an unclaimed land waiting for settlers …

Een gedachte over “To knol or not to knol

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