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Google's Knol, Expert Wiki, Goes Live 263

Posted by kdawson
from the trusting-in-experts dept.
Brian Jordan and other readers sent in word that Google has taken the wraps off Knol, its expert-written challenger to Wikipedia. (We discussed Knol when it was announced last year.) Wired has an in-depth look. Knol's distinctions from Wikipedia are that authors are identified by their real names (and verified), and that they can share in ad revenue if they choose to. The service initially features a lot of medical articles, which is interesting considering that Medipedia also launched today. This medical wiki is backed by Harvard's and Stanford's medical schools.
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Google's Knol, Expert Wiki, Goes Live

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  • Losing Anonymity? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by snowgirl (978879) * on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @06:25PM (#24311923) Journal

    Part of contributing to Wikipedia is that you're anonymous... would you really want someone to know that despite being a huge football fan, you also knew about My Little Pony?

    I like the "anonymity" on Wikipedia, and I don't think this Knol can measure up, simply because of that reason.

    • by chris_mahan (256577) <chris.mahan@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @06:28PM (#24311963) Homepage

      The other thing I think will become a problem is when Expert A writes an article on Subject X, then Expert B says, hey, Subject X is missing information Z, and Export A says no way, and Expert B can't write Subject X, but will write Subject AlmostX, and then you end up with two articles on Subject X. In wikipedia, the two articles would be merged. Knol is gonna have a big synthesis problem.

      • by SomeJoel (1061138) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @06:31PM (#24311999)
        You should write the algebra entry.
      • by Sockatume (732728) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @06:36PM (#24312049)
        On the other hand, this is rather more transparent. When Expert X and Expert Y are putting out mutually contradictory versions of events, then the reader must critically evaluate them both. If it turns out that Y uses shoddy references and mostly cites his own work, while X has a wide-ranging and substantial reference base to build his article on, then it's clear that X is the one to trust, and Google gets to stay out of it.

        By contrast, on Wikipedia, Author X's content will dominate the article while Author Y gets into a massive edit war, is banned, and runs off to spin some yarn to The Register about how he's persecuted by The Cabal. Then Wikipedia's image is tarnished.


        (TINC)
        • by Sockatume (732728)
          Basically what I'm saying is, the former should be less demanding of readers' critical thinking skills, and therefore more likely to be accepted as a source.
        • by snowgirl (978879) * on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @06:38PM (#24312083) Journal

          By contrast, on Wikipedia, Author X's content will dominate the article while Author Y gets into a massive edit war, is banned, and runs off to spin some yarn to The Register about how he's persecuted by The Cabal. Then Wikipedia's image is tarnished.

          At least Wikipedia has good information then. I don't see the problem.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Sockatume (732728)
            It's not a problem for readers, but you can see why it's attractive for a company like Google. They could never put out a Wikipedia for fear of being seen as The Enemy by people who think the moon landings are fake or that cellphones are making the bees return to their home planet.
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              It's not a problem for readers, but you can see why it's attractive for a company like Google. They could never put out a Wikipedia for fear of being seen as The Enemy by people who think the moon landings are fake or that cellphones are making the bees return to their home planet.

              Cellphones? I thought it was the Daleks.

          • Does it? (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Moraelin (679338)

            Does it? You mean, the way an article about cloning didgeridoos, complete with pictures of little didgeridoos in test tubes, stayed on de.wikipedia.org for more than a year?

            Generally that's my "problem" with Wikipedia. It seems that when I don't know anything about a topic, whoa, look at all the new things I find out there. When I do have even the minimum clue on the topic, I start noticing such things as iron being extracted from monkeys or that one of the bridges of ancient Rome was built in 1999 in Japan

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by blahplusplus (757119)

          "When Expert X and Expert Y are putting out mutually contradictory versions of events, then the reader must critically evaluate them both"

          *Dons tin foil hat for a moment*

          Unfortunately this can be abused willy nilly for information the government or other rich people/businesses don't want you to know, or to use experts to omit, skew or smear information since the people with money control what is "credible" and what is "not", experts in my opinion are over-rated, history has shown many experts to be compete

      • by sick_soul (794596) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @06:40PM (#24312107)

        I agree, and in addition there is currently
        no context when creating a new article.
        It's maybe just too soon, but the process seems
        to make it more difficult to reach critical mass.

        I wanted to start writing something, but
        desisted, because I found no contextual information.

        On wikipedia I would read some article, see a
        dangling link with no page associated, and create
        one from there. Or read an existing one, and
        just add additional information, or correct
        some detail.

        Otherwise it is hard to just start writing
        general, context-free articles about
        "what I know". Maybe they should have started
        with wikipedia content, applying the new process
        for further edits and new articles, in order
        to already have a lot of context already.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Koiu Lpoi (632570)

          Dude, what's with the oddly placed line breaks? Does your web browser not do word-wrap on text boxes, and are you on a screen only a few hundred pixels across? If you'd have put line breaks in where you instead put double breaks, your currently 17(+3 blank lines) comment is a whopping 5 on my screen.

      • Re:Losing Anonymity? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ZombieRoboNinja (905329) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @07:48PM (#24312763)

        This actually reminds me somewhat of academic publishing. One expert writes an article, and if it's a worthwhile article that gets attention and another expert has views that differ significantly, they can write a counterpoint.

        The nice part about this new system is that the ORIGINAL article can be revised immediately. If the first author is intellectually honest, they'll take any criticisms into account and revise what they've written where they find it appropriate, and maybe add links to the counterpoint article. So ideally, you'd get a nice network of interrelated expert opinions that you could compare and contrast on their merits, rather than Wikipedia's studied "neutrality" that often ends up hurting as much as it helps.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DragonWriter (970822)

        The other thing I think will become a problem is when Expert A writes an article on Subject X, then Expert B says, hey, Subject X is missing information Z, and Export A says no way, and Expert B can't write Subject X, but will write Subject AlmostX

        Why can't Expert B write Subject X? There is explicitly no prohibition on topic duplication, and no (that I can find) prohibition on title duplication.

        In wikipedia, the two articles would be merged. Knol is gonna have a big synthesis problem.

        Knol is not a work. Kn

      • Re:Losing Anonymity? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by uhlume (597871) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @01:43AM (#24315183) Homepage

        You're assuming, as it seems does Wikipedia, that mergers and "synthesis" should be the end goals of any useful repository of information. I'm not so sure I always want "the wisdom of the crowd" to do that for me. Given a contentious subject (or, for that matter, a disagreement between a recognized authority and an opinionated amateur) I'd rather have multiple viewpoints fully represented than a homogenized "neutral" synthesis in which it's difficult to determine where one point of view ends and another begins, or who derived the synthesis. Given conflicting sources of information, I'm more than capable of performing my own synthesis — and at least I know where my own biases lie.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jambox (1015589)
          I disagree. The synthesis should accommodate both views, if and only if both are supportable by references. There are many areas of academia where different experts have different views on a subject. This is played out through the publishing of peer-reviewed research papers and eventually one is shown to be correct. In the meantime, encyclopaedias can only report the facts of the disagreement. You are correct that Wikipedia shouldn't take sides, but that doesn't prevent synthesis and should never require tw
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Paralizer (792155)
      What the hell is wrong with My Little Pony? I thought that was a /. favorite.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blind biker (1066130)

      would you really want someone to know that despite being a huge football fan, you also knew about My Little Pony?

      I don't see why would I mind. I am a complex person, with very disparate interests and abilities, and I don't mind at all if people know it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by falconwolf (725481)

      I like the "anonymity" on Wikipedia, and I don't think this Knol can measure up, simply because of that reason.

      With Wiki you don't know if the author knows anything about the subject whereas with Knol you can see the author's qualifications.

      Falcon

      • by snowgirl (978879) * on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @07:22PM (#24312519) Journal

        I like the "anonymity" on Wikipedia, and I don't think this Knol can measure up, simply because of that reason.

        With Wiki you don't know if the author knows anything about the subject whereas with Knol you can see the author's qualifications.

        Right, but why rely upon ethos for evaluating the correctness of an article? Are we really going to jump into the fallacy of appeal to authority so quickly?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Denial93 (773403)
        with Knol you can see the author's qualifications.

        Sure, but I can't necessarily evaluate them. Say there's an article on "genetic expression" from a professor at an Indian College, which seems reasonable but is outside my area of knowledge. Any of the following could be true:

        - his qualifications are bogus, he duped Google's identification process
        - he teaches at a diploma mill or other disreputable institution
        - he's an expert only on a field that seems related but isn't, say evolutionary studies
        - eve
    • by atari2600 (545988) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @07:07PM (#24312387)

      Excellent point - the reason that Google has Knol out is the reason they have Image Labeler out. Create content (for Google) / test Google's software for free while enjoying Google's "free" offerings.

      I can see Knol as being beneficial from the perspective of selling my own goods (free advertising) but it's not really a replacement for Wikipedia and I don't think Google wants/intends Knol to replace Wikipedia. Knol is about sharing expertise and I don't see a reason why Wikipedia and Knol can co-exist in harmony.

    • by Serious Callers Only (1022605) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @02:25AM (#24315355)

      Part of contributing to Wikipedia is that you're anonymous...

      This is also the biggest problem with wikipedia, and a good reason never to trust anything you find there. There have been several scandals on wikipedia of information being modified by interested parties - I would link to wikipedia, but I don't think they have a page about that.

      In future most knowledge databases will be attributed, like Knol, because that leads to accountability, which leads to accuracy.

  • Online Resources (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Narpak (961733) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @06:26PM (#24311937)
    I think it is good that there is competition in this field. Perhaps the two services can even come to complement each other, or at least provide a good database of information based on different principles. At the very least it should force both to do their best to provide a good easy interface and information that is as far as is possible; verified.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @06:54PM (#24312261)

      Except when the sources are bad. Take this knol article, for instance

      http://knol.google.com/k/hunter-handsfield/safe-sex/nAi5F17X/WdH0tg#

      This safe sex page doesn't even mention that going into IT can ensure a 100% avoidance of STDS. And they call themselves experts!

      • Re:Online Resources (Score:5, Interesting)

        by nbauman (624611) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @08:06PM (#24312947) Homepage Journal

        Except when the sources are bad. Take this knol article, for instance

        http://knol.google.com/k/hunter-handsfield/safe-sex/nAi5F17X/WdH0tg#

        This safe sex page doesn't even mention that going into IT can ensure a 100% avoidance of STDS. And they call themselves experts!

        That's interesting. H. Hunter Handsfield is one of the top experts on STDs in the U.S. I have a textbook with his chapters, and I heard him give a lecture on STDs at a National Institutes of Health conference. That conference was not a good place to pick up girls.

        He's also the author of the famous color atlas of STDs, which is another good way to discourage activities which lead to STDs.

        The New Scientist reported on a conference in London in which participants tried out different pickup lines and evaluated the results.

        The worst pickup line of all: "I have a PhD in computer science."

        So you are correct in that respect.

    • There already are competitors: http://en.citizendium.org/ [citizendium.org] and http://uncyclopedia.org/ [uncyclopedia.org]. The latter may be a bit less useful as Wikipedia, but it is a lot more fun.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by cashman73 (855518)
        Umm, I wouldn't call Uncyclopedia a "competitor". It's owned by Wikia, which is essentially Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales' for-profit wiki venture.
  • by Metasquares (555685) <slashdotNO@SPAMmetasquared.com> on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @06:27PM (#24311953) Homepage
    It's like Wikipedia but without the open collaboration which made Wikipedia successful.
    • by elgaard (81259) <elgaard@ a g o l.dk> on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @06:51PM (#24312229) Homepage

      It is also a Wikipedia without database dumps.

      Even if much of the material will be under a creative-commons, no one but Google can control Knol in the future.
      So no forks.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by PylonHead (61401)

      Yeah, I get the feeling that this is going to be Yahoo vs Google in search world, except this time Google is the Yahoo.

      For the complete ClusterF!!! that Wikipedia is, it's got some fascinating information. The articles I read on Knol were frankly shallow by comparison.

      It does seem to be skewed towards medical articles, and there might be advantages to having experts write up medical entries.

      I'm sure the Google's lawyers quake when they think of someone typing "epileptic seizure" into Google, getting the Wi

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        ...smear yogurt over the victims nipples.

        Ooooh, that works for seizures too?

    • It's like Wikipedia but without the open collaboration which made Wikipedia successful.

      Well, except that -- at the author's discretion -- "knols" can either use open, moderated, or closed collaboration, so its not "without open collaboration".

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by happyemoticon (543015)

      It's like Wikipedia but without the open collaboration which made Wikipedia successful.

      It's also a Wikipedia without editors. And I mean real editors, the kind of people who turn the gibberish that some brilliant professors reduce their prose to after they get tenure and stop giving a shit into something resembling standard formal English. It's a Wikipedia that's oblivious to the fact that many "experts" can't (to give a totally contrived example that is obviously not drawn from my work experience) be trusted to write an obituary for someone they've known for 40 years without flagrant spellin

  • blah (Score:2, Funny)

    by nomadic (141991)
    Oh, please, like we're supposed to believe them because of all their fancy degrees and significant experience in the field?
  • Citizendium? (Score:4, Informative)

    by commodoresloat (172735) * on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @06:32PM (#24312023)
    Why duplicate the efforts of Citizendium [citizendium.org]? Are knol's goals substantially different?
    • Re:Citizendium? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Sockatume (732728) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @06:40PM (#24312105)
      I believe that Knol articles are all single-author, while Citizendium is basically Wikipedia with mandatory editor registration.
    • Re:Citizendium? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by wile_e_wonka (934864) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @10:18PM (#24313971)

      I think the one-author model is problematic. Citizendium's Wikipedia-like collaberative model keeps bias in check. For example, what if Michael Behe [wikipedia.org], a biochemist, decided to write the article on "Evolution." He controls the content? It seems that it will be very difficult under any sort of one author model to get an unbiased article on just about any sensitive topic. When any approved "expert" can alter any article, however, there will be concessions to satisfy authors disagreeing on what should go in an article, ending up with a largely unbiased and very information piece. Much like many Wikipedia articles have turned out.

      I also have somewhat of a problem with keeping non-experts out altogether. The experts like to write stuff, but they don't necessarily want to punctuate properly, or cite every little detail, or link to new articles as they come up, or format an article just so, etc. There any many non-experts who troll through Wikipedia looking for grammatical errors, places to add better citations, places to add [citation needed], etc. It seems that non-experts should be given some level of control in order to allow them to do what the experts aren't likely to do as much.

  • Hmmm.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by arizwebfoot (1228544) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @06:33PM (#24312029)
    Went to Medipedia.com and it says they don't launch until the end of 2008
  • by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @06:37PM (#24312067) Journal

    Wikipedia definitely suffers from the problem of having a lot of know nothing jackasses writing articles, random defacements, and a lot of useless crap.

    But Knol seems to be missing the best part of wikipedia - extensive internal links. Half the fun of wikipedia is looking up something, then wasting a couple hours wandering through topics till you get someplace you might not have gone otherwise.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Half the fun of wikipedia is looking up something, then wasting a couple hours wandering through topics till you get someplace you might not have gone otherwise.

      And that, of course, is also the fun of looking up something in a dead-tree encyclopedia. As you look up the article you need, you run across other interesting articles and end up learning all sorts of unexpected things.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Except it is a lot easier and wider with hyperlinks.

      • by pgillan (1043668) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @07:33PM (#24312633)

        And that, of course, is also the fun of looking up something in a dead-tree encyclopedia. As you look up the article you need, you run across other interesting articles and end up learning all sorts of unexpected things.

        In a dead-tree encyclopedia, sure, I might look up information about the Serengeti, and then learn all kinds of interesting things about spiders, shoelaces, and salmonella, but with Wikipedia I can learn about things that start with other letters.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Actually, most of the articles are very good informative, and accurate.

      There ahve been some studies regard the accuracy of the sci3ence stuff, and it was more accurate then the Encyclopedia Britannica

      Wikipedia a very solid. Nothing else, it's a good starting place.
      No source should be a sole source of data for a paper.

    • Wikipedia definitely suffers from the problem of having a lot of know nothing jackasses writing articles, random defacements, and a lot of useless crap.

      So it's like slashdot then?

    • Amen, brotha. I love surfing Wikipedia, and even fixing other people's bad writing. And as much as Wikipedia has its problems, I don't see that Knol offers much over it. Its articles aren't encyclopedic, but are more like standalone magazine articles. They also aren't guaranteed to improve over time with new information, something that would happen if new verified experts were to come in and edit existing articles. That happens all the time on Wikipedia (if you care to substitute "unqualified hacks" fo

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, but Knol is going to end up with the know nothing jackasses writing articles. They're already there. I've seen several articles written by professional writers and not by someone who is actually a professional in the field.

      Reading what Knol is all about, it's nothing more than a glorified blogging platform.

      "So what subjects can I write on?
      (Almost) anything you like. You pick the subject and write it the way you see fit. We don't edit knols nor do we try to enforce any particular viewpoint â" you

    • Wikipedia definitely suffers from the problem of having a lot of know nothing jackasses writing articles, random defacements, and a lot of useless crap.

      I don't mind, I'm used to that. I've been reading slashdot for 10 years.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by andphi (899406)
      ObComic: http://xkcd.com/214/ [xkcd.com]
  • I've only really looked at this article [google.com], which was the most prominently featured on their front page. Reading the first few paragraphs it comes across as one persons view and experiences as opposed to an encyclopaedia. Some work will need to be done on this if it is to be a serious challenger to Wikipedia.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by bledri (1283728)

      That's funny that the featured article you read seemed like a blog, because one of the tips for writing a knol is:

      * Don't write a blog. Knols are meant to be standalone articles on a topic of your choosing. Knol is not optimized for diary-type writing.

      I skimmed a couple of the medical articles and they actually seemed extremely well done and complete. It will be interesting if this goes anywhere or just becomes a centralized place for self-promoting blow hards on the 'net.

    • by ancientt (569920)

      Funny. At least I hope you intended it to be funny. I'm not sure though if your choice of article or their feature on it to be so prominent is funnier.

      I instead looked over lung cancer and toilet clogs, and I found it to be much closer to reading encyclopedia entries than wikipedia. I'm torn, on the one hand I see this as a great way to categorize knowledge, having wikipedia as a wide but non-authoritative source of knowledge and knol as an authoritative one would have them complement each other rather than

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Posting Anonymously so I don't negate my moderation...

        I'm not worried about this. Most of the hardcore contributors to Wikipedia are not academics or prominent experts. They're just highly motivated amateurs. The two demographics don't overlap because academics usually want attribution for the content they write (it is, after all, their profession to pass on knowledge) and academics have little patience for engaging in edit wars or undertaking the lengthy process of being socialized into the Wikipedia

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by nifboy (659817)

          ...Wikipedians will be able to access and cite Knols with far greater ease than other more traditional sources.

          Probably not. Knols are (for the most part) one-man articles, without any practical fact-checking mechanisms or other safeguards that make traditional sources cite-worthy. In fact, I fully expect Knol to fill up with cranks, pseudo-science, conspiracy-theorists and other questionably-scientific articles that, when brought to the general community's attention, don't hold up under pretty basic scru

    • by Sockatume (732728)
      This just went up: "Film Review: L'homme Sans Tete example. This review was written for a National Film School production workshop." I get the feeling they're not really screening for content all that much. Thousands of chunks of small blog- or magazine-style content is not going to make for a good reference site.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Eq 7-2521 (159354)

      I read the article as well, but question his authority on the subject. While convenient, stoves are certainly not essential in all areas at all times. On the other hand, Bourbon is, which he fails to mention at all.

    • I've only really looked at this article, which was the most prominently featured on their front page. Reading the first few paragraphs it comes across as one persons view and experiences as opposed to an encyclopaedia. Some work will need to be done on this if it is to be a serious challenger to Wikipedia.

      Its not really a direct challenger to Wikipedia, its a pretty different concept but Wikipedia is the most familiar thing to most readers that is somewhat similar, so they get portrayed as being head-to-hea

  • Typing Equations? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by biased_estimator (1222498) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @06:42PM (#24312123)
    I only looked at it briefly, but they don't provide an easy way to type equations? I suppose that might be a lot to ask for... I guess I'll just have to LaTeXiT.
    • by Koiu Lpoi (632570)

      I suppose that might be a lot to ask for... I guess I'll just have to LaTeXiT

      Right, too much to ask for. How old is TeX, again? And we all know it's not the only package out there that offers equations. So no, it's not too much to ask for.

  • Scholarpedia? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jnana (519059) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @06:46PM (#24312173) Journal

    On the topic of Wikipedia-like sites, I recently found Scholarpedia [scholarpedia.com], which I imagine a lot of slashdotters might like. They don't have that much content yet, and they are currently focusing on a few fields (science- and tech-related), but I have found some really high-quality articles by experts in the field, like:

    Neural Correlates of Consciousness [scholarpedia.org], by Christof Koch.

    Algorithmic Information Theory [scholarpedia.org], my Marcus Hutter.

  • In my version of Medipedia, picking your nose and then eating it is allowed. ;)
  • by Adreno (1320303) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @06:54PM (#24312269)
    While I understand the theory behind Knol, it's going to take Google an *awful* long time to catch up to Wikipedia in terms of volume, if at all. While Wiki may have its fair share of "useless crap", it makes the publication process many orders of magnitude faster than Knol can probably ever hope of achieving. Thoughts? Can Knol catch up with Wiki in at least "useful volume"?
    • by gmuslera (3436)
      All depend on the number of people wanting to put content there.

      But i dont see it as a Wikipedia replacement. Wikipedia mean to be not only the reference on a particular topic, but also something objective, not attached to a particular person or how that person sees reality. In the other hand, at least some articles in Knol gave me the idea that more focused in how the author see something. Wikipedia goes for "This is that" vs Knol's "This is how i see that"
  • by MarkTraceur (1329579) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @07:16PM (#24312465)

    From the content policy:
    "Pedophilia, Incest and Bestiality:
    Users may not publish written, image, audio or video content that promotes pedophilia, incest and bestiality."

    They never said we couldn't promote pedophilia, incest, OR bestiality. First person to get an apology from Google for this gets bonus points :) Screenshot or it didn't happen!

  • everything you allways wanted to know about pot
    and dead kennedys
    but were afraid to ask.

  • Knol on Wikipedia [google.com] is pretty empty. Whereas
    Wikipedia on Knol [wikipedia.org] is very informative.
    Is that an indicator?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ornil (33732)

      I'd say that's an indicator of the fact that Wikipedia has a million entries (after years of work), and Knol has maybe a few thousand. Let's see how fast it grows - that'd be a real indication.

  • we "all" "know" how to use wikipedia, knol and others that start with a different gui have a problem ?
    I know i spent a lot of time learning wikipedia, and am reluctant to switch; also, in the medical field that the current knol home page highlights, wikipedia is remarkably good

  • by rmassa (529444) *
    This seems like a less-crappy version of about.com and not anything at all like Wikipedia. Perhaps that's who Google is really "competing" with?
  • by solferino (100959) <hazchem AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @07:58PM (#24312887) Homepage

    I've said it before on Slashdot. Wikipedia is a large strategic threat to Google.

    With things like the Wikipedia search box in Firefox people can go directly to the Wikipedia page on a subject rather than type it in to Google. If they want to read further they will follow the external links at the bottom of the page. Every time they go to Wikipedia directly that is lost revenue for Google.

    Search engines are good but they are good for active thinkers. Most people are passive readers and they just want to read a basic overview and have a few selected quality links to take them further if need be.

    Hence Knol. Google's competitor to Wikipedia. But it's too late. Good.

    • With things like the Wikipedia search box in Firefox people can go directly to the Wikipedia page on a subject rather than type it in to Google.

      However, I usually search through Google first, even if the first result might be Wikipedia -- because Google is a broader search.

      Wikipedia may well have a detailed, informative article, which links to decent external sources -- then again, it might have no article, or a biased, poorly maintained article.

      If I search directly on Wikipedia, the lack of a Wikipedia article means I'll have to repeat that search on Google, or elsewhere -- plus, the Wikipedia search is slower. If I search on Google first, if there's a Wikipedia article, great, it's one click away -- and if there isn't, I've still got a page full of useful results.

      Hence Knol. Google's competitor to Wikipedia. But it's too late. Good.

      Why is that good? If Knol can actually do a better job than Wikipedia, what's the problem?

      I'm not entirely sure why I should trust Wikimedia with my personal information any more than Google. The only real advantage here is the possibility of releasing something anonymously -- which I can still do, through Wikipedia, or Wikileaks, or somewhere else.

      Creative Commons means that if someone really has something to add, and I won't let them (or co-author with them), they can always re-publish as their own version -- in this sense, Knol is to Wikipedia as Git is to SVN.

      And it means my work is still out there to read, for free, but I'll be getting paid, which means I'll have an incentive to spend more time on it. Say what you will -- Wikipedia is great for the kind of reference material which is truly a list of indisputable facts -- but commercial books (technical manuals, etc) often have better quality for things like teaching fundamentals, or, occasionally, simply being more comprehensive even than the official online documentation.

      That would be the main reason Knol could work -- capitalism.

  • I like a lot of Google things, but Knol leaves me scratching my head. Knol articles are just that: plain articles with very little structure or linking. And I don't think that one expert can compete with dozens of people collaborating on an article.

    A lot of the stuff on Knol is CC. Perhaps it could legally be incorporated into Wikipedia. But, frankly, I don't see why anybody would bother.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Knol articles are just that: plain articles with very little structure or linking.

      They are, however, searchable -- and more easily searchable when you can get the whole thing as one page.

      And "very little structure or linking" is entirely up to the author -- but at this early stage, there is at least less to link to within Knol.

      And I don't think that one expert can compete with dozens of people collaborating on an article.

      It's not so much "one expert" as "one person, who is actually being paid" -- not to mention that having two well-developed, dissenting articles could be more useful than either the homogenized compromise in the Wiki page itself, or the archived flamewars on the Dis

  • Licensing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @08:44PM (#24313237) Journal

    I was all set to rant about what license they wanted to publish on, and would Google own everything, etc.

    But it looks like they're going with Creative Commons [google.com] or keep it to yourself. And I don't see any requirement to sign over the copyright, so I could always publish something both on Knol and elsewhere, under entirely different terms. Cool!

    I could, however, rant about how it's not a wiki at all.

  • Hemorrhoids (Score:3, Funny)

    by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @08:55PM (#24313299) Homepage Journal

    All I know is that I was able to read the Hemorrhoids article without seeing a bunch of "action shots" like on Wikipedia. They've won me over.

  • pay for content? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by davejenkins (99111) <slashdot AT davejenkins DOT com> on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @09:16PM (#24313477) Homepage

    Google is in it to test their idea of "micro-content for micro-payment", IMHO. The idea that people are supposed to write blogs and run google ads on those blogs worked for a while, until the masses figured out that we don't have that much to say [davejenkins.com]. So, what if people could contribute a 'fraction' of a blog or content, and subsequently get a 'fraction' of the ad revenue? It makes sense from Google's business model, as sort of a lower price entry point for writers/ad buyers.

    I don't think it will work, but then again, I have a bias toward robust wikis [wikindex.com].

  • by Fulg0re- (119573) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @02:39AM (#24315403)

    I don't think that having so-called "experts" contributing to Google Knol is necessarily going to make it a better overall resource that Wikipedia for several reasons.

    Firstly, a lot of these early articles are seriously lacking. Let's take for example, the article on Methicillin Resistant Staphlococcus Aureus (MRSA). It's a generally well-written article, and the author looks to be fairly reputable. Nonetheless, there are arguably some significant deficiencies, that with the current format of Knol, cannot be rectified.

    In the article's description, the author notes that there will be a discussion on how MRSA can be treated. Yet, when you look at that portion of the article, information on management is seriously lacking, and the description of the medications is ultimately quite useless.

    At least with Wikipedia, the article would link to a corresponding article on the specific antibiotic, so you would have the opportunity to easily gain further information, whereas with Knol, this simple linking procedure is currently lacking significantly.

    Now, for a simple example. Having a description that Vancomycin "is considered first line treatment" for MRSA is useless for any practicing clinician. What I would want to know are things such as dosing regimens, important things to remember such as having to measure Vancomycin trough levels every several doses (and why), what alternative medications I can use if the MRSA strain is resistant to Vancomycin, etc., all of which are extremely important in the management of MRSA. There is also a significant lack of information about what strains are prevalent, which although not necessarily important for an Internist, is important for Infectious Disease specialists, the people who are consulted on a daily basis for the management of MRSA.

    I can continue to criticize the article, but the difference between it, and the Wikipedia entry are night-and-day. And my criticism isn't pointed to this article alone, there are countless very poorly written and uninformative medical articles on there thus far.

    A community effort with anonymous editors will (eventually) weed out mistakes, and have the distinct advantage of constant peer review. Knol on the other hand, is unfortunately stuck with the one author knows best paradigm.

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