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Google's "Knol" Reinvents Wikipedia 272

teslatug writes "Google appears to be reinventing Wikipedia with their new product that they call knol (not yet publicly available). In an attempt to gather human knowledge, Google will accept articles from users who will be credited with the article by name. If they want, they can allow ads to appear alongside the content and they will be getting a share of the profits if that's the case. Other users will be allowed to rate, edit or comment on the articles. The content does not have to be exclusive to Google but no mention is made on any license for it. Is this a better model for free information gathering?"
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Google's "Knol" Reinvents Wikipedia

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  • by bconway ( 63464 ) on Friday December 14, 2007 @09:34AM (#21696422) Homepage
    Google'a Knol

  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Friday December 14, 2007 @09:35AM (#21696434) Homepage Journal
    Google is trying to promote knol as a new buzzword [doubletongued.org] meaning "a unit of knowledge."

    I wonder how many knol's Slashdot is worth?

    • by nlitement ( 1098451 ) on Friday December 14, 2007 @09:38AM (#21696460)
      Is it seriously so hard to form "plural's" in English? :(
    • Knol? Sounds more like Cyc [wikipedia.org] to me. Hhmmm,.. if consciousness is computable, can the task be distributed to a Mechanical Turk? (*strokes chin thoughtfully)
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Hal_Porter ( 817932 )
      They should have called it NULL.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Farmer Tim ( 530755 )
      I wonder how many knol's Slashdot is worth?

      Zero. The factually incorrect posts mostly cancel out the informative ones, and any knols left over are nullified by poor grammar and spelling.
    • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )

      Google is trying to promote knol as a new buzzword meaning "a unit of knowledge."

      We already have that word. Its called a bit
      • A bit is a unit of data, which is not necessarily the same as knowledge. Since "knowledge" is a vague term, there is no "unit" of it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        No, that's a unit of data. There's a large difference between knowledge and data. For example, let's say last week I sold 1000 PCs. Now out of those,

        500 had FooStor hard drives
        300 had BarMax hard drives
        200 had BazStar hard drives

        out of 500 FooStor hard drives there were 300 failures
        out 300 BarMax hard drives there were 3 failures
        out of 200 BazStar hard drives, there were no failures

        That's data.

        Knowledge is knowing that the FooStor hard drives and pieces of shit and you shouldn't use them.
        • by rifter ( 147452 ) on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:21PM (#21698280) Homepage

          Knowledge is knowing that the FooStor hard drives and pieces of shit and you shouldn't use them.

          Isn't that data as well? It's certainly an extrapolation of previously recorded data:

          out of 500 FooStor hard drives there were 300 failures

          While there are many arguments about intelligence, it would seem that knowledge would be properly defined as the accumulation of data. Whether bad data (incorrect knowledge, e.g. witches made of wood like ducks) counts as knowledge is a topic all its own ...

          Webster's definition [m-w.com] does seem to back you up at least on its face, since although it includes "knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association" as well as an example of what you have above, "the circumstance or condition of apprehending truth or fact through reasoning," however, it also includes "the range of one's information or understanding" as well as "the sum of what is known : the body of truth, information, and principles acquired by humankind."

          So according to some definitions of knowledge data would seem to be an equivalent, but others require the processing (understanding) of data (like in your example). Based on the article though Knols look like data to me...

      • by Omestes ( 471991 )

        But I think the term "datum [m-w.com]" would fit the bill fine though. It being the singular (latin plural at least, no matter what m-w.com says) for data, and all. Actually I'm sure there are plenty preexisting words that would work just fine, without having to invent moronic neologisms for no reason other to make a "buzz".

        Please, the language has seen enough abuse, leave it alone.
    • by Bogtha ( 906264 )

      If knols are units of information, then I would imagine that a negative amount of knols is misinformation.

    • I wonder how many knol's Slashdot is worth?

      Over forty Mega-Fonzies!
    • Google is trying to promote knol as a new buzzword meaning "a unit of knowledge."

      Don't let my friend hear that. With a last name of Knowles, there would be no stopping him! :)
    • That depends on whether it is a discrete or continuous variable.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Friday December 14, 2007 @09:36AM (#21696440) Journal
    The headline, blurb and link create a perfect storm of incomprehensibility -- that I had to go to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] to figure out what the hell this is about isn't an auspicious beginning, and I still have no idea what "Google'a" is.
    • Typo? (Score:3, Informative)

      by imstanny ( 722685 )

      The headline, blurb and link create a perfect storm of incomprehensibility -- that I had to go to Wikipedia to figure out what the hell this is about isn't an auspicious beginning, and I still have no idea what "Google'a" is.
      a=s... Google's.
  • by Loibisch ( 964797 ) on Friday December 14, 2007 @09:38AM (#21696454)
    All they're basically proposing is that you write an article as best as you can and they host it, giving you a tiny share of the revenue it generates. So instead of watching edit wars and being able to check out multiple opinions you now have to take the whole article as it is. There might even be small errors in there that would otherwise have been fixed by peers.

    I understand that knowing the author could give more weight to the information of an article...I just don't understand how this is anything worth talking about or worth comparing to wikipedia.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Firethorn ( 177587 )
      There might even be small errors in there that would otherwise have been fixed by peers.

      Bingo. Sure, I can write an article, but there will likely be errors - no matter how informed I am on the topic. With peer review these can be mostly fixed*.

      Now, if I can adjust the article based on reviews I receive, reviewers can basically be editors. That would be nice, and perhaps better to have a single point of control for each article. But how will 'legacy' pages be handled - for example, if I get hit by a bus
    • by Gablar ( 971731 ) on Friday December 14, 2007 @11:37AM (#21697660) Journal

      So instead of watching edit wars and being able to check out multiple opinions you now have to take the whole article as it is. There might even be small errors in there that would otherwise have been fixed by peers.

      Maybe someone will gather all the information in the comments and create an article that ends up being better rated. That way, there is always a best article. The articles will take longer to correct than in a wiki model but then, it may be compensated by more reliable information, because more people are encouraged to write and the result is a more refined article.

      If the model works like I think, there are going to be many articles on the same subject, but the highest rated, better reviewed articles should be on top. I would definitely would like to read more about their model. It should be opened, if they want it to work. I for one, would love to try to publish articles here.
      • by Sancho ( 17056 )
        I wonder if they assign all copyrights to Google, or if all articles must be public domain? Otherwise, there will be inevitable problems with copyright when people rewrite an article to fix an error.

        Worse, such a scenario would be pretty susceptible to gaming. Someone writes a really good article, someone else copies it and manages to get lots of links to it out on the web, so that they get the money from someone else's effort.

        Wikipedia (mostly) works because most of the articles are written for altruisti
    • All they're basically proposing is that you write an article as best as you can and they host it, giving you a tiny share of the revenue it generates.
      The ads and profit sharing are what will destroy it as a useful repository of knowledge. Stating facts and saying whatever will make you the most money are two separate things.

    • So what you're saying is, they're trying to make the ultimate "blog".
    • It sounds identical to the model that Helium [helium.com] is using (multiple articles, single author, ad-based reward). Sounds like it'll be prone to the same problems like you describe.
    • This seems more like a one-time post blog account. If you want to write up a quick article and post it, but don't blog on a regular basis, this avoids the need to set up a web site or blog just to post you're rant online.

      I agree this is nothing like Wikipedia
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Because you can't just contribute once to Wikipedia...

        In the sample image they show the user is logged in to their Google Account. They also repeat several times the idea of 'highlighting the author.' Similarly, they talk about a revenue-share with writers. You can't send money to 'Anonymous Coward'. This doesn't sound like a one-time posting thing to me.
    • by Skim123 ( 3322 )

      Kids these days.

      Back in my day, you'd write an article, put it on your website, and Google would index it. People who wanted to find information would go to Google, type their query into the search box, and get a list of related web pages.

      • Now that they've read it on your website, they can go back to Google, paste it in there and nobody ever has to click through to your site again.
    • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:44PM (#21698628) Homepage

      All they're basically proposing is that you write an article as best as you can and they host it,
      If you look at the sample, you'll notice that they're going to allow readers to rate articles with 1-5 stars. They also say "Our job in Search Quality will be to rank the knols appropriately when they appear in Google search results. We are quite experienced with ranking web pages, and we feel confident that we will be up to the challenge." That is very different from just offering free web hosting, which would be a one-way mode of communication from the author (who is possibly a crackpot) to the reader.

      giving you a tiny share of the revenue it generates.
      Yeah, this is the key question, which they don't answer: how much of the revenue does the author get? If it's less than you'd get by hosting your own content and putting up adsense ads, then I think my motivation for participating would be very low.

      So instead of watching edit wars and being able to check out multiple opinions you now have to take the whole article as it is.
      In the article, they say they want to build a setup where there are competing articles on the same topic.

      There might even be small errors in there that would otherwise have been fixed by peers.
      If you look at the sample article, it has a byline, and the author's academic affiliation is given.

      I just don't understand how this is anything worth talking about or worth comparing to wikipedia.
      The real problem is that the barn-raising stage of wikipedia is over, the quality of wikipedia is no longer getting any better over time, and the structure of wikipedia is inappropriate for its current stage of development. That's why I, like many former hard-core wikipedians, have quit editing. Wikipedia has turned into a giant energy-wasting machine like the one in The Matrix. You have millions of people all over the world, all undoing each other's edits, while most articles remain at the same low level of quality. I'm a physicist, and when I look at a physics article on WP, I don't typically say "that's wrong," I say "that's so poorly written that I don't believe anyone could ever read it and follow what it's trying to explain." You can try till you're blue in the face to improve the quality of the writing on WP, and it just won't work, because your hard work will succumb to random, uncoordinated edits by well-intentioned people.

      • First, if this new scheme works, it will likely lead to Google ranking their own knols up and Wikipedia pages down, which could severely reduce Wikipedia's reach. I think there is a conflict of interest brewing here, unless the Google knols are displayed among the ad results.

        As for article quality on Wikipedia, I think Fermi estimation applies: you get 80% quality by throwing many bits of text into the air to see what sticks, but rarely much above that. If you think about it, the original Nupedia approach
    • by op12 ( 830015 )
      It's worth both talking about and comparing to Wikipedia because of the deeper implications they laid out in their post - namely that these knols will appear in search results on Google, and that they may tweak where they appear. Basically they can call the knols more authoritative and knock the Wikipedia entries a couple of results down the page. The results are significant for both the authors of the knols, and even moreso for Wikipedia.
  • might be (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rucs_hack ( 784150 ) on Friday December 14, 2007 @09:39AM (#21696464)
    Wikipedia is getting something of a reputation for being elitist and at times discriminatory without justification. Whatever the truth, when such labels are applied people are usually ripe for alternatives.

    Google did this once before, in spite of what they say to the contrary, against Sourceforge. In that case, good though they are, Sourceforge was becoming quite unreliable for non paying users, and their service, while including many wonderful options, was unweildy to use.

    Along came google with google code. It's a simpler service, nowhere near the features of sourceforge, but for sheer simplicity it's a joy. I wasn't alone in moving there.

    Will I use knol? Well it might be just the place to place some articles derived from papers I've published, we shall see.
    • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <(eldavojohn) (at) (gmail.com)> on Friday December 14, 2007 @09:47AM (#21696548) Journal

      Wikipedia is getting something of a reputation for being elitist...
      You got that right, remember them purging webcomics [slashdot.org]?

      Knol claims to be open to all knowledge of entertainment so it's possible it could be seen as a safe haven for these fans & anyone who's been struck by the notability hammer. I could see them hopping on the wayback machine and just putting their words back into digital print ... I would if I were in their shoes.

      I never did see anything mentioned about the horror case of me writing my own autobiography as a knol. That wasn't addressed but I guess they'll flesh that stuff out. It'll be interesting to see where they draw the line and, like you said, who moves to the other model.
  • by L505 ( 884811 ) on Friday December 14, 2007 @09:39AM (#21696466) Homepage Journal
    Quick, someone register knol.org, knol.net, knol.info.. bwaaah why am I posting this message.. off to domain name services!
  • by TheLuggage2008 ( 1199251 ) on Friday December 14, 2007 @09:40AM (#21696474)
    Wikipedia is having enough trouble trying to stop people from editing content to cast the groups they represent in a better light; Giving them the opportunity to create their own misleading articles that can make them money through ads as well doesn't sound promising. Add to that the fact that people without agendas who share information on wikis now surely must be doing it for the love of sharing information or the love of the topic its self; ad money will only end up encouraging less passionate people to post whatever pops into their heads just to get a page running for the ad support.
    • by Kelbear ( 870538 ) on Friday December 14, 2007 @10:20AM (#21696854)
      It doesn't sound very much like Wikipedia.

      With an article assigned to a person for revenue-sharing, what about people throwing in their small corrections and elaborations? They're locked out of these small changes that are important to the end-result.

      Wikipedia works around a whole mess of people throwing information at it with the expectation that correct information will sift up to the top over time as evidence appears to back up the information against unconfirmed noise. And when contested versions of information in close competition, the uninformed ought to have a reasonable opportunity to examine both and decide for themselves rather than a single viewpoint presenting a single side. The multiple sources of contributions are what distinguish wikipedia from all other encyclopedias. Knol is not really lining up against wikipedia's model, but with the classic encyclopedia model, but just situated online and ad-driven rather than printed and purchase-driven.

      If they wanted to compete with wikipedia it seems like they'd get better results by just doing the same thing with a cleaner interface and google's hosting resources. The ad-word hits over time would still be plenty assuming they manage to build up a large enough "network effect"(wiki it;) ).
    • presumably the idea behind it (whether it will work or not we'll have to see) is that while anyone can write an article, the better ones will rise to the top, just like with pages on Google's search engine.

      So instead of a collaborative editing process, it's a competition between individuals.

      Re: the monetary incentive, it cuts both ways. Sure there's now more of an incentive for people to share information, but that may produce more good information as well as more bad information. If Google's ranking mecha
    • ...ad money will only end up encouraging less passionate people to post whatever pops into their heads...

      The anti-capitalism sentiment gets really old here sometimes. I don't know about you, but I find money goes a long way toward me being able to eat. After looking around on the Internet, I've noticed that the fanatics already have plenty of ad-driven sites promoting their beliefs, rational or otherwise. What's the big deal about having Google present a way of doing this with clear authorship, no need to make your own site, and ad revenue? And that's not even considering that there might be people who c

  • Rating Articles (Score:2, Informative)

    by mfh ( 56 )
    This is a feature I've long since looked for in a website that has factual content, like Wikipedia (minus chip-on-shoulder admins). Krol should prevent astro-turfing well, as long as Google protects against dupes and has other beneficial restrictions.
  • by simong ( 32944 ) on Friday December 14, 2007 @09:44AM (#21696524) Homepage
    At first look the model seems to be about.com, which offered information on subjects as presented by named experts, which is pretty much the reverse of how Wikipedia works. As ideas go, it's not a bad one and I can see the potential for the use of trust or reputation to maintain the veracity of information, as I'm sure Google have done. It brings up several other questions of course, such as Google finally becoming a content provider, and how it's going to be managed - even if it is all user maintained the potential for another cabal is always on the horizon.
  • by DeeQ ( 1194763 ) on Friday December 14, 2007 @09:50AM (#21696582)

    The key idea behind the knol project is to highlight authors

    This makes me wonder if highschool teachers will allow the use of this as a resource for school papers. Since most of the time schools forbid students from using wikipedia as a source for any information. Since this has the google name on it which is probably the number one thing they use for finding information for research, I wonder if this will be acceptable. Something makes me doubt it will but it would be nice if they were open to the idea of it.
    • I wonder if this will be acceptable.
      I would not let my 7 year old cite a source like this in her homework, let alone my students.
  • by NekoXP ( 67564 ) on Friday December 14, 2007 @09:54AM (#21696616) Homepage
    Wikipedia fails for one simple reason; most of the data is without citation and most of the data with citation relies on web links that do not work anymore. The documentation that IS correct has absolutely no attribution and to find out who wrote an article or various portions of it you need to delve into histories or use something like they use to prove that the government is using it for propaganda or companies are removing swathes of information that are disparaging by the IP blocks they're posted from.

    Being able to sort information by far better categories (not just an encyclopaedia) and enforcing attribution means the scrupulous among us will be able to publish data on the knowledge base and get the credit for it, and be able to be *congratulated or better yet, corrected* on it.

    With Wikipedia, if you don't like what someone wrote, you delete it. You change it. You add insults. Then you can't use any of the data from Wikipedia anywhere else because it's GFDL. The information is *so* free the only place you can read it is ON Wikipedia, or has spidered Wikipedia and presented the data verbatim on another site.. if Google allows authors to select their license themselves (be it a CC variant, GFDL or a true copyright with a restrictive clause) then this will only draw people in.

    There is something wrong about trying to free information by putting it under a restrictive, blanket license. Not all content can be licensed the same way. Wikipedia is high maintenance - looking for citations, constant review by editors, vandalism watches, locking, even selecting for the front page..

    As for the advertising, even Wikipedia needs to earn it's keep. To be honest I really really object to trying to read an encyclopedia entry and being told that the WikiMedia conference is going to be on a certain date, taking up 1/4 of my screen at the top of the page, or that I need to donate to the cause. Fuck that. I want to turn that damn advert off. I don't care about it. But, it's essential to keep the site going. You can't complain about it, because without impressing it onto people that they need to pay for the upkeep of the service, they won't.

    So, how is this any different to advertising using Google down the side? Well, it isn't. Google needs to make money by selling advertising and authors should be given the opportunity to earn money for all the effort they put in, because after all, spending a couple of days writing a 10 page article on something is an action most people would like to be paid for even just a little.
    • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )

      Wikipedia fails for one simple reason;...

      I wish I had a website that was such a big "failure".
    • by HuguesT ( 84078 )
      How is wikipedia failing, exactly? In spite of his well-publicized shortcomings, it still provides high-quality references. I use it daily (not on its own, for sure), but I never ever use Britannica even though I paid for it. Wikipedia is up to date, comprehensive, and provided the topic is not controversial, usually correct. There are plenty of links to external sources, I don't know which page you've been reading.

      Apparently some people are not so hung up on getting credit about something. Not the whole hu
  • It's a nice idea in theory. It's all in terms of 'human knowledge.' If I could get a best-of-breed encyclopedia/"Geeky Guide to (insert favorite show/TV/franchise/mythology here" then I'm down. I'll wiki things that I know are relevant to a topic of interest (Movies, a new programming language, what have you). But if I want to find something a little more niche' like if I want to find some new information or recall something of importance on a less then global scale (I.E. following the Lost Experience ARG
  • Google aKnol?

    But I don't want them searching there.

  • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Friday December 14, 2007 @09:57AM (#21696636) Journal
    I can see it now: people will just insert stubs (or copy articles from other sources) for subjects that are likely to be popular search terms, for the sole purpose of reaping the ad revenues.

    Also, will we see a new form of "typo squatting", where people create articles with titles like "Slahsdot", linking to the correct article but again generating ad revenue? Meh. (Or worse, the typo page comes up like the real, incorrect slahsdot url with the words I loathe most on any web page "sponsored links", or "popular searches", and a bunch of link spam).
    • Attaching money to information is always bad. Press for profit obviously has its drawbacks (see 24 cable news in america), and this is essentially what I think this will turn into, like you seem to as well. I could see articles made artificially controversial just to bring in revenues. When compiling information, independence and objectivity are paramount and introducing profit into the mix only ever leads to problems.
      • Sure 24-hour cable news in America sucks. But there are some really fantastic newspapers - which are also "press for profit".

        I suspect you'll see a similarly full spectrum of things in the Google system. I don't see a big problem with that, given that Google's system does seem to be placing a strong emphasis on authorship, which should allow you to view stuff from sources you find worthwhile and ignore the ones you know are sensationalist nonsense. Much like how I don't bother watching the various opiniona
        • But there are some really fantastic newspapers - which are also "press for profit".
          Not really. The best news sources were often marginally profitable (if that) divisions within larger parent companies, operated out of a sense of responsibility that is becoming increasingly incomprehensible to us. I hear people bragging about how their preferred news source has the highest ratings, instead of how it broke the biggest story.
  • Brilliant (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AlpineR ( 32307 ) <wagnerr@umich.edu> on Friday December 14, 2007 @10:12AM (#21696772) Homepage

    Sometimes I think that Wikipedia and now Knol are just reinventing the World Wide Web. They're hosting pages that anybody can post and edit. Each page has some information and links to other pages. But they are providing at least one useful service, limiting which pages and changes are visible.

    Wikipedia controls changes at the word level. Any nontrivial article is a compilation from many writers, some of which may be feuding over the content. This is like an open source software project where anybody can edit the source and you must rely on some benevolent wizards to keep the whole cohesive.

    Knol controls changes at the article level and seems to be more like typical open source projects. Anybody can send changes to the maintainer who decides which make it into the mainstream release. Of course somebody could fork the project, but unless the fork is a real improvement over the original it won't attract attention.

    Overall Wikipedia's model is probably faster and Knol's is more stable if Google can keep it organized. Knol would also have the big advantage of actually being citable.

  • by Xelios ( 822510 ) on Friday December 14, 2007 @10:12AM (#21696778)
    What's to stop a few people from plagiarising (directly or indirectly) a bunch of articles on the most popular subjects as soon as this service opens?
  • Everyone can (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sepluv ( 641107 ) <blakesley@gmail.cAUDENom minus poet> on Friday December 14, 2007 @10:13AM (#21696786)

    At risk of stating the obvious, this won't get anywhere near as popular as Wikipedia because everyone can't edit any article (thereby keeping the articles up-to-date and reaching decisions by consensus so ensuring accuracy)--although I do suspect that Google will be able to develop a better interface--Wikimedia is in desperate need of developers to work on RFEs.

    An on-line encyclopedia model where articles are owned has been tried many times before by the likes of ODP/DMoz spin-off, the Open Encyclopedia Project [open-site.org], and Slashdot spin-off, Everything2 [everything2.com]. In fact, nearly all the online encyclopedias [wikipedia.org] except Wikipedia have some kind of article ownership even if in some cases it isn't absolute (including Wikipedia predecessor, Nupedia, of course, which was abandoned when it was realised how successful the anyone-can-edit model they were trialing was).

  • by SpinyNorman ( 33776 ) on Friday December 14, 2007 @10:22AM (#21696870)
    From the linked article, knol is about highlighting authors, and while (from the article) there may be competing knol pages on the same subject, there is no mention of someone being able to edit someone else's work - only to review or comment on it.

    This certainly sounds like a solution to the edit wars that plague WikiPedia (which is useful, but entirely unattractive to write for given how it is run. The visibility of competing knol articles will be determined by their usefulness as reflected by PageRank and would be saboteurs or self-promoters can only try to write a better (PageRank-ed) article - they can't corrupt someone elses work.

    • Swings and roundabouts, though - they're removing the peer review aspect. Wikipedia's never been amazing at it, but the {{citation needed}} tag at least gave an idication of what was true and may just be some Wikipedian's fantasy. They're replacing editor bickering with reader approval as a way of evaluating an article's quality, which will certainly make for a more pleasant writing and reading experience, but at what cost? There's a risk that it's going to be a Youtube for text, with all the pitfalls that [slashdot.org]
  • Google's article doesn't answer the burning question: is the K in Knol pronounced or silent?

    Oh you Knol, you are vile and vermicious!
    You are slimy and soggy and squishous!
    But we won't take heed of ya,
    We've got Wikipedia,
    So hop it and don't get ambitious!
  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <moiraNO@SPAMmodparlor.com> on Friday December 14, 2007 @10:27AM (#21696920)
    Streamline micropayments for the entire humanity and you've won. You've won against Amazon. Wikipedia. PayPal. Pearson Education. And Citygroup.

    Honestly, all we need is a "Google Bank" sort of thing, managing microtransactions for everyone on the planet with zero-fuss international transactions. Google actually has the power to handle this.

    If they pull through with this add-powered thing it is likely they can move up against Wikipedia in terms of content amount. Add in comments, ratings and suggestions to knol and you have a semi-wikipedia sort of thing that even pays of for the effort of the authors. Not the worst idea if you think of it. It could very well work.

    My 2 cents.
  • by NetSettler ( 460623 ) <kent-slashdot@nhplace.com> on Friday December 14, 2007 @10:30AM (#21696948) Homepage Journal

    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.

    Hmmm. A globally distributed entity that lets you create pages full of information where you control your own content and can link to other people's stuff... There's an idea. But gee, it sounds so familiar. Where have I heard that idea before?

    On the one hand, it looks like a simple land grab of the Internet. People are already doing precisely this thing--we call them web sites. But they aren't enough in Google's control, so one might argue this is a simple move to give them greater access and control and ownership of all the world's content.

    On the other hand, there are some evolutionary inevitabilities of the net which go unresolved and this could be a bid at solving that--I'd say a step toward, but I'd like to see robust competition for the space, not a lemming-like dive for this as if it's all we're getting.

    When the web originally came out, there was the hint of micropayments going to authors. That never happened. Portals figured out they could just charge for access and never let the money go to who it was accessing. This turned the economics of the web on its head because people invested money and time and energy in creating master works of all kinds, without being reimbursed in many cases. Some have figured out how to make businesses, but those are rarely content creators. The special skill of knowing something is not the same as the special skill of knowing how to build an enterprise web business. There are many, many writers and artists who make things that are useful yet don't know how to make enough money on it. So maybe this could help.

    And there's the other thing: We're all aging. That means that the content producers will start to die, and their works, the things people depend on, will go away. Archive.org will rescue some of that, but in its present form, that's not a robust solution. This would at least address the survivability issue.

    I would consider this at least something of a success not if Google gets a lot of content, but if good authors felt they could just sit down and create content and expect to be reimbursed for it in a way that fed their family, let them go on vacations, paid their medical bills, and allowed them to retire. If it's just dribs and drabs of pennies, it's doing nothing for society and everything for Google and it still doesn't solve anything.

    Then again, there's a big risk that it will bias all writing toward an advertising model, making our world even more driven by "fashion" and less by "substance" than it already is. I'm not sure that's good.

    And it's endowing a single entity with a lot of power over the world. I'd like to see other serious entrants in this space to keep the competition (if there can even be any) honest.

    Right now it just sounds like the Internet all over again, but with Google's Terms of Service.

  • Count me among the people who feel that this is a mistake - speaking as an author, and as a publisher who has worked with hundreds of authors over the years, single authorship and control simply won't work in this sort of a situation. Maintaining content is hugely difficult and time-consuming, and not something that most authors do well (if at all). The beauty of the Wikipedia approach is that anyone who wants can contribute as much or as little as they want, as frequently as they want. If one person loses
  • I think this is pretty significant. It presents a big opportunity for organizations that have experties in a particular niche. It may also reward "curators" who can aggregate the best information sources. Here's some key issues:

    - Google clearly envisions that the best entry on a topic will be the first search result for the relevant keyword, a role currently held by Wikipedia in many categories. Google's statement: "A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this

  • It seems like WebMD for the rest of us. Like Festivus is for the rest of us.
  • Wiki was a word with good symmetry, "knol" is not really, they should have picked something more elegant and catchy. Everyone knows "wiki" or "wikipedia" by now, it's a brand unto itself.

    Knol better be superior software or else I can't see it competing very well with wikipedia.
  • knol profit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wwmedia ( 950346 ) on Friday December 14, 2007 @02:01PM (#21699696)
    1. copy wikipedia article
    2. paste into knol
    3. profit!

    rinse and repeat

    guess which page will rank higher in google?
  • The Register [theregister.co.uk], with their usual love for all things Wikipedian, sum it up as "Google kicks Wikipedia in the googlies".

Loose bits sink chips.