Google's Answer to Wikipedia

Google recently announced Knol, a new experimental website that puts information online in a way that encourages authorial attribution. Unlike articles for the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which anyone is free to revise, Knol articles will have individual authors, whose pictures and credentials will be prominently displayed alongside their work. Currently, participation in the project is by invitation only, but Google will eventually open up Knol to the public. At that point, a given topic may end up with multiple articles by different authors. Readers will be able to rate the articles, and the better an article's rating, the higher it will rank in Google's search results.

Google coined the term "knol" to denote a unit of knowledge but also uses it to refer to an authoritative Web-based article on a particular subject. At present, Google will not describe the project in detail, but Udi Manber, one of the company's vice presidents of engineering, provided a cursory sketch on the company's blog site. "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," Manber writes. And in a departure from Wikipedia's model of community authorship, he adds that "the key idea behind the Knol project is to highlight authors."

Noah Kagan, founder of the premier conference about online communities, Community Next, sees an increase in authorial attribution as a change for the better. He notes the success of the review site Yelp, which has risen to popularity in the relatively short span of three years. "Yelp's success is based on people getting attribution for the reviews that they are posting," Kagan says. "Because users have their reputation on the line, they are more likely to leave legitimate answers." Knol also has features intended to establish an article's credibility, such as references to its sources and a listing of the title, job history, and institutional affiliation of the author. Knol may thus attract experts who are turned off by group editing and prefer the style of attribution common in journalistic and academic publications.

Manber writes that "for many topics, there will likely be competing knols on the same subject. Competition of ideas is a good thing." But Mark Pellegrini, administrator and featured-article director at Wikipedia and a member of its press committee, sees two problems with this plan. "I think what will happen is that you'll end up with five or ten articles," he says, "none of which is as comprehensive as if the people who wrote them had worked together on a single article." These articles may be redundant or even contradictory, he says. Knol authors may also have less incentive to link keywords to competitors' articles, creating "walled gardens." Pellegrini describes the effect thus: "Knol authors will tend to link from their articles to other articles they've written, but not to articles written by others."

News source: Technology Review

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19 Comments

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"Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you're getting the best possible information." - Michael Scott, The Office (US)

What's to stop people just copying and pasting whole Wikipedia articles for the sake of popularity points?

Theres nothing wrong with taking something and making something similar to it but better...but come on google. thats all you do!!! Come up with something new for once!

And what happens when the top rated article has a glaring error in it? What then?
Imagine, if you will, someone wrote an article on something controversial like Religion and basically wrote "all muslims should be shot", then a bunch of half-wits rate it highly (I'm looking at you, 4chan), propelling it to the top of the search results?
I see too many problems and too many implications for this method of creating encyclopedias, I'd rather just stick to wiki (although if I could, I'd sack the entirety of the upper management of that site).

Orlando Rays said,
So, we go from the anarchy to the popularity contest?

Yes, that's it. If some pretentious fool writes there's no LIFE after LIFE and 6 billion idiots dumbly accept this and support him in this regard, he sure will be considered the most knowledgeable idiot on Earth! And all his spiritual and oracular authority will obviously stem from this popularpedia thingy. Popularity is the God of the peoplepedia. Thanks Peida. Amen. :P

Orlando Rays said,
So, we go from the anarchy to the popularity contest?

I wouldn't call Wikipedia an anarchy though, there are sets of rules after all that end up leading to well referenced articles like these. Not all articles are there yet though, and likely will never be, but more and more will get there.

Since when did we need an "answer" to wikipedia?

Google doesn't need to be a hero for everything. They nailed search and advertising. Quit while you're ahead.

Agreed! I like Google search, Youtube, Googlemail and Googlecheckout (E-Bay's PayPal is the devil incarnate! ) . Google risks slipping into a Microsoft or Intel monolith and becoming hated. The difference is people can easily and quickly slip any shackles created by Google.

Wikipedia is absolutely fantastic, as can be seen by contempt from academia, and every other snob that thinks they have the true knowledge of the world. Why anyone would give their time freely to give Google more potential for advertising revenue. Install a bit of freeware on your PC called Privoxy (a proxy server that can filter content) and see how much of your everyday browsing reports back to Google and Double Click.

This looks fantastic. One of the main drawbacks (and advantages) of wikipedia is that anyone can edit it. Even though it is moderated (fairy well done too) it is still limited to the fact that it is not necessarily moderated by experts in that field. I'm sure that knol will take off pretty well.

neufuse said,
What, it's not called Googapeida? Knol... wierd name

I agree. It's the short form for "knowledge", I guess. "Weird" also maybe on account of the fact that, in Portuguese, Googapeida would sound like "Google peida", which in turn is the equivalent of "Google farts", in English. :P Hahaha!... Just kidding. Don't take me wrong.