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Knol

Several experts see Knol as Google’s attempt to compete with Wikipedia.

Knol is a Google project which includes articles on topics ranging from “scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions,” according to Google.[3] Largely the brain child of Google vice president of engineering Udi Manber,[4] it was announced on December 13, 2007 and was opened in beta to the public on July 23, 2008[5] with a few hundred articles.[6]

Contents

At the time of its launch, Knol was seeded with several hundred articles, mostly in the health and medical field.[4] All knols are licensed by default under a Creative Commons copyleft license, but authors may choose traditional copyright protections.[4] It is unclear if this default license is compatible with the GFDL used in Wikipedia. All contributors must sign in first with a Google account.[1][9][10] Knol has a content policy describing topics unacceptable for the project. Relevant nudity is allowed,[11] but pornography, commercial or otherwise, is forbidden.[12] Also forbidden is discriminatory or violent content. Content designed to promote businesses, products or services is allowed, but articles devoid of substantive content and created solely to generate ad revenue are not.[12]

Readers may rate, comment on, or suggest edits to the articles. There can also be multiple articles for the same topic, each written by a different author. Google “[believes] that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content.”[3] Manber said that Google hopes “knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line” and that the authors will be able to decide whether advertisements will appear on their knols, and that if there are ads, a “substantial revenue share from the proceeds of those ads” will be given to authors. Manber also writes that “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.”[3]

 

[edit] Reception

 

[edit] Competition

Since its announcement in December of 2007, there has been speculation on Google’s motives and its position as a producer of content rather than as an organizer. The Guardians Jack Schofield argued that “Knol represents an attack on the media industry in general.”[13]

Knol has been described both as a rival to encyclopedia sites such as Wikipedia and Scholarpedia[14][10][15] and as a complement to Wikipedia, offering a different format that addresses many of Wikipedia’s shortcomings.[16][17][18] The non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, which owns the name Wikipedia and the servers hosting the Wikipedia projects, welcomed the Google Knol initiative saying that “The more good free content, the better for the world.”[19] While Wikipedia articles are written collectively under a “neutral point of view” policy,[20] Knol will highlight personal expertise by emphasizing authorship[10] and, like articles provided on Squidoo and Helium.com, knols will contain the personal opinions of the author.[3][21] Despite the official Wikimedia response and the differences in format, Wikimedia Foundation chair Florence Devouard has expressed concern over Knol’s potential threat to Wikipedia in terms of the competition it will create.[22] After Knol’s beta launch, Google product manager Cedric Dupont responded to the idea that Google intended Knol to be a “Wikipedia killer” by saying, “Google is very happy with Wikipedia being so successful. Anyone who tries to kill them would hurt us.”[6] The New York Times noted similarities in design between Knol and Wikipedia, such as use of the same font.[6] Dupont responded that the use was simply a coincidence as it is a commonly used font.[6]

Because of Knol’s format, some have said Knol will be more like About.com than Wikipedia.[15] According to Wolfgang Hansson, a writer at DailyTech, Knol may have been planned for About.com originally when it was up for acquisition. Hansson reported that several sources close to the sale said Google was planning to acquire About.com, but the executives at About.com learned Google was planning to move from About.com’s model to a wiki-style model. That would have meant layoffs for all 500 or so “Guides” at About.com.[23]

 

[edit] Conflict of interest

There has been debate whether Google search results can remain neutral because of possible conflict of interest.[24][25] According to Sullivan, “Google’s goal of making Knol pages easy to find on search engines could conflict with its need to remain unbiased.”[25] Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, raised similar concerns: “At the end of the day, there’s a fundamental conflict between the business Google is in and its social goals. What you’re seeing here, slowly, is Google embracing an advertising-driven model, in which money will have a greater impact on what people have ready access to.”[26] As a response to such concerns it has been pointed out[18][24] that Google already hosts large amounts of content in sites like YouTube, Blogger and Google Groups and that there is no significant difference in this case. Nicholas Carr, a frequent technology commentator, dismissed predictions of Google manipulating results saying that Google is hoping that the most popular Knol pages will rise naturally through the search results, challenging Wikipedia and providing another area of content that can carry Google ads.[27][28]

 

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b Sullivan, Danny (200712-13). “Google Knol – Google’s Play To Aggregate Knowledge Pages“. Search Engine Land. Retrieved on 200712-17. “Google Knol is designed to allow anyone to create a page on any topic, which others can comment on, rate, and contribute to if the primary author allows. […] Google also stressed to me […] that the service might not launch at all.”
  2. ^ A longer version of the screenshot: http://www.google.com/help/knol_screenshot.html
  3. ^ a b c d e f Manber, Udi (12/13/2007 06:01:00 PM). “Encouraging People to Contribute Knowledge“. Official Google blog. Google. Retrieved on 200807-23.
  4. ^ a b c Levy, Steven (July 23, 2008). “Google Throws Open Rival for Wikipedia — Anon Authors Discouraged“, Wired News. Retrieved on 200807-23. 
  5. ^ Mills, Ellis (200807-23). “Google’s Wikipedia rival, Knol, goes public“, CNET News. Retrieved on 200807-23. 
  6. ^ a b c d Helft, Miguel (July 23, 2008, 3:04 pm). “Wikipedia, Meet Knol“, The New York Times. Retrieved on 200807-23. 
  7. ^ Monaghan, Angela (200712-14). ““Google’s ‘knol’ may challenge Wikipedia“. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved on 200712-15.
  8. ^Google debuts knowledge project“. BBC (200712-15). Retrieved on 200712-15. “Many experts see the initiative as an attack on the widely used Wikipedia communal encyclopaedia.”
  9. ^ Needleman, Rafe (200712-14). “Google’s Knol experiment to rival Wikipedia?“, CNET Networks. Retrieved on 200712-18. “Since Knol pages will be authored, users won’t, presumably, be able to dive in and edit another page. They’ll be able to submit edits to the author for approval, though.” 
  10. ^ a b c Blakely, Rhys (200712-15). “Google to tackle Wikipedia with new knowledge service“. The Times. Retrieved on 200712-15. “[K]nol looks set to foster rivalry. Contributors to Knol will not be able to contribute anonymously and will not be able to edit each other’s work, […]. Whereas on Wikipedia, readers find only one entry on, say, the First World War, on Knol authors will submit separate pieces that will compete for advertising dollars.”
  11. ^Breast Augmentation“. Knol.
  12. ^ a bContent Policy“. knol.google.com. Google. Retrieved on 200807-23.
  13. ^ Schofield, Jack (200712-15). “Google tries Knol, an encyclopedia to replace Wikipedia“, The Guardian. Retrieved on 200712-15. 
  14. ^ Riley, Duncan (200712-14). “Google Knol: A Step Too Far?“. TechCrunch. Retrieved on 200712-14.
  15. ^ a b Frederick, Lane (200712-14). “Death Knell Sounds for Wikipedia, About.com“, NewsFactor Network. Retrieved on 200712-14. 
  16. ^ Masnick, Mike (200712-14). “Google Decides Organizing The World’s Information Is Easier If That Info Is Online“. Techdirt. Retrieved on 200712-14.
  17. ^ Manjoo, Farhad (200712-14). “Truthiness showdown: Google’s “Knol” vs. Wikipedia“. Salon.com. Retrieved on 200712-14.
  18. ^ a b Hof, Rob (200712-14). “Google’s Knol: No Wikipedia Killer“. Businessweek. Retrieved on 200712-14.
  19. ^ Levy, Ari (200712-14). “Google Starts Web Site Knol to Challenge Wikipedia“, Bloomberg. Retrieved on 200712-15. 
  20. ^Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view“.
  21. ^ Murrell, John (200712-14). “Google’s philosophy: Knol thyself“. SiliconValley.com. Retrieved on 200712-14.
  22. ^ [Foundation-l] [Announcement] update in board of trustees membership
  23. ^ Hansson, Wolfgang (200712-14). “Google Announces Knol Wikipedia-like Service“, DailyTech. Retrieved on 200712-14. 
  24. ^ a b Greenberg, Andy (200712-14). “Google’s Know-It-All Project“, Forbes. Retrieved on 200712-16. 
  25. ^ a b Helft, Miguel (200712-15). “Wikipedia Competitor Being Tested by Google“, New York Times. Retrieved on 200712-15. “Some critics said that shift could compromise Google’s objectivity in presenting search results.” 
  26. ^ Schiffman, Betsy (December 14, 2007). “Knol Launch: Google’s ‘Units of Knowledge’ May Raise Conflict of Interest“. Wired. Retrieved on 200712-15.
  27. ^ Carr, Nicholas (December 13, 2007). “Google Knol takes aim at Wikipedia“. Retrieved on 200712-14.
  28. ^ Scott Morrison, “Google Targets Wikipedia With New ‘Knol’ Pages”, Wall Street Journal, December 14, 2007

 

[edit] External links

Knol pages are “meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read”, according to Manber.[3] The term knol, named after a “unit of knowledge”,[7] refers to both the project and an article in the project.[3] Several experts see Knol as Google’s attempt to compete with Wikipedia.[8]

Contribuye.
Edita este knol.

 

Comparte lo que sabes
Escribe un knol.

 

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Knol certification by authors

This knol is an authoritative article – Certification by Other Authors

Knol’s main aim is to create authoritative articles about specific topics.

But the platform provides an opportunity for experimentation by authors to provide various formats. But unless the main objective is fulfilled to a large extent, Knol may not succeed in the first place to provide opportunity for other forms of expression by us (author community).

Therefore make an attempt to certify knols by any other author as an authoritative knol. If we can certify a great number of knols as authoritative articles we can make a noise about it in various forms of media. If we can’t then we have to change our approach to creating knols. Start.

http://knol.google.com/k/narayana-rao-kvss/-/2utb2lsm2k7a/267#view

This knol is an authoritative article – Self Certification the Author

Knol’s main aim is to create authoritative articles about specific topics.

But the platform provides an opportunity for experimentation by authors to provide various formats. But unless the main objective is fulfilled to a large extent, Knol may not succeed in the first place to provide opportunity for other forms of expression by us (author community).
How many of your knols are original and authoritative articles on a specific topic? Self certify yourself. Make an entry of the knol that you self certify here.

http://knol.google.com/k/narayana-rao-kvss/-/2utb2lsm2k7a/268

The author community has a role to play in the success of knol as a platform.

Somebody wrote a comment here already. Don’t copy from wikipedia.

Última modificación: 14/10/2008 07:09

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Violation of the GFDL licence

This article was copied from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knol). All material from Wikipedia is released under the GFDL licence, which forces people who copy it or modify it to release under the same licence. You can’t take it from Wikipedia and released here under “Creative Commons 3.0” because these licences are not compatible.
Última modificación: 30/07/2008 07:54

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Publicado por Charley Wang; última modificación: 30/07/2008 07:54

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Citizendium’s Sanger on Google Knol: not afraid of a rerun

By Nate Anderson | Published: December 30, 2007 – 11:15PM CT

When Google announced its Knol project this December, analysts immediately pegged it as a response to the fact that Wikipedia entries routinely show up in the top five results for Google searches on just about everything. Driving that traffic to Google-hosted Knol pages that can also carry Google ads could be a nice way to expand Google’s ad placement network, and to do so under the guise of helping the world share information (though that’s probably a goal, too). But the Knol project actually has more in common with the Citizendium, the expert-guided wiki launched by Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger, than with Wikipedia. Both Knol and Citizendium stress (though in different ways) real names, credentials, and expertise. But with Google bringing so much publicity to the Knol project and offering contributors a cut of any ad revenue earned from their Knol pages, can projects like Citizendium survive?

Soon after the Google announcement, Sanger responded in a blog post: yes, Citizendium still has “better chance” to become the “best knowledge base that Earth has ever seen.” Sanger later expanded on those remarks in response to questions posed by Ars, and the issues he raises should be of interest to anyone concerned for the promise of communal knowledge production.


Larry Sanger

Sanger’s main source of confidence is that he believes the Knol system has been tried before, and has failed. “The main elements of the Knol system have been tested repeatedly, and shown to produce, at best, large amounts of mediocre content,” he says, singling out sites like h2g2.com, squidoo.com, and everything2.com. “Maybe Google will have a different experience just because they’re Google, but I doubt it.”

He sees the communal aspects of knowledge production as Citizendium’s greatest advantage. Unlike Knol, which will carry articles authored by a single person and won’t be directly editable by others, Citizendium retains more of Wikipedia’s freewheeling format; anyone can make changes directly to articles, which are then vetted by one of the experts on the topic before becoming “approved.”

People are working together on a shared project with Citizendium in a way that they aren’t in Knol (at least as that project has been described so far), and Sanger hopes that the non-commercial, cooperative nature of the venture will attract enough “idealists” to keep the project moving. He stresses that Citizendium has racked up more words in its first year than did Wikipedia.

But can idealism of this kind really attract the kind of talent such a massive project needs, or will the lure of Google’s shiny lucre entice people to write for Knol instead? Sanger admits that there will be “exchanges of contributors” between the two projects, but remains confident that “Citizendium will get more emigrants from Knol than Knol will get from the Citizendium.”

This view is based in part on the premise that most contributors will make almost no money from Knol. Until more details are available, it’s hard to say whether this belief is accurate; should Knol start to generate large payouts for top contributors, it could tempt plenty of writers who might otherwise spend more time in communities like Citizendium.

But the battle Citizendium is fighting goes far beyond Knol; it goes even beyond Wikipedia. Sanger sees Citizendium’s approach as fundamentally offensive to the entire ethos of Web 2.0, which he characterizes in this way:

  1. radical egalitarianism
  2. anonymity
  3. an immature, anarchical community
  4. for-profit Silicon Valley ownership rather than contributor control

Should Citizendium succeed—and it may well do so alongside both Knol and Wikipedia—it would do so by standing these premises on their heads. Personal, real-names accountability, a role for experts, an ordered community—these are the sorts of things that Citizendium stands for. Sanger believes that they represent an inherently better approach to knowledge production. Now his project just needs to generate the content to prove it.

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Google to Wikipedia: “Knol” thine enemy

By Nate Anderson | Published: December 14, 2007 – 12:06PM CT

Google has surely noticed that much of its search traffic is directed to Wikipedia, which regularly has an entry in the top five search results for any particular term. If Google could steer all that traffic toward its own properties instead, and if those properties contained Google ads, and if Google split its revenue with the article creators… well, it’s not hard to see why this would start to look pretty good to both Google and content creators, and why such an initiative could ramp up quickly.

Udi Manber, Google’s VP of Engineering, announced just such a plan last night, a program that (in his words) will make it easier for those with knowledge to share it with the world. The system is called “Knol”—which refers to a “knowledge unit”—and it will let anyone create, edit, and profit from creating a page packed with information on a specific topic. In other words, Google doesn’t just want to link Wikipedia, it wants to be Wikipedia.

For a company that got its start by bowing at the Altar of the Algorithm, bringing human-created content in-house is the most recent manifestation of a paradigm shift that has been in the works for the last few years now, one that hasn’t been happening without controversy. With the announcement of Knol, Google is already inviting questions about whether its reach has now extended too far.

Land of the knols

The basic point behind the knol system is to highlight (and provide incentives for) authors—a direct shot at the anonymity of Wikipedia and other Web 2.0 systems that don’t allow experts to stress their own credentials when posting.

Each knol (it’s the name of both the pages and the service) is just a web page hosted by Google. It has a special layout, one generated by Google-supplied tools, that includes content, links, and an author biography.


A sample knol page

Each knol is controlled by the author who creates it. While strong community tools for suggesting changes, making comments, and ranking knols will exist, it’s up to each knol’s author to control the contents of the page.

Google will host the content but will not attempt to edit or verify it, instead trusting that the best knols will naturally rise to the top (a single topic can have multiple knols, each competing for higher placement in Google’s search results.)

Essentially, Google is offering to let people rebuild Wikipedia, and it seems to be targeting two classes of users: 1) experts who may not all feel welcome in Wikipedia, where their actions carry no special weight, and 2) those who aren’t keen on spending their free time contributing to Wikipedia without compensation. While Wikipedia itself is diverse enough to survive, smaller projects like Citizendium could find the going much tougher.

You say you want a revolution? Well…

The Knol project is, in one sense, as nonrevolutionary as they come. Making information pages simple to develop? Ranking those pages? Monetizing those pages? Google itself does all three things already on the web through tools like Blogger, Google Search, and AdSense. Essentially, Google is just rolling out a new set of web page creation tools with a single template to work on.

Google’s professed interest in making it easy for people to put information on this thing called “the Internet” might have rung true in 1998, but that simply can’t be the reason for Knol in 2007. It’s already too easy. Wikipedia makes it simple. So do blogging tools.

Instead, Google wants to mount a direct challenge to various social knowledge sites. Although it won’t have an exclusive license to the content created for Knol, and though it will offer Knol pages to be indexed by all search engines, it’s clear that Google really wants to be in control of a vast, Wikipedia/Citizendium knowledge store. And it can offer something that Wikipedia, et al., cannot: cash.

AdSense and its discontents

The revenue sharing bit is one of the keys to the whole project. Google is going to let authors choose if they want to include Google ads on their knols. The truly altruistic might say no. Most people will say yes.

And that’s where things could get ugly. The lure of filthy lucre is likely to force several changes on the community model of current social knowledge projects. For one, it will break the community-oriented, we’re-all-working-on-this-together spirit of sites like Wikipedia. With Knol, we’re not in this together; we’re in competition. Writing a knol on a popular topic could become a cash cow, as Google promises to split ad revenue with the author.

Many different authors can take a shot at creating a knol on the same topic, which should allow the best pages to claw their way to the top in a sort of survival of the fittest. But the thing about intellectual Darwinism is that it can be vicious, and we expect the same to be true of competition for the top knol spots.

Will Google be the one to police the inevitable claims of plagiarism? Will it do anything when a knol rips off pictures from another knol? What happens when Wikipedia gets ripped off or rewritten? Google is famously loathe to intervene manually, but when the company is creating an ecosystem that rewards individuals and puts so much cash on the table, problems are sure to result.

Maybe Google can be evil

The blogosphere reaction has already been electric. Even those likely to give Google the benefit of the doubt when it comes to not being evil are having second thoughts. What possible reason does the company have for moving beyond indexing and into the hosting and control of this sort of content?

Actually, Google has been making these moves for years. Google Book Search, Google Video, and YouTube are only the highest-profile examples of the way that Google has moved far beyond its roots in pointing people to other places on the ‘Net.

Social knowledge, as exemplified by the high search placement of Wikipedia articles and the growth of sites like Mahalo, has been high-profile for long enough to earn a spot on the Google strategic radar screen. Despite the idealistic sentiments about ease of knowledge production, Knol looks more like an attempt to kneecap various sites that now command a good chunk of Google’s outgoing search result links.

With Google having a vested interest in knols, but also being the main search engine that will index and rank those links, many people already suspect a conflict of interest. While we suspect Google will be careful not to give a special boost to knol results (at the risk of ruining user confidence in its results), others aren’t so sure. At the very least, it will create suspicion.

Om Malik argues that this is just “Google using its page rank system to its own benefit. Think of it this way: Google’s mysterious Page Rank system is what Internet Explorer was to Microsoft in the late 1990s: a way to control the destiny of others.”

TechCrunch wonders if this is “a step too far.” Knol “brings the power of Google into a marketplace that is already rich with competition,” writes Duncan Riley, “and a marketplace where Google can use its might to crush that competition by favoring pages from Knol over others, on what is the world’s most popular search engine.”

And Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land says, “It begins to feel like the knowledge aggregators are going to push out anyone publishing knowledge outside such aggregation systems.”

This can’t be the reaction that Google was hoping for with its announcement, but it may not matter. The naysayers can do their naysaying, but we suspect that the prospect of cash, combined with the competition for top spots in the Knol hierarchy, will lead to plenty of quality content at a rapid clip. Whether that’s a positive development for the web is another question.

Discuss Print

Read Full Post »

Google to Wikipedia: “Knol” thine enemy

By Nate Anderson | Published: December 14, 2007 – 12:06PM CT

Google has surely noticed that much of its search traffic is directed to Wikipedia, which regularly has an entry in the top five search results for any particular term. If Google could steer all that traffic toward its own properties instead, and if those properties contained Google ads, and if Google split its revenue with the article creators… well, it’s not hard to see why this would start to look pretty good to both Google and content creators, and why such an initiative could ramp up quickly.  

Udi Manber, Google’s VP of Engineering, announced just such a plan last night, a program that (in his words) will make it easier for those with knowledge to share it with the world. The system is called “Knol”—which refers to a “knowledge unit”—and it will let anyone create, edit, and profit from creating a page packed with information on a specific topic. In other words, Google doesn’t just want to link Wikipedia, it wants to be Wikipedia.

For a company that got its start by bowing at the Altar of the Algorithm, bringing human-created content in-house is the most recent manifestation of a paradigm shift that has been in the works for the last few years now, one that hasn’t been happening without controversy. With the announcement of Knol, Google is already inviting questions about whether its reach has now extended too far.

Land of the knols

The basic point behind the knol system is to highlight (and provide incentives for) authors—a direct shot at the anonymity of Wikipedia and other Web 2.0 systems that don’t allow experts to stress their own credentials when posting.

Each knol (it’s the name of both the pages and the service) is just a web page hosted by Google. It has a special layout, one generated by Google-supplied tools, that includes content, links, and an author biography.


A sample knol page

Each knol is controlled by the author who creates it. While strong community tools for suggesting changes, making comments, and ranking knols will exist, it’s up to each knol’s author to control the contents of the page.

Google will host the content but will not attempt to edit or verify it, instead trusting that the best knols will naturally rise to the top (a single topic can have multiple knols, each competing for higher placement in Google’s search results.)

Essentially, Google is offering to let people rebuild Wikipedia, and it seems to be targeting two classes of users: 1) experts who may not all feel welcome in Wikipedia, where their actions carry no special weight, and 2) those who aren’t keen on spending their free time contributing to Wikipedia without compensation. While Wikipedia itself is diverse enough to survive, smaller projects like Citizendium could find the going much tougher.

You say you want a revolution? Well…

The Knol project is, in one sense, as nonrevolutionary as they come. Making information pages simple to develop? Ranking those pages? Monetizing those pages? Google itself does all three things already on the web through tools like Blogger, Google Search, and AdSense. Essentially, Google is just rolling out a new set of web page creation tools with a single template to work on.

Google’s professed interest in making it easy for people to put information on this thing called “the Internet” might have rung true in 1998, but that simply can’t be the reason for Knol in 2007. It’s already too easy. Wikipedia makes it simple. So do blogging tools.

Instead, Google wants to mount a direct challenge to various social knowledge sites. Although it won’t have an exclusive license to the content created for Knol, and though it will offer Knol pages to be indexed by all search engines, it’s clear that Google really wants to be in control of a vast, Wikipedia/Citizendium knowledge store. And it can offer something that Wikipedia, et al., cannot: cash.

AdSense and its discontents

The revenue sharing bit is one of the keys to the whole project. Google is going to let authors choose if they want to include Google ads on their knols. The truly altruistic might say no. Most people will say yes.

And that’s where things could get ugly. The lure of filthy lucre is likely to force several changes on the community model of current social knowledge projects. For one, it will break the community-oriented, we’re-all-working-on-this-together spirit of sites like Wikipedia. With Knol, we’re not in this together; we’re in competition. Writing a knol on a popular topic could become a cash cow, as Google promises to split ad revenue with the author.

Many different authors can take a shot at creating a knol on the same topic, which should allow the best pages to claw their way to the top in a sort of survival of the fittest. But the thing about intellectual Darwinism is that it can be vicious, and we expect the same to be true of competition for the top knol spots.

Will Google be the one to police the inevitable claims of plagiarism? Will it do anything when a knol rips off pictures from another knol? What happens when Wikipedia gets ripped off or rewritten? Google is famously loathe to intervene manually, but when the company is creating an ecosystem that rewards individuals and puts so much cash on the table, problems are sure to result.

Maybe Google can be evil

The blogosphere reaction has already been electric. Even those likely to give Google the benefit of the doubt when it comes to not being evil are having second thoughts. What possible reason does the company have for moving beyond indexing and into the hosting and control of this sort of content?

Actually, Google has been making these moves for years. Google Book Search, Google Video, and YouTube are only the highest-profile examples of the way that Google has moved far beyond its roots in pointing people to other places on the ‘Net.

Social knowledge, as exemplified by the high search placement of Wikipedia articles and the growth of sites like Mahalo, has been high-profile for long enough to earn a spot on the Google strategic radar screen. Despite the idealistic sentiments about ease of knowledge production, Knol looks more like an attempt to kneecap various sites that now command a good chunk of Google’s outgoing search result links.

With Google having a vested interest in knols, but also being the main search engine that will index and rank those links, many people already suspect a conflict of interest. While we suspect Google will be careful not to give a special boost to knol results (at the risk of ruining user confidence in its results), others aren’t so sure. At the very least, it will create suspicion.

Om Malik argues that this is just “Google using its page rank system to its own benefit. Think of it this way: Google’s mysterious Page Rank system is what Internet Explorer was to Microsoft in the late 1990s: a way to control the destiny of others.”

TechCrunch wonders if this is “a step too far.” Knol “brings the power of Google into a marketplace that is already rich with competition,” writes Duncan Riley, “and a marketplace where Google can use its might to crush that competition by favoring pages from Knol over others, on what is the world’s most popular search engine.”

And Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land says, “It begins to feel like the knowledge aggregators are going to push out anyone publishing knowledge outside such aggregation systems.”

This can’t be the reaction that Google was hoping for with its announcement, but it may not matter. The naysayers can do their naysaying, but we suspect that the prospect of cash, combined with the competition for top spots in the Knol hierarchy, will lead to plenty of quality content at a rapid clip. Whether that’s a positive development for the web is another question.

Discuss Print

Read Full Post »

Citizendium’s Sanger on Google Knol: not afraid of a rerun

By Nate Anderson | Published: December 30, 2007 – 11:15PM CT

When Google announced its Knol project this December, analysts immediately pegged it as a response to the fact that Wikipedia entries routinely show up in the top five results for Google searches on just about everything. Driving that traffic to Google-hosted Knol pages that can also carry Google ads could be a nice way to expand Google’s ad placement network, and to do so under the guise of helping the world share information (though that’s probably a goal, too).But the Knol project actually has more in common with the Citizendium, the expert-guided wiki launched by Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger, than with Wikipedia. Both Knol and Citizendium stress (though in different ways) real names, credentials, and expertise. But with Google bringing so much publicity to the Knol project and offering contributors a cut of any ad revenue earned from their Knol pages, can projects like Citizendium survive?

Soon after the Google announcement, Sanger responded in a blog post: yes, Citizendium still has “better chance” to become the “best knowledge base that Earth has ever seen.” Sanger later expanded on those remarks in response to questions posed by Ars, and the issues he raises should be of interest to anyone concerned for the promise of communal knowledge production.


Larry Sanger

Sanger’s main source of confidence is that he believes the Knol system has been tried before, and has failed. “The main elements of the Knol system have been tested repeatedly, and shown to produce, at best, large amounts of mediocre content,” he says, singling out sites like h2g2.com, squidoo.com, and everything2.com. “Maybe Google will have a different experience just because they’re Google, but I doubt it.”

He sees the communal aspects of knowledge production as Citizendium’s greatest advantage. Unlike Knol, which will carry articles authored by a single person and won’t be directly editable by others, Citizendium retains more of Wikipedia’s freewheeling format; anyone can make changes directly to articles, which are then vetted by one of the experts on the topic before becoming “approved.”

People are working together on a shared project with Citizendium in a way that they aren’t in Knol (at least as that project has been described so far), and Sanger hopes that the non-commercial, cooperative nature of the venture will attract enough “idealists” to keep the project moving. He stresses that Citizendium has racked up more words in its first year than did Wikipedia.

But can idealism of this kind really attract the kind of talent such a massive project needs, or will the lure of Google’s shiny lucre entice people to write for Knol instead? Sanger admits that there will be “exchanges of contributors” between the two projects, but remains confident that “Citizendium will get more emigrants from Knol than Knol will get from the Citizendium.”

This view is based in part on the premise that most contributors will make almost no money from Knol. Until more details are available, it’s hard to say whether this belief is accurate; should Knol start to generate large payouts for top contributors, it could tempt plenty of writers who might otherwise spend more time in communities like Citizendium.

But the battle Citizendium is fighting goes far beyond Knol; it goes even beyond Wikipedia. Sanger sees Citizendium’s approach as fundamentally offensive to the entire ethos of Web 2.0, which he characterizes in this way:

  1. radical egalitarianism
  2. anonymity
  3. an immature, anarchical community
  4. for-profit Silicon Valley ownership rather than contributor control

Should Citizendium succeed—and it may well do so alongside both Knol and Wikipedia—it would do so by standing these premises on their heads. Personal, real-names accountability, a role for experts, an ordered community—these are the sorts of things that Citizendium stands for. Sanger believes that they represent an inherently better approach to knowledge production. Now his project just needs to generate the content to prove it.

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