Knol: Encyclopedia or Brain Food for the Googleplex

July 23, 2008

Jason Kincaid does a fine job summarizing the Knol launch. He characterizes Google’s new service as “the monetizable Wikipedia” for TechCrunch. There’s a lot of repetition floating around, and you will do well to read this take on the new Google service here.

I want to identify a key point in Mr. Kincaid’s write up and then offer a different view of the service. Be aware: I will be expressing an opinion based on the research I conducted for my studies about Google. My angle of attack, therefore, is different from those who are viewing the service as a Wikipedia clone or killer.

The key point in Mr. Kincaid’s essay for me was:

The big news here is that by assigning ownership and allowing authors to include AdSense ads on their articles, Google is effectively offering a monetary incentive to create good content. In theory, the best articles will get the most attention, and in turn the most revenue. Unfortunately, this plan may backfire on Google. We’re going to start seeing a flurry of articles on the most popular content…

Dead on target.

The obvious question is, “Does Google know that many people will write about hot topics?” This will create duplicate information which will be tough for a 7th grader to figure out.

My take on this concentration on hot topics is that Know is not an encyclopedia. Knol is a mechanism to add information to the Google knowledge bases. Why does Google give away free voice directory assistance? The reason is that Google is building its knowledge base of morphemes.

Knol is another nozzle on the Google vacuum cleaner of data. What better way to approach disambiguation than to have a flow of content from known contributors, data from user behavior, and pools of information on popular subjects. The system also shakes the bugs out of the JotSpot plumbing that lurks somewhere in the bowels of Knol.

Knol is important. Knol could become an encyclopedia. But Knol pays dividends to Googzilla in many ways. In my opinion, the data Knol produces are more important than some of the other features highlighted by the many people writing about this service.

Stephen Arnold, July 23, 2008

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