Knol Understanding

September 23, 2008

Slate’s Farhad Manjoo’s “Why Google’s Online Encyclopedia Will Never Be as Good as Wikipedia” takes a somewhat frosty stance toward Knol. You can read his interesting essay here. For me the most significant point was this one:

Knol is a wasteland of such articles: text copied from elsewhere, outdated entries abandoned by their creators, self-promotion, spam, and a great many old college papers that people have dug up from their files. Part of Knol’s problem is its novelty. Google opened the system for public contribution just a couple months ago, so it’s unreasonable to expect too much of it at the moment; Wikipedia took years to attract the sort of contributors and editors who’ve made it the amazing resource it is now.

Knol is one of those Google products that appear and seem to have little or no overt support. I agree. I would like to make three comments:

  1. Knol may be a way for Google to get content for itself first and then secondarily for its users. Google wants information, and Knol is a different mechanism for information acquisition. Assuming that it is a Wikipedia may only be partially correct.
  2. Knol, like many other Google services, does not appear to have a champion. As a result, Knol evolves slowly or not at all. Knol may be another way for Google to determine interest, learn about authors who are alleged experts, and determine if submitted content validates or invalidates other data known to Google.
  3. Knol may be part of a larger grid or data ecosystem. As a result, looking at it out of context and comparing it to a product with which it may not be designed to compete might be a partially informed approach.

Based on my analysis of the Google JotSpot acquisition and the still youthful Knol service, I’m not prepared to label Knol or describe it as either a success or failure. In my 10pinion, Knol is a multi purpose beta. Its principal value may be in the enterprise, not the consumer space. But for me, I have too little data and an incomplete understanding of how the JotSpot “plumbing” is implemented; therefore, I am neutral. What’s your view?

Stephen Arnold, September 23, 2008


One Response to “Knol Understanding”

  1. Otis Gospodnetic on September 23rd, 2008 11:13 am

    But does Knol bring anything new to the table? Does it do anything better than Wikipedia? The reason Google search succeeded is because it brought something novel to search – the PageRank.

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