Sorry for the mixed metaphor, but I assure you, it gets worse.

Google may be taking a shot at Wikipedia (and similar projects) with its newly unveiled Knol project. Knol was announced many moons ago but has been under cover and password protected with only a few special people allowed in to see what was going on and contribute. Now, it is “open to everyone” according to an announcement made this week.

What the heck are we talking about?

A ‘Knol” is a unit of knowledge …. a write up, blog-post or wiki-article-like about a particular topic, from an authoritative source.

The key principle behind Knol is authorship. Every knol will have an author (or group of authors) who put their name behind their content. It’s their knol, their voice, their opinion. We expect that there will be multiple knols on the same subject, and we think that is good.

Google provides tools for authors to work together to develop the Knols, and the Knols will accept comments. In addition, because of an agreement made with New Yorker magazine, you get to put up to one New Yorker cartoon on each Knol.
i-9c96ba0855d78a24cd3b236e2f1a0264-knol.jpg


I typed in several keywords in the search of the Knol site, just to see if I could assess the quality of the Knols vis-a-vis topics for which I have authoritative knowledge. None of the terms resulted in a match.

As far as I can tell the Knols are not organized in any way that lets you really get an overview of what there is, but then again, neither is Wikipedia, now that I think of it. A lok at what is present indicate that the vast majority of entries are medical. Here is a sampling of topics:

Conjunctivitis
Croup
BRAIN: CT, MRI
Acute Renal Failure
Prostate Cancer
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Barbecue Sauces
Barbecue
Breathing Wine
Chicago Hot Dogs
Cole Slaw
Glogg

OK, so there is something for which I have authoritative knowledge: Barbecue. Let’s have a look…

… dum de dum de dum dum de dum (that’s you waiting around while I read) de dum dedum dedum…..

OK, let’s break it down:

Some folks think that barbecue, like jazz, is an American invention. Alas, neither the cooking method nor the word is American.

Alas? Are we upset about this? Or is this a trite and hackneyed word choice. Alas, I think the latter.

Roasting meat over a fire and smoking meat slowly have been around since naked humans lived in caves. European artists have painted pictures of barbecues since pig hair bristles were first wrapped around a stick to make a brush (the ox roast shown here took place in Italy in the 1500s).

Huh? What is a naked human living in a cave? What that a phase in human history, or is the concept of the ‘cave man’ a trite and hackneyed device married to a pernicious falsehood. Whatever…

Looking over the rest of the entry I see that it is all about the origin of the word and a somewhat amusing essay of the meaning of barbecue. There is no information on how do throw a braii, throw brats on the Weber, or barbeque the ribs.

This particular authoratitive entry is by Craig Meathead Goldwyn, wine and beer critic and Kansas City Barbecue Association Certified BBQ Judge. His talents are regarding barbecue do not come out in this Knol. He should write another one.

I’m sure Knol is going to be great, but it might take some time to build up content. I would love to hear from Wikipedia authors (I know you are out there) on this: Are the things you like about Wikipedia embodied in this new project, and the things you don’t like about Wikipedia left aside? Or the reverse? Or what?

Knol is here.

Comments

  1. #1 Gimme danger
    July 25, 2008

    Ouch… as a wiki editor, my favorite part is being able to cut the stupid out of other people’s writing. If there were an “edit this page” button, the hackneyed BBQ writing would be gone, I tell you, GONE.

  2. #2 Winawer
    July 25, 2008

    I can’t help thinking that leaving nobody to edit this stuff is a problem. With the exception of blogs and self-published stuff, most writing has somebody looking over it. If it’s mainstream publishing, then there are editors and possibly fact-checkers who go over publications before they come out. If it’s Wikipedia, the mob does that (and faster, though maybe not better). How are “Knols” better than either of those publishing methods?

  3. #3 Hank
    July 25, 2008

    The authorship concept is interesting, but I wonder what will happen when the original author loses interest. What field of study is so static that nothing of interest needs to be added from time to time? Apart from creationism of course, where only the PR section needs updating…

    Somehow I don’t see a model like for instance the debian package maintainers, where there’s an inherent need, i.e. keeping your own system(s) up to date, for people to stay when the initial interest wanes, or to provide enough pressure for someone else to pick up the slack, if that is even possible in the Knol model.

  4. #4 student_b
    July 26, 2008

    Color me not impressed. (Is that even a saying in English?)

    Computer Theology (Wacky, I know, but wacky stuff is fun stuff. :) )

    http://knol.google.com/k/bertrand-du-castel/computer-theology/3cjtq1rfm2r15/2#H1-Chapter-1-Tat-Tvam-Asi-7

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_Theology

    Well, both the wiki and the knol entry are pretty much the same (word for word in certain parts). Only it’s much more obvious that the knol version is only there to promote the book by the creator of the entry.

    I mean, listing the book chapters?

    Also the wikipedia entry is much more useful, since it has something wonderful called links, which the knol entry lacks.

    So in summary:

    wiki 1
    knol 0
    ;)

  5. #5 student_b
    July 26, 2008

    Knol entries:

    Can You Believe Both the Bible and Evolution?

    Why Don’t People Understand the Kingdom of God?

    Are You Missing Out on A Blessing From God?

    Does God Allow Us to Choose Our Own Religious Holidays?

    God Rocks!

    Or compare the entries for Islam in wiki and knol. The entry in knol is some extracts from the Quran nothing else basically, the wiki entry has tons of references, etymology, histroy, etc. etc.

    That makes me wondering, is an authoritative infestation of a godbother also a troll infestation, or something more?

    Or two out of three articles about Iran consist are just copies from the wiki entry…

    I could go on and on and on. But I would say, the release of knol is a failure, atm. Wondering if it can get better with the current system?…

  6. #6 Webs
    July 26, 2008

    Unless I heard wrong, I thought the author could edit the page. And Google Knol has an option for authors to allow comments and/or some other system of feedback. Meaning articles that allow such feedback would be more trustworthy than others that do not, unless the author is authoritative, balanced, and accurate and writes a damn good article.