Pharyngula

What is this abomination called knol?

I’d never heard of knol before, but apparently it was Google’s attempt at creating a competitor to Wikipedia. Wikipedia has its flaws, but wow, it was revealing to see the alternative: knol is awful.

It was brought to my attention because it is infested with woo. To see how bad it is, compare the answers to this question:

Does god exist? (wiki)

Does god exist? (knol)

The Wikipedia query returns a fairly objective article that lists various arguments that different faiths and philosophies have made. The knol query returns a
ghastly article by a creationist that actually uses the argument that if you shake the pieces of a broken watch, they’ll never spontaneously reassemble into a working watch. This isn’t a useful starting point for asking the question; it’s a pile of nonsense that misleads. Other articles returned are, for instance, sectarian testimonials by various churches.

Well, the story is that knol is young, it hasn’t developed a full knowledge base yet, but its supposed to be good for scientific and medical topics. So I gave it a shot, and searched for a familiar term of art, cell signaling, on both.

Cell signaling (wiki)
Cell signaling (knol)

Wikipedia returns a respectable summary article that gives a general overview, brings up some of the key terms, and gives examples. It would be a fine starting point for starting to look into the subject.

The knol search returns a hodge-podge of articles; the top link is to a grad student’s scan of part of a poster on signaling. It’s not at all useful. Otherwise, it’s a mix of fragments, mixed up with a few bits on how mobile phones work. It’s useless.

I tried to help the knol search a bit by adding a few other terms, but discovered that most of them just confused it worse; don’t ever try to include the word “protein”, for example, unless you’re really looking for fad diets.

Here’s the real test: I asked Wikipedia about knol, and knol about Wikipedia.

Knol (wiki)
Wikipedia (knol)

The Wikipedia article presents just the facts; knol returns yet another mess,
some of them OK, others are
incoherent tirades against Wikipedia.

This thing was announced in 2007, and it supposedly has been building up content for a few years. A link to it was sent to me because it really has become the domain of kooks and crazies and fringe ideas, I think with the idea that making it more widely known would help it acquire more credible contributors.

I don’t know. After looking it over, I think the best answer is…let it die. If google won’t do it the kindness of putting it out of its misery, just let it drown in its own toxic effluent.