Google + knol = KM?

December 17, 2007 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Kim photoYou’ve probably read this tidbit of news already – I wasn’t going to blog on it but it’s an opportunity not to be missed really. According to the official Google blog, they’re taking on Wikipedia. The Google knowledge initiative encourages people who are knowledgeable on a specific topic to write an authoritative article. IMHO they’re using odd language to describe the unit of knowledge produced – knol. Sounds a bit too close to troll or droll. But a knol is described as:

A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read. The goal is for knols to cover all topics, from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions“.

Well, I thought Wikipedia was doing this already. But in Google’s efforts to take over the world, sorry bring knowledge to the masses, Google wants to highlight authors. In a probable dig at Wikipedia, the Google blog post says:

The key idea behind the knol project is to highlight authors. Books have authors’ names right on the cover, news articles have bylines, scientific articles always have authors — but somehow the web evolved without a strong standard to keep authors names highlighted. We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content“.

So I’m presuming this is a single-author model and not the collaborative author model Wikipedia prefers. Google will have no editing control over knols and there may be competing knols on particular subjects. Community tools will be available to leave comments, rate a knol etc. The cynical amongst us might wonder whether a single-author model would allow Google to place ads on a knol page if an author agrees.

Back to a topic knol being the first thing you come across when searching, the cynical amongst us might also wonder whether the mighty Google search engine will place Google knols at the top of the search results page. Might this cause Wikipedia entries to be lower down the list? Could we find Wikipedia entries replaced by Google knols on a search engine results list? I couldn’t find from the Google blog post any hint at how Google will deal with competing knols in terms of ranking them in the search results list. I guess they will link them.

And will Google avoid misinformation? Wikipedia is by no means the perfect model – inaccurate and biased information makes its way into entries. Anyone is free to write says Google, but is “anyone” knowledgeable? I think Wikipedia demonstrates the so-called “wisdom of crowds” but this doesn’t always equal quality and accurate content. And what if knols ends up like some blogs: abandoned or rarely updated?

And finally, it’s an interesting situation we may face: a search engine that provides its own content. Mmm….Google Street View is looking tame in comparison to this.

UPDATE: 18/12 interesting article in Top Tech News, which says “Google’s mission is to organize information — and Google can sell advertisements on top of the information it organizes. Knol, then, could enhance Google’s revenue strategy”.

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Entry filed under: Google, Knowledge Management. Tags: .

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