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December 16, 2007


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Larry Sanger

They can say all they like that they aim to attract experts. The fact however is that they offer experts no special incentives (at least, nothing that they've announced), and they specifically state: "Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content. All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors. We hope that knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line. Anyone will be free to write."

They've described any number of Web 2.0 "submit your essay to us!" websites--not an expert-driven encyclopedia. But time will tell, of course.

Alexandra Kitty

It's an interesting development and sort of sets up something of an anonymous citizen knowledge-base versus an expert knowledge base. With Wiki, though, there is that push to provide reference links to information provided for the entries.

To me, it seems that knol is a move away from the level-playing field theory of the Internet. Whether "experts" want to reduce that expertise into bite-size entries remains to be seen.

Seems very similar to about.com -- a Web 1.0 creation.

peter naegele

According to this article, Google is going to let submitters decide if they wish to allow advertising on their entries. The author will receive a small percentage of revenue from visitors to said entry.

Stephen Ewen

Whatever else that might be said, I think one can very clearly infer that the architects of Knol have closely studied Citizendium.

Bryan Alexander

Larry, thank you for commenting thoughtfully and rapidly.
What do you make of Google's reputation as incentive? Getting one's name on a knol should lead to enormous, enormous exposure.
Peter's note about advertising points to another incentive, which ramps up hugely given my previous point.
The trickier question is how they sift multiple contributors on the same topic.

Alexandra, good point. How do you think knols will compare with where Wikipedia is now through Google?

I agree, Stephen. Have you spotted any Citizendium notes from the Googlephere, in blog posts, presentations, etc?

Larry Sanger

Indeed it's precisely the amount of exposure that might make the difference between Knol succeeding and being an also-ran like h2g2.com. But Google has one problem to solve that exposure alone probably won't solve: motivating actually good, knowledgeable writers to participate. CZ isn't worried about competing with well-exposed mediocrity.

Time will tell, but I suspect that not very many good writers will be interested in enriching Google and being rated by an anonymous crowd. I am sure that they'll get a full complement of good articles on very most popular topics, though. But that wouldn't necessarily make a good encyclopedia.

As to the money incentive, I don't know why anyone takes that seriously. A small amount of thought will make clear that the amount of money most articles will generate will be minimal at best, and the idea of individuals getting pennies when a mega-corporation reaps dollars through aggregation will belie the fairness of the arrangement. Competition for the best Britney article might be fierce...but for the very, very long tail, not so much.

I think that the real beneficiary of the Knol initiative could ultimately be CZ. As people consider that an alternative to Wikipedia is possible after all, and they consider the various inevitable flaws with the Knol project, they will be made aware of other alternatives. Like the Citizendium. Just when, in 2008, we are growing more rapidly than ever and becoming more and more of a serious contender.

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