Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Knol is open to everyone…and set to displace Wikipedia

As of Thursday last week, Google started making Knol available to everyone, starting with those who have a Google Gmail or Blogspot account such as me.
I was quite intrigued by the concept of Knol, when introduced to it by Google, that I went right into it, and once I got the hang of it, created a Knol on Papua New Guinea which I will slowly develop over time.
I may, in fact, have been the first Papua New Guinea to try out this concept which analysts all over the world predict will soon surpass Wikipedia as the No. 1 online encyclopedia.
Given all that PNG has to offer, it is a good opportunity for our writers, academics, medical doctors, professional people and simple villagers to improve their reputations as well as fatten their wallets as Google offers to chance to make money through its internationally-renowned AdSense programme.
For starters, most of the featured Knol articles are on various diseases, although I especially enjoyed the ones on backpacking and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), given my passions for adventure and information technology.
So what is a Knol?
A few months ago, Google announced it was testing a new product called Knol.
Knols are authoritative articles about specific topics, written by people who know about those subjects.
For instance, Malum Nalu, being a Lae boy who loves his home town, has already created a Knol on it.
The web contains vast amounts of information, but not everything worth knowing is on the web.
An enormous amount of information resides in people's heads: millions of people know useful things and billions more could benefit from that knowledge.
Knol will encourage these people to contribute their knowledge online and make it accessible to everyone.
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 announced on its official Blog.
“With Knol, we are introducing a new method for authors to work together that we call ‘moderated collaboration’.
“With this feature, any reader can make suggested edits to a Knol which the author may then choose to accept, reject, or modify before these contributions become visible to the public.
“This allows authors to accept suggestions from everyone in the world while remaining in control of their content.
“After all, their name is associated with it!
“Knols include strong community tools which allow for many modes of interaction between readers and authors.
“People can submit comments, rate, or write a review of a Knol.
“At the discretion of the author, a Knol may include ads from our AdSense programme.
“If an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with a revenue share from the proceeds of those ad placements.”
A Knol is basically an Internet encyclopedia designed to give people a chance to show off - and profit from - their expertise on any topic.
The service, dubbed ‘Knol’ in reference to a unit of knowledge, had been limited to an invitation-only audience of contributors and readers for the past seven months.
Now anyone with a Google login like me will be able to submit an article and, if we choose, have ads displayed through the Internet search leader's marketing system.
The contributing author and Google will share any revenue generated from the ads, which are supposed to be related to the topic covered in the knol.
The advertising option could encourage people to write more entries about commercial subjects than the more academic topics covered in traditional encyclopedias.
Since Google disclosed its intention to build Knol, it has been widely viewed as the company's answer to Wikipedia, which has emerged as one of the web's leading reference tools by drawing upon the collective wisdom of unpaid, anonymous contributors.
But Google views Knol more as a supplement to Wikipedia than a competitor, writes Cedric Dupont, a Google product manager.
Google reasons that Wikipedia's contributors will be able to use some of the expertise shared on Knol to improve Wikipedia's existing entries.
With a seven-year head start on knol, Wikipedia already has nearly 2.5 million English-language articles and millions more in dozens of other languages.
Knol is starting out with several hundred entries.
The initial topics covered include an overview of constipation by a University of San Francisco associate professor of gastroenterology and backpacking advice from one of Google's own software engineers.
Unlike Wikipedia, Knol requires the authors to identify themselves to help the audience assess the source's credibility.
Google doesn't intend to screen the submissions for accuracy, Dupont says, and instead will rely on its search formulas to highlight the articles that readers believe are credible.
"At the discretion of the author, a Knol may include ads," according to the official Google Blog.
"If an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with substantial revenue share from the proceeds of those ads."
The key idea behind the Knol project is to highlight authors (either singularly or in groups) willing to put their names behind their content on a wide of range of topics, "from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions”.
Google will not edit the content in any way, but, like Wikipedia, readers will have access to community tools that will allow them to submit comments, questions, edits, and additional content - in addition to being able to rate or write a review of a Knol.
Founded in January 2001, the online Wikipedia encyclopedia has more than 8.2 million articles in more than 200 languages, including more than 2 million in English. Unlike Google Knol, Wikipedia is not ad-supported and its operating expenses are funded mainly by private donations and grants funneled through the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, whose laudatory mission is to support the free dissemination of information.
Just how free the information on Wikipedia is has been called into question lately, primarily because of the collaborative nature of its entries.
WikiScanner (also known as Wikipedia Scanner), a tool released by Virgil Griffith in August 2007 that identifies the authors behind Wikipedia edits, revealed that people at the IP addresses of several major companies had made changes to their own or competitors' Wikipedia entries.
It's too early to tell what effect Knol will have on Wikipedia and similar sites, but at the very least adding author identification, ranking, and the profit motive to Wikipedia's group contribution approach certainly seems to have the potential to upset the Wikipedia apple cart.

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