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Google Knols to Highlight Authors December 15, 2007

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in News, Social Media, Trends.
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There’s an alternative to Wikipedia. Google has given Jimmy Wales’ cool idea a makeover with Knols – the word denotes a unit of knowledge. Seems like when you’re big, there’s a need to own everything. The aim of Knols is to create an authoritative store of information about any and every topic.

The search giant has already started inviting people to write about the subject on which they are known to be an expert. The site could eventually compete with Wales’ popular user-edited encyclopedia. Here’s an example of a Knol.

Certainly, competition will improve content on both sites. The more regulated posting environment and accountability in the Knol model could solve the problem of “idiot and evangelist” authors. But the contribution’s accuracy is still being judged by popularity based on page views and user rankings.

Anyone will be free to write. All editorial responsibilities and control rest with the authors, Google vice president of engineering Udi Manber wrote in a company blog post.

By indexing the web, Google strives to make information more easily accessible. However, not all the information on the web was “well organised to make it easily discoverable”. By getting respected authors to write about their specialism Google hopes to start putting some of that information in better order.

Knols provide Web-based templates with which experts can write posts about areas of expertise. Readers can then rank (and link to) the posts, which affects where they appear in Google search rankings. By sharing ad revenue with writers, Google provides an economic incentive to participants.

We do not want to build a walled garden of content; we want to disseminate it as widely as possible. Google will not ask for any exclusivity on any of this content and will make that content available to any other search engine.

UDI MANBER, Google VP of Engineering

The system centres around authored articles created with a tool dubbed “knol” that will make webpages with a distinctive livery to identify them as authoritative. 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 Knol concept doesn’t stop at “articles.” Big media, human generated search (Mahalo) and About.com come to mind. Henry Blodget notes in Silicon Alley Insider that the Knol model has several advantages over existing competitors:

Author branding. Wikipedia is a phenomenon, with the miracle being that so many experts are willing to waste so much time creating content they’ll never get any credit or money for. Knols credits authors. The posts are by-lined.

Author compensation. Wikipedia is created by an army of volunteers. Knols authors have an opportunity to get paid. The good news from Google’s perspective is that they’ll get paid based on the revenue they generate, not based on the number of crappy posts they submit.

Author accountability. Wikipedia’s greatest flaw is that anyone can change it. This is fine, except that it’s nice to know who is responsible for what you’re reading, so you don’t mistake it for objective fact. In the Knols system, authors are responsible for their own copy, and those who post crap will be made irrelevant with distant search rankings.

Comments/Peer Reviews. Readers can comment on posts and other experts can review them. This is arguably a far better system than Wikipedia, where readers who disagree can just change the content.

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