Knol Might Have the Edge

Like some giant ocean liner or oil tanker, Google is slowly turning the ship to a different heading, and now it’s watch out Wikipedia and all the little “–pedias” that are bobbing on the net. The Official Google Blog reveals that the big plex isn’t content with serving you up your own data but plans to write its own — or, rather, have you write it for them in good Web 2.0 fashion — and deliver it when you search. The project, now in private beta (i just love writing that bit of insider jargon), is called knol, which is also the name of the content creation tool used to produce these “units of knowledge” or “knols” (yech!).

For the beta, “Goog” is inviting experts to write about the things they know. The blog has a sample page on Insomnia written by Rachel Manber at Stanford. But eventually, when the content creation tool is released, we’ll all be able to do the “pedia” thing and contribute our expertise for Google searchers. Then:

People will be able to submit comments, questions, edits, additional content, and so on. Anyone will be able to rate a knol or write a review of it. Knols will also include references and links to additional information. At the discretion of the author, a knol may include ads. If an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with substantial revenue share from the proceeds of those ads.

Apart from paying writers via ads, the idea here seems to be the strong association between the defining article and a named author.

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.

And when the beta is done and Google lets a billion flowers bloom?

…[W]e cannot expect that all of them will be of high quality. Our job in Search Quality will be to rank the knols appropriately when they appear in Google search results. We are quite experienced with ranking web pages, and we feel confident that we will be up to the challenge.

Anyone else working on a distributed encyclopedia might as well down tools (Ask not for whom the bell knols). Or, to switch back to the seafaring metaphor, steam has the right of way on this ocean of information. So folks, start drafting the pop piece on the Canadian Charter or Legal Research in Canada for when Google comes a’knolling.

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