Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Knol--An Alternative to Wikipedia?

When I made my last post on Thursday there was a post on my Google dashboard about a new product just entering Beta—a Knol. It looked interesting, so I did some investigating. Of course, being a writer, I couldn’t resist writing a Knol.

A Knol uses some of the same technology as Blogger, but it has a different purpose. Knols are to be authoritative articles on a single subject. There are quite a few listed already; my guess is that some may have been imported and others written specifically for Knol. I found one listing called “Encyclopedia,” which seems to suggest Google’s intent.

Knols really work like Google Documents and have some of the same features. You can write, save, and collaborate. Notice that I can invite authors and reviewers to my just-begun Knol. I saved but didn’t try to publish it, because it was incomplete. I’m sure that publication would be the point where they would ask me to establish my credentials, which I don’t think would be a problem. However, individual articles are vetted and categorized, and I’m sure they wouldn’t take this one-sentence beginning.

Notice on the third screen capture that they are encouraging Creative Commons 3.0 licensing, which essentially says that readers can use the material as long as they give proper attribution. That seems to be the emerging standard for web content of many kinds, and it makes sense to me.

In a lot of ways this is just an extension of Google docs, which I use and really like. They are great for getting work done, but not so great for being found. There are also no standards for format or content of Google docs, and Google clearly wants Knols to be respected for their informational content. Knols are searchable from the Knol site and from a Google web search. From the Google toolbar I searched for one of the featured Knols using (and misspelling, as usual) the exact title, and it came right up.

Will this become an alternative to Wikipedia? Will it be more respected in terms of the quality of its content? Only time will tell. In the meantime, it provides a good platform for people who have something to say and wish to encourage their colleagues to contribute. Since it can be closed, it provides a forum for internal corporate documentation on specific subject matter.

My Knol on social media could be a good one. Would anyone like to contribute a case study or their own observations on the subject? We could write something together!

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