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3 reasons you should start writing your article for Google Knol now

Google has announced its new knowledge platform, called Knol. “Earlier this week, we started inviting a selected group of people to try a new, free tool that we are calling “knol”, which stands for a unit of knowledge. Our goal is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it.”

knol.pngThe difference between Knol and Wikipedia is that each article or “knol” will be authored by a single person (others can comment and review), as opposed to the collaborative production model for Wikipedia articles. Nick Carr writes about the possible allure of this approach:”The success of Knol is, of course, far from assured, but the ability of authors to sign their names, take ownership of their work, and compete with other authors may well be a lure for many people. And, of course, Google is pitching the advertising angle: “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.” In contrast to Wikipedia’s pure “social production” model, contributors may be able to make a few bucks by writing knols - while also contributing a fresh revenue stream to Google.”

The project is in closed beta right now, but if you’re passionate and knowledgeable about a topic, start working on the content for your Knol now. Why? Here are three reasons:

  • You’ll be ready when it open to the public (or invites more people into the closed beta).
  • You’ll have “first mover’s advantage” and can establish an early voice on a topic you know well.
  • You’ll be ahead of the pack - while others are starting their articles, you’ll be refining yours and further establishing your expertise on your topic(s).
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9 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. max

    Wow, Google is really trying to kill off Wikipedia, not that’d ever happen though.

  2. Wow. This seems like a reinventing-the-wheel of the worst kind. And Google’s doing it to no good end! Knol seems like it was invented in order to address problems in the Wikipedia model (vandalism, anonymity, constant flux, the focus on trivia) that most of us agree aren’t really huge problems. And it simultaneously re-introduces a bunch of problems that the WIkipedia model has solved or bypassed (Who decides who owns a topic? Why is peer-review better than peer-edit? What happens when there are 15 separate articles on a controversial topic? Why should each author have to relay the groundwork?)

    This just feels totally wrong to me. Either I’m missing something, or this is just a lame ploy to re-capture those millions of page views that Google sends to wikipedia every day for the sole purpose of sticking ads on them.

    -Jonathan

  3. Stewart Mader

    Jonathan,
    I’m sure it’s an attempt on some level to recapture those pageviews, and it does reopen some of the “issues” you mention that I agree are really non-issues.

    However, my take is that whenever there’s a platform that a lot of people are going to be looking at (and let’s not kid ourselves, lots of people will be looking at this if it’s one of the top search results, if only out of sheer convenience of clicking what’s in front of them :) experts on topics should make sure their voice is represented, and should use that platform to link to other knowledge sources, including wikis and Wikipedia.

    After all, Google would look very suspicious if they tried to artificially lock people into Knol by not allowing outbound links.

    I also don’t think Knol really competes with Wikipedia - different communities will emerge on each - those that want to author solo will use Knol, those that prefer a social production model will stick with Wikipedia, and those who are really savvy will write Knol articles that point to Wikipedia, their blogs, etc.

    Cheers,
    Stewart

  4. > I also don’t think Knol really competes with Wikipedia

    It may not compete on for the same authors (although I don’t necessarily agree with that statement) but it sure as hell competes for the same readers. You’re right that a ton of people are going to click on the first link on the page, a link that for an extremely large number of terms belongs to Wikipedia now. This is clearly making Google uncomfortable, and thus _Knol_.

    On another level, how can we trust Google to play fair with the search results? Once they start producing _content_ instead of just aggregating it (a la Google News), they have incentive to bias in favour of their own content. It creates a conflict of interest.

    On yet another level, one of the great things about Wikipedia is it’s ubiquity and universality. I guess it will always have competition, but I have a dream of Wikipedia is the full compendium of human knowledge, both important and trivial. (At least in so far as the majority of editors agrees on that knowledge at any given time). We, as a species, don’t need two encyclopedias. We may have in the past, given that a given encyclopedia reflected the biases of its authors, which we may not have agreed with, which would have forced us to find an alternative viewpoint. But with Wikipedia, the every reader is potentially an author, and in theory, the biases of every reader can be factored in and weighed against the majority view. Views that are documented and effective will rise to the top. (Again, much messier in practice, I grant you.)

    So we may be arguing two separate things. It may well be wise, from a perspective of self-interest, for authors to stake out territory early on this new platform. But my point is that this platform only exists for the most mercenary of reasons, and actually harms to the ideal of “organiz[ing] the world’s information and mak[ing] it universally accessible and useful” rather than helps.

  5. Stewart Mader

    > We, as a species, don’t need two encyclopedias. We may have in the past, given that a given encyclopedia reflected the biases of its authors, which we may not have agreed with, which would have forced us to find an alternative viewpoint. But with Wikipedia, the every reader is potentially an author, and in theory, the biases of every reader can be factored in and weighed against the majority view. Views that are documented and effective will rise to the top. (Again, much messier in practice, I grant you.)

    I share this too - that has always been the great promise of Wikipedia, in my mind.

    And this is a definite conflict of interest for Google (in my opinion Gmail also presents a conflict of interest - much less obvious - but we still have to trust that Google won’t use the confidential information passing through its pipes to further its own gain).

    I’m surprised that the alternate scenario hasn’t happened - i.e. Wikipedia strikes a deal with Google to provide advertising across its sites for some number of years, thus letting Google in on the action and making Wikipedia flush with cash for a very, very long time. It will be interesting to see if this happens down the line, or if Yahoo tries to make a play for this now that Google’s intentions are clear. That would be a marquee move for Jerry Yang.

    Stewart

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