Google announced today that it made Knol public for a beta launch. Knol is a site where users can write articles on anything and everything and collaborate to make sure the information is the most accurate and up-to-date as possible. Sound familiar?
Knol is made up of “knols” – or pieces of knowledge. Write your own knol and you own it. Other users can request changes, but only the owner can decide what goes live to the world. The idea is that subject matter experts are the ones owning each category, instead of anybody and everybody and nobody on wikipedia. The authors are not anonymous, and many have resume-like bios.
Will it take off? Maybe. Unlike Wikipedia, you can cite the direct author – so maybe it would be a viable “academic source” (read – you could use it in a college research paper). But I think the mass appeal of wikipedia is just that – it’s owned by the masses. Who owns pop culture topics? If I post that Kathy Griffin is still dating Steve Wozniak when CLEARLY the broke up weeks ago, someone will correct me. The great thing about Wikipedia is that what ends up in the article is generally exactly what I want to read about – the trivia, how things are related, the high level most interesting facts about any one topic. A subject matter expert may be too much of an expert to realize what the masses deem important. Also, what if the “owner” of the article becomes complacent and doesn’t keep up with the requests. Wikipedia users have made over 240 million edits in 5 years – that’s approximately 130,000 a day. It’s a lot for a moderator to keep up with.
Sure, I’m skeptical. But I will say this – if anyone can knock Wikipedia off it’s throne, it’s Google.