Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Knol: An Authoritative Alternative To Wikipedia

There are still those who remain wary of the hive mind of wikipedia:

"The user who visits Wikipedia to learn about some subject, to confirm some matter of fact, is rather in the position of a visitor to a public restroom. It may be obviously dirty, so that he knows to exercise great care, or it may seem fairly clean, so that he may be lulled into a false sense of security. What he certainly does not know is who has used the facilities before him."

- Robert McHenry, former editor-in-chief of Encyclopædia Britannica

If you are the type of person that would prefer a expertly maintained bathroom (or encyclopedia), Google has just announced that the 100,000th knol (they define a knol as "a unit of knowledge"...it's sort of like an elite meme) has just been published to the wikipedia alternative (or complement), knol. Unlike wikipedia, knol emphasizes personal expertise by highlighting the authorship of each article.

Read the wikipedia entry on knol here.

1 comment:

  1. I have contributed knols rather intensively, and I intend to continue to do so. But I am not satisfied with the general knol situation. I'd like to see:

    1. Easy interaction between knol authors and Google technical support; when I am editing my knol I'd like to be able to start to edit a side message to the support group just with one click on a clearly visible link.

    2. Google claims to prefer long knols but it didn't provide modular editing, which is a classical feature of wiki.

    3. Instead of a plain html table I'd like to have a smart table construction (a data base really), which, as a minimum, allows to sort the table according to any column. But the top row should optionally have a special status, so that it could be treated as a row of column titles. The same goes for the left column.

    4. We should have a choice of editing either in html or in LaTeX -- the two languages should be treated by the system on equal foot. BTW. let's avoid wikipedia's ugly mnixture of html and LaTeX. It should be, in each individual knol (or knol module), either one or the other. Here, I guess, I am addressing not just Google but also Firefox et al.

    I had a lot more questions and suggestions, and I will still have them the moment I start another knol editing session. It's important that knol authors can contact the Google support group spontaneously.