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7/25/2008
04:09 PM
Roger Smith
Roger Smith
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The View From Google Knol

Google's answer to the Wikipedia encyclopedia, Google Knol (short for Knowledge), launched earlier this week to some fanfare, at least from cash-strapped authors and other subject-matter experts.

Google's answer to the Wikipedia encyclopedia, Google Knol (short for Knowledge), launched earlier this week to some fanfare, at least from cash-strapped authors and other subject-matter experts."At the discretion of the author, a knol may include ads," according to the official Google blog. "If an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with substantial revenue share from the proceeds of those ads."

The key idea behind the knol project is to highlight authors (either singularly or in groups) willing to put their names behind their content on a wide of range of topics, "from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions." Google will not edit the content in any way, but, like Wikipedia, readers will have access to community tools that will allow them to submit comments, questions, edits, and additional content -- in addition to being able to rate or write a review of a knol.

Problems With Wikipedia

Founded in January 2001, the online Wikipedia encyclopedia has more than 8.2 million articles in more than 200 languages, including more than 2 million in English. Unlike Google Knol, Wikipedia is not ad-supported and its operating expenses are funded mainly by private donations and grants funneled through the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, whose laudatory mission is to support the free dissemination of information.

Just how free the information on Wikipedia is has been called into question lately, primarily because of the collaborative nature of its entries. WikiScanner (also known as Wikipedia Scanner), a tool released by Virgil Griffith in August 2007 that identifies the authors behind Wikipedia edits, revealed that people at the IP addresses of several major companies had made changes to their own or competitors' Wikipedia entries.

It's too early to tell what effect Knol will have on Wikipedia and similar sites, but at the very least adding author identification, ranking, and the profit motive to Wikipedia's group contribution approach certainly seems to have the potential to upset the Wikipedia apple cart.

If you think you have what it takes and want to improve your reputation and fatten your wallet, I recommend you start by taking a closer look at one of the more immediately useful new Google knols: Aaron Wall's Search Engine Optimization knol. Wall's promising a free three-month SEO training trial to the best commentator.

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