Google’s knollers and the bloggers: cooperation or competition?

knolexampleEverybody is comparing Google’s Knol project to Wikipedia intended to be a “repository of knowledge from experts on various topics” (NYT) or “a free, ad-supported publishing system” (Wired), currently a “private, invitation-only knowledge sharing service” (Blogoscoped). But for a biotech blogger like me the first association is to compare Knol to the blogosphere. Just think about blogs and bloggers when reading these lines from the Official Google Blog by author Udi Manber:

The key idea behind the knol project is to highlight authors. Books have authors’ names right on the cover, news articles have bylines, scientific articles always have authors — but somehow the web evolved without a strong standard to keep authors names highlighted. We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content. At the heart, a knol is just a web page; we use the word “knol” as the name of the project and as an instance of an article interchangeably. It is well-organized, nicely presented, and has a distinct look and feel, but it is still just a web page. Google will provide easy-to-use tools for writing, editing, and so on, and it will provide free hosting of the content. Writers only need to write; we’ll do the rest.

So far I could have read the message and mission of WordPress and Typepad (forget Blogger) being not just blog engines but hosts of blogs too, the only real difference is called ads and revenue:

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.

The question is how can Knol benefit from the quality blog content on particular topics written by expert bloggers and how can bloggers benefit from contributing to Knol? Would Google be inclined to pay for pivotal blog posts on a particular topic to use them as knols? In many cases the content – the one that Google would like to facilitate with Knol – is already there so it is natural to convert quality blog posts to knols. But why would I, blogger turn to a knoller?

Looks like the G guys are reinventing the blog wheel:

A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read. The goal is for knols to cover all 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 serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content. All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors. We hope that knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line. Anyone will be free to write. For many topics, there will likely be competing knols on the same subject. Competition of ideas is a good thing.

Knols will include strong community tools. People will be able to submit comments, questions, edits, additional content, and so on. Anyone will be able to rate a knol or write a review of it. Knols will also include references and links to additional information.

The question is: can Google target a new group of people outside the blogosphere to contribute to Knol and share content? If yes, who are these people and what are they doing on the web right now?

Update: Grady’s conclusion is pretty similar to this post’s initial idea of comparing Knol to blogging.

13 thoughts on “Google’s knollers and the bloggers: cooperation or competition?

  1. I am not sure it is the same. Although we could use a blog to write this sort of knowledge report we rarely do. The tools also shape the content and blogs usually end up being personal and diary like. It relates to the blog with the emphasis on the individual but something like a wiki in that it (I guess) looks more about the creation of webpages.

  2. It appears that the only quality control knols will have is the author’s response to whatever comments readers might bother to make. This makes inevitable a rapid rise in the ratio of garbage to information. The pool of knols will quickly become dominated by rants and woo, and few readers will have the skills to find the knols of solid information.

    “Competition of ideas” is indeed a good thing, but only in a forum where good ideas win out over bad but superficially appealing ones.

  3. I too am curious about the quality control issue, and I share Rosie’s reservations. I know from experience on Zillow when answering a question about my job, that I angered a few readers of that site, which caused them to respond with bad information. I bowed out of the conversation, because there is no way to win such arguments. All you can do is state your own knowledge on the topic, and hope it is accepted.

  4. (happy birthday!!!)
    “who are these people and what are they doing on the web right now?”

    it seems that they have managed to identify a good target group: I think knol is mostly targeting academic people.
    1, Starting with the name (it is not simply an entry/ an article, let alone a blog post: it is a KNOL – authoritative in itself)
    2, ‘have your name out there’ may not be as important for students as it is for teachers, profs, etc., established names in a certain area. They may not have liked to contribute to wikpedia and mix with ‘anybody’ on a certain subject, they may not like the ‘blog’ idea (just a blog), they may not have a chance to get into journals, magazines unlike some of their colleagues, but now they can have KNOLs.
    3, peer reviews: needs no explanation
    4, style: encyclopedia-like articles (not really interviews or op-ed style – but who knows?)
    Why not blogs? They have all sorts of associations by now, knols may assume a certain quality assurance over time. Knols will be rated (I don’t know if it is optional) – blogposts are mostly unrated (or rated in digg, comments, inbound links). You can see the views and edits automatically (again, it might be optional)
    Due to CC, I think it will be a major primary source for wikipedia entries too. No, not a competition, a very good complementary tool. So you may not turn into a knoller, instead become a blogger, wikipedian, knoller, journalist, vlogger, maker, etc. all at the same time. Knol is a further slash. Promising for some. Good for Google. expansion of the Scholar program and further ad surface.

  5. I do have hope for this, because to me it’s all about setting standards for authority on the web. If successful, the author associated with a knol will have pretty well claimed his namespace, and hopefully there will be plenty of metadata so that it becomes another island of identity for the social graph people to connect together.

    Or it could turn out like Squidoo.

  6. I was reading the comments, and I like the points being made, but then a thought occurred to me: open source information versus fixed research by an individual. Can Knol properly deliver an encompassing view of a topic when only one writer is involved? Would not an open source information format like wikipedia be more robust?

    What set me off on this tangent is the idea of peer review mentioned by annplugged. Are the articles truly peer reviewed, or is it in the public domain, where a good idea or the correct information could be shouted down. KNOL would have to install a system where the free flow of comments or review is not allowed for the authority to establish himself.With that idea, a new development in a field could be excluded since the authority responsible for the entry does not know of it yet, or does not accept it. Alright, I am playing both sides to work through the idea of how is authority established in an environment where it could so easily be taken away.

  7. Even though we do not know more about knol than the screenshot, here’s an interesting piece on knol and Google’s peer-review focus: “Sergey once asked the Blogger team how Blogger was going to compete with the New York Times. Even though our pageviews exceeded those of the NYT, the point I think he was making was “When are you gonna produce something authoritative that lots of people will accept as good.” Blogger’s answer was “Huh?” Knol’s answer is peer review.” (Jason, ex-Googler)

  8. Knolling is going to take over. Ads, yea thats huge, but knollers are going to benefit from major notoriety, where, success begets success, and as a side effect of the notoriety, much more income will result. Keep in mind knollers will be reviewing others and I am very confident the template provided by google for knols will be just plain genious. The things we dont think of google does, once this template has been accomplished, we have the perfect storm, the switch of many bloggers, myspacers, wikipediaers, information sharing specialists, will get out of this old system, and use a streamlined system that is more than a weblog, but knowledge period.

    Its going to be huge. Pre-anticipation has created such a buzz on the net. I am already a forever knoller even though I have not yet created my knol. Ok, thats all for now, I am going to go knolling along; and until the ad revenue gates open, my revenue tonight has been 0 dollars and 0 cents.

    Reinventing the internet=Knolling

    Game over Wikipedia
    Game over Myspace
    Gave over facebook
    Game over Farleys Dictionary

  9. “Sergey once asked the Blogger team how Blogger was going to compete with the New York Times. Even though our pageviews exceeded those of the NYT, the point I think he was making was “When are you gonna produce something authoritative that lots of people will accept as good.” Blogger’s answer was “Huh?” Knol’s answer is peer review.”

    Well, it would be then interesting to compare the Knol idea with the scientific peer review process, not with NYT or blogs. We have to admit that existing scientific journals have a well-defined peer review system. It took several decades (centuries?) to develop and polish scientific peer-review system, although it still has some problems, especially when it goes to open access. I wonder, if we can create in future an internet monster integrating scientific journals with blogs, Knols, etc…

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