Everybody 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.
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.