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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Will Google's Knol attract academic users?

Andrea Foster, What Google's New Encyclopedia Means for Students and Professors, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 5, 2008.  Excerpt:

...[I]n July, when Google unveiled Knol, another Web-based collection of user-generated articles that the company calls "authoritative," the question for faculty members...was whether students might begin to turn to this new source.

The answer from those who study online encyclopedias is, Not likely.

"On balance I just can't see Knol as an entity or as a group of articles really having the stature of Wikipedia," says Andrew Lih, an independent researcher who helped start Columbia University's new-media program. He observes that Knol, which the site defines as "a unit of knowledge," has many policies that run counter to those that give Wikipedia a certain amount of authority. For example, Knol does not insist that articles maintain a neutral tone. It welcomes opinions. It allows multiple entries on a subject. It offers authors the chance to earn money from their entries. And inaccuracies could crop up because authors have ultimate authority over their articles' content.

Mr. Lih, who is writing a book on the history of Wikipedia, says Knol isn't even trying to outdo Wikipedia....

Google, for its part, says the main difference between Knol and Wikipedia is that Knol authors affix their names to articles. For this reason Knol is designed to be a "primary source" of information. Wikipedia, which maintains authors' anonymity, is a "secondary source," a Google spokesman wrote an e-mail message....

Knol's policy of allowing authors to earn money from their entries is a major reason for scholars' skepticism....


  • There's another difference between Wikipedia and Knol that I was surprised to see omitted here:  Wikipedia doesn't allow original research but Knol does. 
  • I suggested in December 2007 that Knol could be used for postprint archiving.  But I haven't seen any evidence that anyone is using it that way.