knol is a Google project to promote a digital library of user-written articles on given topics. Knol also means Unit of knowledge, i.e. a given article in the knowl site.
- Authors must have a real identity and it must be approved by Google
- One article is written by one person, and it's one person's opinion. Therefore one might have several articles on the same topic.
- Registered users can rate an article.
- Registered users can suggest corrections, edits and amendments to the content. These can be accepted or rejected by the author.
- Registered users can add comments which then can not be deleted by the author.
Sometimes, Knol is seen as an alternative to Wikipedia, i.e. provide a system that allows recognized authors to publish good quality articles. In Daniel K. Schneider's opinion this is very unlikely to happen since I don't think that Google is able to filter good authors. I suggest a simple test: Search for education. I found in August 2008 a few good educationa-related articles, e.g. a correct but not really outstanding introduction to online learning. Most of the entries don't have any serious references (as wikipedia would).
Let's now look at the propaganda issue. Many articles on education were written by employees for companies included disguised propaganda. Others tried to promote educational theories that do not have any scientific foundation. Some promoted degree courses. Therefore I hypothesize that the knol platform mostly will be used to promote individuals and not necessarily contents. E.g. I found a series on how to use Flash in education, but no details, no theoretical or instructional design references, no source code. In other words, not good enough to be called high quality tutorials. Just be to clear, these articels were not bad, but in no way as good as something one might find in wikibooks or even here and - as said before - they were loaded with links to a company.
Of course there is rating system for knol and good articles may float on top. But what is popular with the masses is not necessarily good. Rating mathematics that promotes expert writing is not easy.
Another problem is that knol does not encourage linking which is one of Wikipedia's strength.
There are also fears that Google the search engine will not remain neutral and sponsor their knol articles first.
It can be argued that both Wikipedia and peer-reviewed author-centered systems do have advantages and for now we shall not discuss this.
In any case, for now (2008), author-centered systems like Scholarpedia or Citizendium might be a much better alternative to education than Knol. Its articles are in principle peer-reviewed which is is the only known way to establish recognized expertise. On the other hand, these sites have very little content. Knol may beat these by sheer size in combination with a better rating system.
- knol (home page).
- Google Throws Open Rival for Wikipedia - Anon Authors Discouraged, by Steven Levy, Wired, 2008.