Knol Opens to Public

July 23rd, 2008 at 12:00 am

knol google encyclopedia knowledge

Google announced a while back that they were making an encyclopedia much like Wikipedia except that it isn’t a Wiki. It’s called Knol (derived from ‘knowledge’) and it’s now open to the public.

My parents are scientists and back in their day research did not include a computer nor an internet. Most of their careers were spent researching through libraries and and correspondence with other scientists. That being said, I must say that they have a pretty good idea of white and black and gray literature . During dinner conversations we’d always talk about things and discuss the facts of the matters. Opinions and facts were clearly defined. Facts were the ones that can be verified and supported by experts. Facts were found in Journals and Books.

When the internet came along, we’d still have the same discussions around the table and by now I’d learned a lot from Wikipedia and blogs which I considered facts. however, whenever I tried to share a "fact" I discovered with my mom or dad, they’d ask me, "Where did you base your research on that?" Every time I said Wikipedia or blogs, I was in for a long discussion on "gray literature." Basically, it’s about untrusted sources of "truth" or "facts."

I love the internet and the knowledge and information that’s available on blogs and Wikipedia. However, come to think of it, you can’t really rely on them 100% of the time, even 99%. Blogs and Wikis are written by people who are not necessarily experts, sure, maybe what they’re saying is true, but you can’t account them for that. So it’s still "gray literature."

So why have I rambled about this? Well, simply because I am now glad and so should the rest of the world be, with Google’s newest online encyclopedia, Knol. It’s not exactly a Wiki but it does come close to more traditional and trusted sources of facts. this is possible because of authorship. Unlike Wikipedia, Knol (the site) is all about an author owning up to his "fact" or unit of knowledge, or Knol. This authorship puts accountability on the Knol.

Sure, it’s not a refereed system like books and journals but it’s a whole lot better than a Wiki where everybody can just write facts and not be accountable for it (in the event that it’s false). Knol at least has a bit of quality control which can be measured and owned up to.

Don’t get me wrong, Knol is still gray literature, however, the accountability of the author gives the articles on Knol more credibility than a Wiki.

From Google’s announcement , they explain the importance of authorship. "The key principle behind Knol is authorship. Every knol will have an author (or group of authors) who put their name behind their content." Additionally, "With Knol, we are introducing a new method for authors to work together that we call "moderated collaboration." With this feature, any reader can make suggested edits to a knol which the author may then choose to accept, reject, or modify before these contributions become visible to the public. This allows authors to accept suggestions from everyone in the world while remaining in control of their content."