Google Knol presents a problem — how can we trust the relevance of a search result if the web pages we’re being given are owned by Google and are being artificially elevated to the top results?
It’s a dilemma many have been writing about this past couple of days. But this isn’t a unique problem, either — Google have been doing the same thing with YouTube video, among other properties of theirs.
UGC (User-Generated Content) as a barrier to Google Knol
For me, Google Knol looks to be an attempt to usurp Social Media, as much as it is an attack on Wikipedia.
The problem for Google is that if they wish to emulate Wikipedia, they’re going to have to pitch their Knols at much the same audience — those massed ranks of people who’re only too happy to sit up all night editing Wiki web pages.
There are additional problems, not least the quality of certain web pages on Wikipedia. I personally think the problem of editorial quality is being blown out of proportion.
Yes, there have been pitched battles fought over Wiki web pages for political gain. But for topics as academically dry and incidental as spermatozoa and deep sea hydrothermal vents, I think we can be sure of their authenticity.
So in addition to attracting editors who might otherwise feel that Google have made a thinly-veiled assault on Wikipedia and the perceived editorial quality, there’s also the ability to reference those Knols in the same way we currently reference Wiki web pages.
It’s still quite early and Google have to make more announcements to clarify just what the anatomy of a Knol is.
But I suspect a Google Knol will have to look very similar to a Wiki we page — in that there’s an index of in-page links at the top, which allow people to then reference specific sections, rather than the entire page, which is just one small example of the way in which people use Wikipedia.
Indeed, the very foundations of Wikipedia is now a common and well-supported format. Even with Google’s considerable weight pressed against Wikipedia, it’s unlikely all those behind them using the same tools are likely to concede hard-fought ground to Google’s will.
I see Google Knol as a solution arriving too late to a problem long solved. And the solution that exists is itself weighed down with social foibles and idiosyncrasies that no amount of technology can fix…