Google Knol – A poor clone of Wikipedia

September 1, 2008

Google Knol - A poor clone of WikipediaWhen I first heard about Knol (pronounced know-all) from Google, I was quite impressed. Here is a monetizable, moderated Wikipedia, which after all, can’t be a bad thing. However, here we are a month after the site went public, and it’s so far failing to live up to the hype it received at launch. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it is nothing more than a poor clone of Wikipedia.

I love Wikpedia, in fact, it is one of the first places I go to on the Web for information about a certain topic, personality, or event I need to know more about. Between Wikipedia, IMDb, and Google, I am pretty much sorted in my quest to learn more and have the ultimate knowledge at my fingertips. But I can’t see Knol ever joining that illustrious list.

Okay, so we’re only a month in and it may be a bit unfair to offer up a review of Knol and compare it to sites that have been in existence and therefore extensively tweaked for years, but it’s a fact that at this moment in time, Knol sucks.

The monetizeable factor of Knol should have been a good thing, empowering people to want to post articles about subjects close to their heart and get paid for it. But that doesn’t seem to be happening. Instead, we have people picking the traffic-heavy subjects and writing short, poorly-constructed Knols about them in the hope of making a quick buck.

The moderated factor of Knol should also have been a good thing, giving the Google site an advantage over Wikipedia, which is only just experimenting with limited moderation. But it’s who is moderating Knol that is the problem. Basically, the person who starts the Knol on a particular subject has the final say over any suggested edits made to it. Nice idea, but it doesn’t actually work.

What it means in practice is that an individual can start a Knol on a subject, use the information at hand and then wander off in to the ether. That information then becomes outdated, and someone else sees the entry and suggests and edit or two. Unfortunately, the original author is still somewhere in the ether, having go bored and moved on to the next shiny new toy on the Internet. That particular Knol then remains outdated and giving false information for ever more.

Even worse than that is the fact that many Knols seem to be made up of nothing more than old Wikipedia articles copied ans pasted in their entirety. Technologizer has a couple of examples of this practice which really shows up the basic problems inherit with Knol.

Knol is a good idea in theory, but the basics seem to be lacking in a number of different places, and I dread to think how much work will be required by Google to fix these issues. If indeed they ever can be fixed. In the meantime, I’ll stick to Wikipedia to answer all of life’s questions.

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