I said in a previous post that I had my reservations about Google's answer to Wikipedia, Knol. Specifically I have a serious problem with the model of placing the 'expert' at the top of the knowledge creation chain. This is in stark contrast to the Wikipedia model where (with some exceptions) anyone can create content. That content may be changed by the greater community, but that's the whole point.
Knol on the other hand places content creation in the hands of one individual - who can then choose to invite collaborators to help author or edit that 'Knol'. Ostensibly, this has a certain attraction, making content accountable as it's controlled and owned by one person. There's only one problem; this has been tried before and it failed spectacularly. That failure was known as Nupedia.
'Unlike Wikipedia, Nupedia was not a wiki; it was instead characterized by an extensive peer-review process, designed to make its articles of a quality comparable to that of professional encyclopedias. Nupedia wanted scholars to volunteer content for free. Before it ceased operating, Nupedia produced 24 articles that completed its review process (three articles also existed in two versions of different lengths), and 74 more articles were in progress.In June 2008, CNET hailed Nupedia as one of the greatest defunct websites in history.'
What amazes me most about Knol is that Google seem to have entirely failed to learn the lessons that Wikipedia taught us - the bigger the pool of authors, the greater the potential for content creation.
And I'm not alone in thinking that the entire concept of Knol is flawed. Dana Boyd comments:
'Frankly, from my POV, Knol looks like an abysmal failure. There's no life to the content. Already articles are being forgotten and left to rot, along with a lot of other web content. There's no common format or standards and there's a lot more crap than gems. The incentives are all wrong and what content is emerging is limited. The expert-centric elitism is intimidating to knowledgeable folks without letters after their names and there is little reason for those of us with letters to contribute. While I don't believe in the wisdom of a crowd of idiots, I do believe that collective creations tend to result in much better content than that which is created by an individual hermit.'
Worse still is this Guardian report which suggest that Knol is a perfect breeding ground for spammers:
'Google's new Knol system has come under fire for making itself open to spammers seeking to push their products up the search engine's rankings - in effect with the blessing of the company, which has previously sought to exclude them from its listings.
Knol, which was announced in December but only opened for wider use last month, is already being targeted by people who have realised that its characteristics are a godsend to spammers.'