Units of Knowledge: Google’s Wikipedia competitor addresses accountability issues

Posted in content, knol, wikipedia by Sushant on July 28, 2008

What makes the Internet an abundant source of information is the fact you can access to virtually any information on the World Wide Web. This is possible because the Internet also enables its users to share their knowledge with their fellow-users by writing articles, blogs and offering other useful content to the searchers on the Internet. This wonderful sharing of knowledge on a common platform has made the Internet increasingly popular among a wide range of the Internet users across the Web.

When you talk about accessing information on the Internet, we can barely ignore the search engines, especially Google, that facilitate the process of sharing knowledge on the Internet. Wikipedia, a free, multilingual, open content encyclopaedia project operated by the United States-based non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, tremendously helps its users to gain access to critical information which further helps in the evolvement of other Research and Development material. Wikipedia has garnered immense popularity across the web searchers since it offers active and unpaid participation of users for sharing knowledge by making useful entries. However, many experts and specialists have long been debating on the wisdom of Wikipedia to allow the free participation of the Internet users.

Knol the latest innovative knowledge sharing tool from Google and a new competitor to Wikipedia, has come live on the Internet. It has made an attempt to create a credible and user-friendly online encyclopaedia by filling in the blanks left by Wikipedia’s more community-oriented approach to disseminating information. Knol, entitled to represent “a unit of knowledge’ has aimed to create an online reference library that people contribute to- but it represents a significant departure from Wikipedia, so far the dominant source for information on subjects as disparate as Einstein and the riot Grrl movement.

A key difference between the Wikipedia model and Knol is that while Wikipedia is ad-free and contributions are unpaid, the author of a Knol entry will have the opportunity to support his article with ads and earn money from them. Google’s rationale is creating this model is clear: it hopes to encourage more people to contribute. More importantly, while Wikipedia depends on collective contributions fro anonymous users on a specific topic to maintain an entry, Knol encourages signed contributions from experts. Wikipedia’s model has drawn flak on account of how easy it is to manipulate the entries, affecting the accuracy of information available from that website. But Google will verify the identities of the people who write articles on Knol, thus introducing some accountability.

It would be premature to suggest that the days of collaborative, community-driven, user-generated content are about to be over. But there does seem to be greater demand for edited information vetted by professionals. Wikipedia exemplifies all that can go wrong with the faulty information available so easily on the Web. For all the stuff that it gets right, Wikipedia finds itself involved in dust-ups over inaccuracies of having to lock controversial entries. Knol might provide a way to address the problems of an open platform like Wikipedia while leaving enough room for user participation.


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