from the so,-please,-put-your-info-online dept
Squidoo has been around for quite some time without getting much traction and Mahalo is too early to call. So, it's certainly reasonable to question whether or not knols will really take off beyond spammers (which, Google insists it will keep out). If it were any other company doing this, it would make sense to be quite skeptical of how well it would catch on, but you have to provide Google at least the benefit of the doubt in terms of being able to leverage its brand to make this take off in some form or another. Certainly, Google has had its fair share of failed projects -- and I'm not yet convinced that people really want to create pages of info just for the hell of it. However, of any company trying this sort of thing, Google probably has the greatest chance to make it work.
Of course, no discussion on Google's knol project would be complete without comparing it to Wikipedia (as many smart commentators are noting). However, in looking over the details, this doesn't seem to be a Wikipedia "competitor" so much as another reference for static information. It seems that the goals of this project are quite different than Wikipedia's -- which is focused on narrowing in on a clear, factual description of something. The idea of knols is almost completely antithetical to that concept. It's about recognizing a single individual's perspective on things, and allowing multiple people to put forth their perspective. Google is even hoping that people will create knols based on opinion, rather than trying to create factual pages. That's quite different. Neither approach is necessarily "better" -- they just serve different purposes, and assuming these knols catch on, what may be most interesting is to see how useful the combination of knols and Wikipedia are together. I've always believed that a Wikipedia-type approach works well for factual information, where you have to zoom in on a single point -- but it runs into trouble when you want opinion, insight and analysis, where you want multiple separate opinions rather than a merged one. That, at least is the theory behind our business as well, so it's nice to see Google appears to have a similar perspective. However, much of the work that we've done with the Techdirt Insight Community has been in aligning various incentives for people to provide useful analysis and insights (rather than useless or meaningless ones) -- and it will be interesting to see how much Google has thought through the various incentives at play.