As Google grows in its ever increasing quest to make knowledge easily available and free to people, it has rolled out yet another big time project, Google Knols. Google Knols, which says a knol is a unit of knowledge, is rubbing shoulders with the likes of Wikipedia in order to try and create a network of user-written articles to create a knowledge base. To quote the brainchild of Google Knols, Udi Manber, a knol is, “meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read.”The project, which is still in its beta stages, was released on July 23rd of this year and hopes to eventually cover a wide range of topics.
There are a lot of pretty neat uses and probably even some pretty warranted fears of this whole project. To be able to feel like you are a competent enough person to author an article about a subject is a fairly powerful tool. Google Knols with some time and momentum could become as popular a thing as blogging, considering the desirability factors of being able to speak your mind and give your opinions about a subject you believe you are an “expert” in. The flip side to this being, of course, that it could also become less of an information hub in the sense that Wikipedia is because it could very well end up just a series of personal essays. With the ability for authors to review changes or additions made to their articles, it could be easy for authors to simply never want to take criticism or correction. This could then also branch into a lack of vitality in any kind of reviewing community because people will just start writing their own knols instead of wanting to take the time to critique someone who might just ignore what they have to say. I personally would like to imagine that wouldn’t be the case, but it isn’t always so easy to predict the way with which people will view the system.
It’s also safe to assume that all the normal questions of biases are being thrown out there. Will Google keep their end of the bargain and not let knols unfairly climb the natural search rankings? Let’s hope so, but it’s easy to imagine not. If a knol is their version of a unit of knowledge, and they write the search algorithms dictating search variables and relativity, it seems like anything could happen. Maybe nothing will be hard coded that biases Google Knols, but if a system favors information presented in a certain format, these biases might happen naturally, and Google will be able to claim it’s not intentional but a product of the system.
I know that I am personally excited about this though. I think there are going to be a lot of niche uses for something like Google Knols and I eagerly wait for it to grow in popularity. There could be some extremely fascinating knols one day about even things as small as discussions about cult movies and things that at conception, people probably haven’t thought about even using the knol system for. The opportunities are endless with the system Google envisions and I have no doubts in their ability to follow through.