100,000th Knol Published and No One Cares But Google

Knol is a ridiculous scheme by Google to create a Wikipedia onto it’s own, except one that’s worse. Knol takes the idea that there is actually a single person out there who is an expert on a field and uses them to write an article on it, and through everybody else going, “Hey, great Knol” and makes it the Knol on that subject. Google now has about 100,000 of these published in about 5 months of being open to the public.

Okay, so maybe it isn’t such a crazy idea, except for one little problem. Have you ever found a single person who is THE defintive authority on a subject, no matter how narrow? When was the last person you ever met or heard of someone who really was THE expert in something? Anybody heard of that person?

One better, last time you were on a college campus and heard a professor proclaim that this textbook had absolutelty no errors in it and was to be the authority on a subject (and it wasn’t the professor’s own book)?

Both of these has never happened and never will. One person can not and does not contain all the information to be THE expert in a subject. You can be an expert in a field, for instance a Doctorate of French History, is an expert of French History. Not however, this doctorate is not the only expert nor even the last remaining expert, there are others who are experts, other people will build upon her/his work in the future and become an expert.

The crowds will make mistakes, but at the very least the collective intelligence of dozens or hundreds of people working away on an article to make it better, provides a collective wisdom that Google will never get with it’s experiment.

No thank you, Knol, I will stick with Wikipedia.

Justin Yost is a full-time Software Engineer and a part time educator. A graduate of Texas Tech University with a bachelor's degree in computer science, Justin relishes programming and learning more about anything and everything. When not working, Justin occasionally gives talks at the local PHP Meetup. In his free time, Justin enjoys backpacking and reading science fiction books.

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13 comments on “100,000th Knol Published and No One Cares But Google
  1. Ellen says:

    Hi,

    I'm not sure I totally agree with your assessment.

    Anyone can edit any knol, although the edits are sent as suggestions to the original author who can incorporate or not as they wish. A small but important difference from the free-for-all approach of a wiki. Or you can just start another knol on the same topic.

    Not that I'm an expert on either wikis or knols…

  2. jtyost2 says:

    My response is that in the same way a textbook can be updated and is. Suggestions are sent all the time to both publishers and the author and yet mistakes still occur and no professor has a perfect textbook.

    Two examples: my Women's History and Art Appreciation textbook. For Women's History, the professor really liked the older edition but the newer editions used a lot of meaningless essays that served no point. However the professor couldn't use the older editions as they were out of date and had inaccurate information.

    Art Appreciation, the professor actually met with the publisher and the author and discussed issues that he had with the book. Next edition some were solved but some aren't. The professor still finds errors in the book, one in which he has a personal relationship with the author and the publisher.

    Merely sending a note to someone doesn't correct errors.

  3. Ellen says:

    Hi,

    I'm not sure I totally agree with your assessment.

    Anyone can edit any knol, although the edits are sent as suggestions to the original author who can incorporate or not as they wish. A small but important difference from the free-for-all approach of a wiki. Or you can just start another knol on the same topic.

    Not that I'm an expert on either wikis or knols…

  4. jtyost2 says:

    My response is that in the same way a textbook can be updated and is. Suggestions are sent all the time to both publishers and the author and yet mistakes still occur and no professor has a perfect textbook.

    Two examples: my Women's History and Art Appreciation textbook. For Women's History, the professor really liked the older edition but the newer editions used a lot of meaningless essays that served no point. However the professor couldn't use the older editions as they were out of date and had inaccurate information.

    Art Appreciation, the professor actually met with the publisher and the author and discussed issues that he had with the book. Next edition some were solved but some aren't. The professor still finds errors in the book, one in which he has a personal relationship with the author and the publisher.

    Merely sending a note to someone doesn't correct errors.

  5. wlod says:

    Over 99% of wikipedia articles on mathematics provide no pleasure from reading them, and their value is very limited. Worse than that, majority of them is written without any ear for mathematics, and then they can be even harmful in a sense, when they uglify mathematics. On the other hand, the monographs written by the top mathematicians are beautiful. It's so silly to think that an article written by some three dozens of mathematically deaf coauthors can write anything even remotely as good as a single true specialist would (say one from the top forty of a given branch of mathematics).

    Justin, I cannot help noting that here and there you applied drastically unsound arguments, to put it mildly.

    Regards,

    Wlodzimierz Holsztynski

  6. wlod says:

    Over 99% of wikipedia articles on mathematics provide no pleasure from reading them, and their value is very limited. Worse than that, majority of them is written without any ear for mathematics, and then they can be even harmful in a sense, when they uglify mathematics. On the other hand, the monographs written by the top mathematicians are beautiful. It's so silly to think that an article written by some three dozens of mathematically deaf coauthors can write anything even remotely as good as a single true specialist would (say one from the top forty of a given branch of mathematics).

    Justin, I cannot help noting that here and there you applied drastically unsound arguments, to put it mildly.

    Regards,

    Wlodzimierz Holsztynski

  7. wlod says:

    Over 99% of wikipedia articles on mathematics provide no pleasure from reading them, and their value is very limited. Worse than that, majority of them is written without any ear for mathematics, and then they can be even harmful in a sense, when they uglify mathematics. On the other hand, the monographs written by the top mathematicians are beautiful. It's so silly to think that an article written by some three dozens of mathematically deaf coauthors can write anything even remotely as good as a single true specialist would (say one from the top forty of a given branch of mathematics).

    Justin, I cannot help noting that here and there you applied drastically unsound arguments, to put it mildly.

    Regards,

    Wlod

  8. jtyost2 says:

    Well thanks for the comment. My response is first that I myself don't have as you put an ear for mathematics so I can't make a statement one way or the other on the “pleasure” in reading the articles on Mathematics. I do know that I don't want to receive pleasure from an encyclopedia, but rather information.

    Do you get as much pleasure from reading the Encyclopedia Britannica sections on Mathematics?

    Also, I did not say that one could not use Britannica or other resources. I probably should have stated that I want people to gather from a multitude of sources. However in not all cases is that possible. Where Wikipedia shines is a starting point for research, simply due to the breadth and depth of articles. Whereas Britticina or other research materials are typically slowed by the inability to search and slowness inherent in a print medium. Wikipedia there is a fairly low bar at which an article must meet to stay.

    How many other encyclopedias have articles about lightsaber fighting or your local tv stations? There is a lot of value in that.

    Also I still have yet to see a professor who spends their lifetime research and specializing in a field of mathematics proclaim that someone is THE expert in a field. Who is THE expert in your field of mathematics that can publish something that no one finds fault with? At least when I go to Wikipedia I realize what I am getting – something written by most likely average people and not always experts.

    However I will also say as a Computer Science Major, I find their articles in the areas of CS, complete, through and highly accurate. I have yet to find a mistake in Wikipedia, in that particular area.

  9. jtyost2 says:

    Well thanks for the comment. My response is first that I myself don't have as you put an ear for mathematics so I can't make a statement one way or the other on the “pleasure” in reading the articles on Mathematics. I do know that I don't want to receive pleasure from an encyclopedia, but rather information.

    Do you get as much pleasure from reading the Encyclopedia Britannica sections on Mathematics?

    Also, I did not say that one could not use Britannica or other resources. I probably should have stated that I want people to gather from a multitude of sources. However in not all cases is that possible. Where Wikipedia shines is a starting point for research, simply due to the breadth and depth of articles. Whereas Britticina or other research materials are typically slowed by the inability to search and slowness inherent in a print medium. Wikipedia there is a fairly low bar at which an article must meet to stay.

    How many other encyclopedias have articles about lightsaber fighting or your local tv stations? There is a lot of value in that.

    Also I still have yet to see a professor who spends their lifetime research and specializing in a field of mathematics proclaim that someone is THE expert in a field. Who is THE expert in your field of mathematics that can publish something that no one finds fault with? At least when I go to Wikipedia I realize what I am getting – something written by most likely average people and not always experts.

    However I will also say as a Computer Science Major, I find their articles in the areas of CS, complete, through and highly accurate. I have yet to find a mistake in Wikipedia, in that particular area.

  10. John says:

    “However I will also say as a Computer Science Major, I find their articles in the areas of CS, complete, through and highly accurate. I have yet to find a mistake in Wikipedia, in that particular area.”

    So are you claiming yourself to be an expert in Computer science, purely due to your degree in that area?

  11. John says:

    “However I will also say as a Computer Science Major, I find their articles in the areas of CS, complete, through and highly accurate. I have yet to find a mistake in Wikipedia, in that particular area.”

    So are you claiming yourself to be an expert in Computer science, purely due to your degree in that area?

  12. jtyost2 says:

    No, I am not claiming to be a “expert”, I am claiming to be somewhat knowledgeable of the subject and the ability to recognize the accurate information from the wrong stuff. Both because of my degree and due to my experience in that particular field. I've also been a part-time web developer for over a year and a half at this point. Also don't we typically consider experts in fields due purely to their degree in the area and sometimes on the time working in the field?

    Also the vast majority of Wikipedia is taken from what would be considered qualified sources. I helped edit Wikipedia articles about art and art history, and where I took my information from was the BBC typically.

  13. jtyost2 says:

    No, I am not claiming to be a “expert”, I am claiming to be somewhat knowledgeable of the subject and the ability to recognize the accurate information from the wrong stuff. Both because of my degree and due to my experience in that particular field. I've also been a part-time web developer for over a year and a half at this point. Also don't we typically consider experts in fields due purely to their degree in the area and sometimes on the time working in the field?

    Also the vast majority of Wikipedia is taken from what would be considered qualified sources. I helped edit Wikipedia articles about art and art history, and where I took my information from was the BBC typically.

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