Google vs. Wikipedia

by Henry on December 14, 2007

The Wikimedia folk have been muttering for a while about taking on Internet search companies such as Google, but I suspect that Google is more likely to be able to displace them than vice-versa.

Earlier this week, we started inviting a selected group of people to try a new, free tool that we are calling “knol”, which stands for a unit of knowledge. Our goal is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it. The tool is still in development and this is just the first phase of testing. For now, using it is by invitation only. … A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read. The goal is for knols to cover all topics, from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions. Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content … For many topics, there will likely be competing knols on the same subject. … People will be able to submit comments, questions, edits, additional content, and so on. Anyone will be able to rate a knol or write a review of it. … Once testing is completed, participation in knols will be completely open, and we cannot expect that all of them will be of high quality. Our job in Search Quality will be to rank the knols appropriately when they appear in Google search results. We are quite experienced with ranking web pages, and we feel confident that we will be up to the challenge.

I’m waiting to see what Eszter and Siva have to say about this before I can start to think in earnest about this, but given Google’s clout and resources I imagine that this project is much more likely to have legs than, say, Citizendium.

Update: See also Nicholas Carr.

{ 4 trackbacks }

Crooked Timber » » What’s in a knol?
12.14.07 at 1:18 pm
Savage Minds: Notes and Queries in Anthropology — A Group Blog » knolcats: i’m in ur pedia, innovatin ur ass
12.15.07 at 2:14 am
Savage Minds: Notes and Queries in Anthropology — A Group Blog » knolcats: i’m in ur pedia, innovatin ur ass
12.15.07 at 2:14 am
AMERICAN NONSENSE » Midday Open Thread
12.15.07 at 9:16 pm

{ 25 comments }

1

Kieran Healy 12.14.07 at 5:09 am

Knols from Trols seems like the main issue.

2

stuart 12.14.07 at 5:34 am

Sounds interesting, but also there are potential issues with Google – even if this is a fairly poor solution among the potential solutions available or being developed it is so much more likely to win out just because of Google’s presence, rather than the ideas actual merits.

3

Shane 12.14.07 at 6:13 am

You’re gonna wait to hear what some other people say before you can “think seriously” about it?

4

MattF 12.14.07 at 6:44 am

And… it would violate some norm to use both? Sounds like your computer language of choice is Python, the ‘There should be one obvious way to do it’ computer language– rather than Perl, the ‘There should be multiple, overlapping ways to do it’ computer language.

5

Barry Freed 12.14.07 at 6:52 am

I’m waiting to see what Eszter and Siva have to say about this before I can start to think in earnest…

Why can’t Seth Finkelstein (who comments regularly on this blog), get any love?

6

John Quiggin 12.14.07 at 7:06 am

Google hasn’t had huge success in conquering fields other than general search so far, at least when there is an adequate incumbent (Mapquest, Technorati, even Hotmail) so I think it will find trouble with Wikipedia, not to mention Yahoo Answers.

7

TheDeadlyShoe 12.14.07 at 8:04 am

The ranking is a good idea for shared authoring software. But… it would take a long time before it was competitive with wikipedia on a completeness basis. The question is whether they can get over that hump.

And I think there’s risks in the knols. Rather than a ‘disputed’ article like on wiki, you might get two versions of events and the side that screams louder gets top ranking. Iraq attacked on 9/11! wee!

While it’s likely to initially attract the wikihaters, they’ll storm off the first time their edits get supplanted for some reason, just like they did with wiki. ;)

legally speaking, they are also making money off of other peoples contributions. No matter how much legalese they use, they are in danger from lawsuits. I recall a relatively infamous lawsuit from the gaming world revolving around the use of player volunteers in moderation/administration roles in MMOGs. Wiki is nonprofit and adless.

8

TheDeadlyShoe 12.14.07 at 8:27 am

Ups. Scratch the lawsuit bit. I missed the bits about revenue sharing ads etc. in the googlblog post. :|

9

Seth Finkelstein 12.14.07 at 9:07 am

Barry Freed / #5. Because I am not a “club member”. Seriously, that’s my problem. Without such a membership, generally nothing I say will be considered within the system. Metaphorically, I explored applying for membership a few years ago, and decided remaining a programmer was a lot better for me, and I already had group membership there. So I’ve pretty much given up on the matter.

Anyway, readers here may enjoy my recent Wikipedia column – by coincidence I intended to mail Henry a notice about it, but didn’t get around to it.

Inside, Wikipedia is more like a sweatshop than Santa’s workshop

“Wikipedia is frequently touted as a model of selfless human collaboration but it may be more instructive as a hotbed of social pathologies”

10

Mark 12.14.07 at 10:08 am

Interesting, but it seems more like Google vs. the already dwindling Citizendium, then. Who’s going to keep Wikipedia from having its own Knol’s in the form of the very first search result on so many subjects, as is the case now?

11

Abi 12.14.07 at 10:15 am

Just wait till John Philippe Rushton writes about IQ and race at rushton.knol.com!

12

Pete 12.14.07 at 11:37 am

“Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content” contradicts “Our job in Search Quality will be to rank the knols appropriately when they appear in Google search results.” The act of adjusting search results is blessing content.

I don’t really think having one single company hire all the smart people, build all the information infrastructure, and then persuade everyone to use their system is necessarily a good thing. It gives them so much power.

13

Saurabh Kaushik 12.14.07 at 11:53 am

Yes, it is Wikipedia by Google. But it has better features for author to monetize written page, related search box and Peer review widget.

I think it is great to have a better version of wikipedia and I am sure Google will do greater job in this area.

I would certainly not advocate the monopoly, but you got to be smarter and quicker to kill the beast, other they stories will repeat itself.

14

Eszter 12.14.07 at 1:27 pm

I’ve posted a separate entry as a response, because I had too much to say and it would’ve made for a ridiculously long comment.

15

~~~~ 12.14.07 at 1:53 pm

This is no way to beat Wikipedia. I suspect a template {{knol}} is being created right now and will be added to the external links section of every relevant article a few minutes after the first knols appear.

16

Henry 12.14.07 at 2:29 pm

Barry Freed / #5. Because I am not a “club member”. Seriously, that’s my problem. Without such a membership, generally nothing I say will be considered within the system. Metaphorically, I explored applying for membership a few years ago, and decided remaining a programmer was a lot better for me, and I already had group membership there. So I’ve pretty much given up on the matter.

Seth – that is a little weird as a response. When I saw Barry’s comment I was going to react by saying – “Yes, and Seth too, certainly.” As well as Nicholas Carr, who I see has just posted on this. It isn’t about club vs. non-club – the reason I immediately reached for Eszter and Siva’s names is that both of them have major research projects on the politics of search/Google etc – while I understand this is an interest of yours, it seems to be one among several.

17

conchis 12.14.07 at 2:42 pm

I’m just surprised they didn’t try to call it a “gnol” instead (which would have been, at least conceptually, event closer to a troll).

18

Seth Finkelstein 12.14.07 at 3:21 pm

Henry, no offense meant, no personal implication intended. My reply was directed to what I saw as a broader aspect of Barry Freed’s point, which maybe I read into it when it wasn’t there.

19

Henry 12.14.07 at 3:40 pm

seth – fair enough – but to the extent the club concerned is ‘the club of people who I find interesting and pay attention to on tech-meets-politics-issues’ you’re certainly in it.

20

Eszter 12.14.07 at 3:45 pm

I was surprised by Seth’s comment as well. Like Henry, I certainly value and am curious about what Seth has to say on these topics.

21

agm 12.14.07 at 10:08 pm

Just wait for the edit wars over the Grassy Knol.

22

Tom Lynch 12.14.07 at 11:55 pm

I don’t like the idea of a competent corporation friendly to the organised prioritisation of political perspectives running a de facto free encyclopedia for all.

Google’s collaboration with the Chinese administration on censorship, and even just its sponsored links at the top of the page, are enough to bother me.

When I was a kid at primary school the only encyclopedias we had were the firmly US-oriented “World Book” range. I’ve valued the internet, and Wikipedia, for not being like that.

The leading complaint about WP – that any hack can edit it fallaciously – might well be the dual of the leading complaint about a Googlepedia: no matter how cogent my knol is I can’t lift it into the top five on the rankings.

23

Aaron 12.15.07 at 9:17 am

HURRY UP AND MAKE THIS THING. I HAVE STARTED UP MY ARTICLE ON JUDGEJUDY.KNOL.COM

24

Dood 12.15.07 at 9:52 pm

Google was supposed to replace Yahoo Mail, supposed to replace eBay, supposed to replace Paypal, etc….

Google always gets too much credit from it’s fanboys and stockholders.

25

Debasish 12.16.07 at 5:37 am

The goal is for knols to cover all topics, from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions. Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content … For many topics, there will likely be competing knols on the same subject.

I think this has already been invented… oh yeah – it’s called the Internet.

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