Friday, December 14, 2007

Coming up from Google: Knol to compete with Wikipedia

What do you think about Wikipedia? Personally, I tell my students to check it out. I think it can be used with caution and discernment. The articles I've checked related to the Bible and biblical studies have been appropriate. (And just because something is written in a 'real' book doesn't automatically guarantee it is more true or accurate!) The strength and weakness of Wikipedia has been its collaborative nature. Some items may miss the mark or miss altogether, but you also have the potential for a much wider and balanced perspective.
Here comes Google announcing an upcoming competitor to Wikipedia they are calling Knol (short for a "unit of knowledge"). According to the announcement:

The key idea behind the knol project is to highlight authors. Books have authors' names right on the cover, news articles have bylines, scientific articles always have authors -- but somehow the web evolved without a strong standard to keep authors names highlighted. We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content.
Users will be able to rate articles and add comments but not edit them in the way that Wikipedia works. Authors will have full freedom over their content... including the decision of whether they want to include ads on the page and earn income from it. I'm guessing it will be a bit prestigious to be a Google Knol author anyways, so they should be able to solicit top experts in the field. I am wondering, however, who is making that decision for topics in the field of biblical studies. We shall have to see once Knol goes live.
So is this progress? Maybe. It seems to be similar to Citizendium which has few entries of questionable worth on biblical topics. Stephen Downes says, "It's surprising to see Google ignoring the lesson that created its huge empire in the first places: that many voices, not one expert voice, constitute authority." Well, you can think about that claim too...

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