How’s Google’s Wikipedia-killer “Knol” doing? Not well, apparently. Slate‘s Farhad Manjoo takes a peek and shreds the product as a wasteland of plagiarism, ignorance, self-promotion, and bias. And that’s when there’s any content at all.
Knol, you’ll remember, was supposed to crush Wikipedia by paying experts (via ad-revenue-share) to write fabulous articles on their areas of expertise. Here’s how the Knol expert on Sarah Palin, Macao, and Facebook does it:
[Expert Sam] Goldfarb’s great Palin entry is a copy of the Wikipedia article on the Alaska governor as it appeared on Aug. 29, the day John McCain picked Palin as his running mate. That’s why the Knol piece still describes Palin as having “successfully killed the Bridge to Nowhere”; the Wikipedia entry on Palin has since been updated thousands of times, and it now tells a more nuanced story about her flip-flop on the bridge. (Wikipedia’s articles are licensed under the GNU Free Documentation licence, which allows people to copy an entry’s text as long as they also reproduce the licence; Goldfarb’s Palin article and many others on Knol that copy from Wikipedia don’t follow those rules.) Goldfarb’s Macau article is lifted from this Macau travel site, his Facebook piece draws from this ad company, and his hotel guides pull from the hotels’ Web sites.
Essentially, Knol wants to be a well-written online magazine, with bang-up articles on all important topics. The trouble with this? Writing well is hard, especially without editors.
On Wikipedia, the crowd can edit entries directly (which is good and bad, depending). To edit a Knol article, you have to contact the author and have him/her approve your changes. In other words, you have to tell the expert that he/she is wrong and get him/her to admit it. And that’s if you can figure out how to get ahold of the expert. Manjoo tried to contact a couple of Knol experts for a while and then gave up.
Like all crappy Google products, Knol is in beta, so Google will no doubt argue that it’s early yet and it just has to work out the kinks. Maybe so. The other possibility is that Knol is yet another would-be killer Google product that has bombed.
See Also: Google To Wikipedia: You’re Toast
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