Google Knol is now open to the public

Google announced that their Knol site is now open to the public. As I wrote about it earlier, Knol is similar to a wiki, except that the authorship information is always explicit and out in the open – no pretending to build an encyclopedia from a neutral point of view. Every author has a history, has a point of view. Now if the person writing articles on various ideas actually disagrees with those ideas and wishes to subvert them (like the Wikipedia articles on constructivism, problem-based learning, inquiry learning and so forth), it may be more clearly evident.

Knols still allows pseudonymous, unverified authors (unlike citizendium where everyone has to use their real name), but it also has a system to verify the identity of authors, should such authors wish to be verified. Click on your own profile page, and there is a link under your name to “Verify Name.” There you can verify your identity by phone or by credit card.

It remains to be seen if Knols will be successful, and if it’s Amazon-like rating system will help overcome the increased noise/spam/junk that occurs with anonymously/pseudonymously authored content which will probably still dominate the site. Ratings alone don’t seem to totally solve that problem on Youtube. There are plenty of good educational videos on Youtube, but finding them is not so easy. Perhaps if Youtube and Knols allowed for groups, that would help. Educators for example could group together and help present their own filtered views of content they value.

Lastly as I also discussed at the end of my earlier post, even if all the kinks are worked out in the Knols system, there are still fundamental problems that remain. Are articles stored in an open format? Can articles be easily exported and tranferred elsewhere? The answer is no, Google Knols is not open source or using open standards, although you can openly license your content. This is an issue Jonathan Zittrain has tackled, an issue you also see with Apple’s iPhone, Second Life, Facebook, etc.

Posted in research, technology

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