Magazine article Information Today

Google: Designing a User-Generated Encyclopedia

Magazine article Information Today

Google: Designing a User-Generated Encyclopedia

Article excerpt

Search engine giant Google is in the process of creating its own user-generated web encyclopedia system called Knol. The company uses the term, which represents a unit of knowledge, as the name for the project as a whole and for each of its individual pages. Knol, which is still in its closed, preliminary testing phase, has yet to be given even a tentative release date, but official press releases and interviews have provided some primary insights into the project.

The Pitch

Udi Manber, Google vice president of engineering, elaborates on what the company intended Knol to be on the official Google blog.

"There are millions of people who possess useful knowledge that they would love to share, and there are billions of people who can benefit from it," according to Manber. "We believe that many do not share that knowledge today simply because it is not easy enough to do that." He also says Knol is designed to be the platform that will allow the simple publication of this information and details several of the project's main points.

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Knol is expected to highlight the actual authors of each article. "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," he writes. But he sees attribution of information as a key factor. "We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content."

Knol also won't include the collaborative writing that has previously defined web knowledgebases, such as Wikipedia and Citizendium, according to the initial reports. Each Knol page will be written by its author and its author alone. Other Knol users will be able to suggest changes and edits, but only the page's actual author will be able to make alterations. Because Knol articles will no longer be collaborative, the topics they cover will not be mutually exclusive per topic; thousands of pages on Miley Cyrus or Colin Powell could be hosted, and each page would then compete against the others for the top search rank, both internally on Knol and on the web in general.

Manber considers competition a good thing, and Google is planning to put its money behind its idea. …

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