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Friday, December 14, 2007

Knol Broker

Google's looking to take another step towards "organiz[ing] the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

There's already lots of commentary about the concept. And I think I'm falling more on the side of the skeptics. I'm no fan of Wikipedia (though I'm starting to be convinced) but ownership of articles isn't the reason I question articles veracity.

My main concern with the new site is that if multiple articles exist on any given topic, Google assumes the position of expert by ranking the results according to which should be the most relevant. While Google is still seen by many as doing no evil, positioning themselves as the method for discovery is meaningless because it's inside a walled garden. Of course, Google is going to be used to search for articles, it's your only choice. But that doesn't mean that it's the best system for ranking the content.
This seems like a blunder that Google should be making. When you open your site up to user-generated content you have to also give your users the power to decide what is relevant to them. By retaining control of that, Google's suffocating half the value that the site could have.

I suppose we'll have to wait and see what happens with this. The first hurdle is going to be getting people to show up and write. Has Google shown up too late to the party to get substantial participation?

Update 12/15: I read over the announcement again about Google's inclusion of "Community Tools" (comments, suggested edits, user rankings) but if they are controlling the algorithm that determines who shows up in the search results, then I still don't see this as really providing the community with much value.

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