Friday, August 08, 2008

Google's Knol vs Wikipedia

While I have little more than mild disgust of former US Presidential candidate John Edwards' indiscretions while his wife was battling cancer, I find the fact that Wikipedia and nearly all of the mainstream press deliberately suppressed the story since last week absolutely stunning. It would appear that they decided to allow their reputations die with Edwards' political hopes. It's a dangerous precedent for Wikipedia that has already shown it actively censors debate on global warming (Forbes). It makes you wonder what else they're either lying about or not telling you. Thankfully, despite some of Google's sometimes questionable tactics, they launched Knol, July 23, 2008.

What makes this competition fascinating is that both take fundamentally different philosophies to developing their content. TechCrunch describes Knol as monetizable wikipedia. Google rewards writers with adwords but requires authorship and therefore accountability. Wikipedia editors hide behind pseudonyms. Already there are those who claim that Google, is playing favorites ( TechCrunch also opines:

Wikipedia works well because it’s almost like a charitable organization. Everyone contributes what they can in the hopes of furthering the world’s knowledge. Knol’s community will likely be far more concerned with earning money than the general welfare, which may hurt both its credibility and the amount of participation it sees from the community.
If anything, the heavy handed one-sided tactics on politically sensitive issues show that Wikipedia can be very selective about what it wants the world to know. This anti-commercial bias from TechCrunch is also remarkable. Given that names and authorship are required I think TechCrunch misses another incentive - reputation. This is why some people will write about obscure topics. The idea that being commercial and doing good for the community are antithetical like the idea that not for profit motivations always result in positive benefits for society are ones that should have died a long time ago. The organization that wins will be the one that offers the most accurate resource of information - but what I don't understand is why most bloggers who have opined on the subject think that this is currently Wikipedia.

Cortera's blog makes the point that "trust is hard to gain, but easily lost" assuming that it's only Google's reputation at risk. Recent events suggest that this isn't the case.

Update: Have English content producers lost their "sense of community"? They've stopped making "revisions."

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