I think Google has climbed up so high on their knoll that they have lost perspective on what makes the web work.
Let's see what they have to say about Knol in Blogger Buzz
Blogs are great for quickly and easily getting your latest writing out to your readers, while knols are better for when you want to write an authoritative article on a single topic. The tone is more formal, and, while it's easy to update the content and keep it fresh, knols aren't designed for continuously posting new content or threading.
Introducing Knol - Blogger Buzz - July 23, 2008 (Emphasis theirs.)
Both the concept and the implementation of this are wrong on so many levels.
- After we've worked hard to put forth the position that you can present serious science and ideas in a blog, Google says, nah, blogs are just quick and easy jottings.
- Who is Google to say what the tone of a Knol is? Is there going to be a Knol Tonemaster?
- Knols aren't designed for continuously posting new content? So ideas are all graven in stone?
In addition, Google is hacking away at the web in various ways.
- The entire Knol is nofollow. You can't have a web if search crawlers don't follow links.
<meta name="robots" content="index,nofollow" />
- The Knol search engine is utter shite. It gives different results depending whether you're logged in (i.e. blessed by Google) or surfing anonymously (i.e. unknown by Google, an outcast).
Check this out.
Exhibit A: When logged out.
No results found for digital photo
No results found for geocoding
No results found for akerman
Exhibit B: When logged in.
Results 1-1 of about 1 for digital photo
Results 1-1 of about 1 for geocoding
Results 1-2 of about 2 for akerman
What the heck? That's not the way people expect a search box on the web to work.
- In Wikipedia, making a link to a relevant topic is as easy as [[topic]] - the topic doesn't even have to exist yet, someone can come in later and click to create it. In Knol, making a link to a relevant Knol... doesn't exist in any easy way. You're supposed to search for URLs and make links.
- You're supposed to create authoritative articles with references, but many of the examples are just formatted text. Which is to say, references that don't even link anywhere. Isn't the whole point of the web supposed to be that you FOLLOW a link to check the referenced source?
- Given that it has no concept of bibliographic reference metadata, it's no surprise that there are no features to link into the scholarly literature whatsoever - not even a quick way to insert references from Google Scholar, Zotero or RefWorks. No DOIs, no COINS, no nothing.
- On Google, PageRank IS AUTHORITY. Higher in the results, higher (implied) authority. This may not be right, but it is true. How do you gain PageRank? Well, for one, you write a blog (or create a website) which has lots of content. Lots of good content. People like that content, people link that content. PageRank accrues... to your site. I'll say that again: PageRank accrues to your site. So instead of blogging, Google thinks you should put your knowledge in a Knol, where PageRank will accrue to... wait for it... knol.google.com
- Not only are you supposed to give away your PageRank, and your ability to give PageRank to others (through having your links followed), you can't even discover a community of clicks. What's that? Well it goes like this. Joe Biglibrarian's never heard of me. I link to him and write something reasonable (one hopes). He sees the incoming clicks from my readers in his web stats. He reads my thing. He writes a post. And so it goes. Webstats may not be a perfect community discovery mechanism, but it is a part of it particularly in the early days of your blog. Knol provides no webstats whatsoever.
- Not only does Knol remove you from your click community, its advertising focus gives you a deliberate disincentive to direct traffic to other sites. Links to other sites = lost AdSense revenue. The ideal ad-revenue Knol has no links to outside sites other than the ads themselves.
Knol will be a great new way for you to share what you know, inform people about an issue that is important to you, raise your profile as an expert in your field, and maybe even make some money from ads.
I'm sorry Google, but that's not only not true, the entire Knol system and "introducing Knol" tone show a total lack of understanding of the current state of scholarly blogging, a total absence of support for scholarly citation and linking, and a surprising disregard for critical existing aspects of the web architecture.
If you want to make Knol a system for presenting authoritative information, you might want to look at how scholars do it in modern web-enabled scientific articles (about which, more to come in a later posting).