Google’s announcement of its encyclopedia project has not only given us all a new unit of measure – the “knol” (a unit of knowledge)- it has given us new fodder for the debate about what relationship profit and knowledge can have in the collection and preservation of reliable information.
Google’s entries will differ from Wikipedia’s in two ways: the authors’ names will appear on the Knol entries and the authors may choose to run ads on their entries. The problem I thought of right away was how click fraud could raise the ranking of Google’s entries in its search function. All information could become all Google all the time for Google dollars. I don’t feel good about this.
Right now teachers spend a great deal of time trying to convince students not to run to Wikipedia for their information. The convenience (and high search engine rankings) of Wikipedia entries often make it the first stop – which is fine – but often the last stop – not fine at all – of lazy students. I do believe that Wikipedia is great within the purview of its purpose, which many people are unfortunately unaware of: “The Wikimedia foundation‘s stated goal is to develop and maintain open content, wiki-based projects and to provide the full contents of those projects to the public free of charge. ”
People already use “Google” as a verb, as in “Why don’t you just ‘google’ it?” Has “Google” (like “Kleenex” for tissue and “Xerox” for photocopy) already come into the public domain as synonym for what it is, a search engine? If it indeed becomes that ubiquitous, and clicking raises both ranking and profits, the “knol” will become a currency as well as a unit of knowledge.
I took some solace in the fact that the Google knols could be included in Wikipedia because they will be licensed under Creative Commons. Wikipedia, which allows a number of contributing authors,Ã‚Â could then include the knols with the opinions of other contributors. This at least would provide an attractive alternative to the Google plan of choosing its authors (hmm, pre-selected commerically viable authors?).
My suggestion for now is to stop using ‘google’ as a verb; remember, it is only a search engine.