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Google Knol: A Massive Blogging Platform


Google opened up its Knol service on Wednesday July 23. From the Google blog:

The web contains vast amounts of information, but not everything worth knowing is on the web. An enormous amount of information resides in people’s heads: millions of people know useful things and billions more could benefit from that knowledge. Knol will encourage these people to contribute their knowledge online and make it accessible to everyone.

Allow millions of people to freely write up their own thoughts and contribute knowledge. Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah…

You know what Knol is? It’s a blogging platform. A hosted, multi-author blogging platform

As Mathew Ingram notes, Knol is compared to Wikipedia and Mahalo. Here’s how I’d break down the three services.

  • Wikipedia is a wiki
  • Mahalo is an editor-controlled links aggregation site
  • Knol is a giant blogging site

Wikipedia is a collaborative effort toward creating a single information page. Mahalo is handpicked information created in a top-down fashion by experts. Knol is a bunch of separate blog posts on a given subject.

I Wrote My First Google Knol

To find out more about Google Knol, I decided to write up a knol. My knol is Using FriendFeed to Increase Blog Readership. I took my old post Ten FriendFeed Visitors Beats 1,000 StumbleUpons Any Day, and got rid of the comparisons to StumbleUpon and Digg. The knol focuses on how FriendFeed is actually good for bloggers.

I figured that post was a good one to start with. It got Likes from FriendFeed co-founders Paul Buchheit and Bret Taylor:

The post was also (ironically) quite popular with Stumblers. So I cleaned up the references to other sites and added some things around attention optimization.

Yup, I was ready to rock-n-knol.

Knol = Blogging

The process of creating a knol was really easy:

  1. Go to knol.google.com
  2. Click on “Write a knol”
  3. Sign in with your Google account
  4. Start writing

I thought there might be some sort of test to prove my expertise, or some approval period while someone checked my credentials. Nope.  It was just another Google Accounts sign-up.

The process reminded me of signing up for wordpress.com and starting to write. Here’s the knol blogging interface:

Once I got in there, it was just like blogging. I wrote my paragraphs. Created section titles. Added graphics.

I did assume a somewhat more professorial tone in the knol than I do here.

Knols Allow Some Wiki-Like Collaboration on Blog Posts

The overall Knol site is not itself a wiki. But there are wiki elements available for individual knols. Three collaboration options are available, set by th author:

  1. Wide open editing by anyone who is signed in
  2. Moderated editing – all edits must be approved by the author
  3. No editing – no one except the author can make changes

So there could be knols that are set up as true community build-out efforts (#1 option above). That’s pretty much Wikipedia. The difference is that there may be several knols on a given subject – some by solo authors, some by a group of collaborators. Wikipedia has only a single page per subject.

Knols Allow Comments – Just Like Blogs

People can make comments on your knol. A good discussion can occur around a subject. This is just like a blog.

Knols Allow Ads – Just Like Blogs

An author can elect to allow ads to appear beside the knol. I did this, signing up for Google AdSense for the first time in my life. I don’t expect to earn a penny, but I want to see what ads run there.

Blogs, of course, can also have ads.

Knol Includes an Author Profile – Just Like Blogs

When you create your first knol, Google automatically creates a second one for you: your profile page (link to mine). A really nice feature that, again, is a hallmark of blogs (the About page).

Aside from a  bio, the profile page includes a listing of the knols that someone has written.

What’s the Difference Between Google Knols and WordPress.com?

Really, there’s no reason the content of knols will differ that much from blogs. I searched for “back pain” on Google Knol and WordPress.com. Here are two results:

The knol is the more scholarly of the two. But the wordpress.com blog holds its own in terms of information.

There are two key differences from what I can see:

  1. Brand. Knol is branded as an expert/knowledge site. Blogs are that, but also include a lot of opinion and first-person experiences.
  2. Ranking. Readers can rate a knol on a 1-5 star scale. These rankings will help the best content emerge at the top of search results.

Google knols may also have better “Google juice” than most blogs. Search Engine Land suspects knols will inherit a Google page rank advantage in search results.

Try Writing a Knol!

For me, writing a knol was a lot less pressure than adding to a Wikipedia entry. It was just like writing a blog post. Now I am conscious of the purpose of knol, and don’t expect to fill it with my blog posts. But perhaps over time people will be less wary of adding opinion to knols. From the Google blog post introducing Knol:

The key principle behind Knol is authorship. Every knol will have an author (or group of authors) who put their name behind their content. It’s their knol, their voice, their opinion. We expect that there will be multiple knols on the same subject, and we think that is good.

Note the inclusion of opinion in there. Once you open that up, you’ve fundamentally got blogging. Knol might be good for people who don’t want to maintain a full blog, but would love to write a few articles providing knowledge and opinion.

Go take a look at the knol I wrote (link). Please rate it. Comment on it. I’m curious what all that interaction looks like.

And then go blog your own knol. If you do, leave a link in the comments so I can check it out.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Google+Knol%3A+A+Massive+Blogging+Platform%22&public=1

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About Hutch Carpenter
Senior Consultant for HYPE Innovation (hypeinnovation.com)

8 Responses to Google Knol: A Massive Blogging Platform

  1. I wasn’t sure what to make of Knol. Thanks for breaking it down. I guess I’ll also put some of my posts here and gauge the response.

    DO you think bloggers can totally move over to Knol from WordPress (among other blogging platforms), how does Google’s own ‘Blogger’ stack up against this existential threat (if it is one)

  2. elliottng says:

    Thanks for explaining this in everyday language. I was trying to figure out what this was compared to Mahalo, Wikipedia, etc.

  3. eee says:

    I’ve thought about the comparison between blogging and knol too.

    A key difference, IMO, is that blog posts are chronological. If you write a post about FriendFeed and a year later change your opinion about it, you’d write a new blog post meant to invalidate your previous post. With Knol, you’d just update the prev one.. an article is centered around a topic and not around a date…
    it may make authors take their articles more seriously than their blog posts. i still wonder about outdated/abandoned knols though. but i suspect google can easily detect that and give a lower ranking…
    Thoughts? :)

  4. Pingback: digital-with-reblog » Mahalo.com: Human-powered Search Sunday, July 26th, 11:40M PST.

  5. Sachendra – I think blogging of a certain style makes sense on Knol. If you tend to write information-oriented pieces, Knol is not a bad place to hang your hat. Particularly from a professional reputation perspective (better hope your Knols are highly rated!).

  6. Thanks Elliott – trying to understand those differences was one of my objectives as well.

  7. eee – Good point about maintaining the currency of a Knol post vs. a blog post. The most-viewed Knols will probably be maintained well. The less viewed ones will be like any blog post. Just buried over time, not updated.

  8. blog says:

    oh thank you nice content

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