All About Google Knol

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Posted 25 Aug 2008 in Geek Girl

Geek GirlGoogle Knol is Google’s attempt to break into user-created content. It has similarities to Wikipedia and About.com, but it also takes a turn into social networking and collaboration by promoting the author of a knol prominently in the sidebar.

A knol by definition is a “unit of knowledge.” So, Google Knol is a collection of articles (called knols) on a myriad of topics – but at current, many of the knols cover medical topics (boring!).

However, there are a few really neat and helpful knols available, including my favorites:

  1. What a Cook Needs to Know about Potatoes – Life without potatoes would be dull indeed, and Craig walks us through how to really enjoy potatoes from shopping for them to cooking them!
  2. WordPress Plugin Development – A handy and timely piece on how to develop and maintain WordPress plugins. Less technical speak than a lot of other guides and it is a bit easier to contact the author if you have questions!
  3. An introduction to Photography Composition for those of us who need some help getting started in photography techniques from an expert in the field.

Need some help finding a knol? Use Google Knol’s Search Toolkit to find exactly what you are looking for!

Additionally, the search feature is displayed in the upper right-hand corner, but you can also press CTRL+F to find a knol topic that is on the front page. Really liked a knol author? Click on their name for a biography and list of their knols. This is really helpful when you want to find similar or related topics!

The intent of Google Knol is to have user submitted content that is authoritative – meaning that if you write about gaming for example, that you have some experience and knowledge in the area, rather than just being anyone just writing something about gaming for kicks.

As your REAL NAME is attached to your knols, along with a profile and biography, you can easily show your readers that you do in fact have knowledge of the topic(s) you write about. There is also the opportunity to add comments and write reviews on knols, which gives Google Knol a decidedly social feel.

I should take the time here to let you know that if you do decide to write for Google Knol, you will be responsible for either providing a phone number or credit card number to verify your name. The service, however, is free. Name verification only works in the United States.

Upon first visiting Knol, you can see a few knols and even search for subjects that are of interest to you. As this product is in beta and is a new kid on the block, it may take a few months or even years for the content quantity to rival that of Wikipedia and About.com. If you want the facts and nothing but the facts, Wikipedia is still your best bet, but Google Knol can be a good resource for how-tos, like About.com.

The content on Google Knol is also searchable on popular search engines – namely Google – and you have control over the copyright status of your content – whether it is Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License or All Rights Reserved.

Some bloggers and internet experts are concerned about Google allowing knols to be included in search engine results – mainly because this is user created content that can be set to be uneditable (closed collaboration) to other readers; so false information could end up at the top of the Google search results and there’s no way to remove or change the false information!

Knols are created using a WYSIWYG editor, which gives each knol a decidedly personal feeling. Some authors use colors, others use bold, others combine all types of font faces and types and photos to create their knols and draw in the reader. You cannot use javascript, objects or frames, but you are welcome to add Google AdSense by connecting your Google Knol account with your Google AdSense account.

Do you want to collaborate on knols? If so, choose your collaboration level in the Settings – any signed in users can collaborate (edit), moderated collaboration (you must approve edits) or closed collaboration (no one can edit). You can always change this setting for each individual knol if you need to.

The screenshot below shows how you can view edits in Google Knol while you are editing a knol.

Courtesy of Blogoscoped

Every knol that you create will have some features that are similar to all other knols – each knol has a title, subtitle, link to your biography, summary and a table of contents. Other features include a print button, number of comments, and ratings. The print formatting is good, and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the printed knol.

Overall, Google Knol is an interesting new product in a market that is crowded by wikis and other collaboration tools. However, it stands out because it offers the opportunity for social networking and collaboration on various topics. Stay tuned for how the Google search/knol debate turns out – and whether or not we see a dramatic increase in knols hitting the first page of Google search results, instead of websites, blogs and news sources!

Login with your Google account and check out Google Knol for yourself. Send us your link in the comments so we can check you out your knols!


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