UPDATE: As of May 2012, Google has shut down Knol while Wikipedia continues to accelerate in both content and use.
The moment I read this announcement of Google’s Knol initiative, I thought, “Oh no! They’re going to kill Wikipedia” and felt a real push-pull. Push as in pushing it away ’cause I love Wikipedia, pull since Google “gets it” on such a massive scale.
Then I paused, let it sink in for a moment and next realized this initiative fits in perfectly with where I believe blogging, social networks, Twitter communications, Skype Prime and all this new webby goodness is headed: more and more ‘containers’ and ‘methods’ for our personal value propositions, knowledge and insight to be created and delivered and upon which others can build (and we can monetize!).
Though I don’t believe experts exist (experts are usually the few of us who have more information and a wealth of experience at some point in time), nothing of any import or relevance happens without building upon what’s come before and the people who’ve gathered that information, have the experiences and the gained insights we need. This is especially true in science and medicine, but the value people place into the world with their work, their insights and their knowledge informs and provides the building blocks upon which ever-increasing value is created. You know, the old “they stood on the shoulders of giants” axiom.
With more of us carving out areas of focus that allow us to consult, publish and provide our intrinsic value in specific niches, I can easily visualize people (Google uses ‘authors’) who have high value being ones who create and deliver these knol’s, or units of knowledge, upon which others can discover and see patterns. New value will be created by the insights and knowledge provided while the cycle times necessary for knowledge to move around the world will compress and shorten dramatically.
Though I won’t really be able to form an opinion until I see Google’s Knol in action, I don’t think it will, in any way-shape-or-form, obviate Wikipedia since they’re two different focuses.
A form (like a book, a TV show, a movie, a video, a Facebook Wall, a web site, a blog) sets expectations in the reader/viewer/user so one can quickly discover and extract the value delivered within the container and know where to find that value. Knol may be just such a container and could become real stand-alone value (probably from academics), but for others a new teaser, loss-leader, all intended to be a player in the labor game of the future. Maybe, just maybe, publishing in Krol will become table-stakes to be in the world’s labor force game.