Bring tacit knowledge to the fore

Google ’s answer to the Wikipedia encyclopedia, Google Knol (short for Knowledge), launched earlier this week.

Knol is a unit of knowledge! or so the logo proclaims. In fact, Knol is a collection of authoritative articles, written by a community of experts and as such Google Knol is positioning itself in direct competition to Wikipedia.

Knol is looking for authors (either singularly or in groups) willing to put their names behind their content on a wide of range of topics, “from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions.” Google will not edit the content in any way, but, like Wikipedia, readers will have access to community tools that will allow them to submit comments, questions, edits, and additional content — in addition to being able to rate or write a review of a knol.

In addition, Knol authors can share in the revenue generated from the Google Adsense ads on their subject pages.

I’ve read quite a few reviews, reports and comments about Knol.

It’s still in its infancy as a project, so issues about content and quality are still being fixed. However, my favourite take on Knol comes from Richard Gale, who (after giving Knol a drubbing) discusses some positive thoughts about Knol.

In particular he brings into play a discussion about tacit and explicit knowledge.

Huge amounts of information are collected inside a person’s head or on their computer. And it is not accessible to anyone else. Getting this tacit information out, making it explicit so that others can use it, is an important goal of many Web 2.0 tools.

By providing singular authorship, knols allow a more ego-driven approach for making the information explicit than Wikipedia does.

That is, Wikipedia also provides a means for moving tacit information into the explicit realm. But, there is no real sense of authorship, nothing to really plant a flag and say I did this, I am providing this to the world.

Finding ways to transform tacit information into explicit are crucial in today’s world. Wikis can do this. Blogs can do this. And so can knols. Knols will not replace other approaches. They provide a new path for the transformation to occur.

A danger point? – Knols can move us away from an open-source environment to a digital form of the ‘authoritative’ texts that we bought so frantically to support 20th century learning. Knols are about digitizing our global knowledge base and adding value to their interpretation and delivery of knowledge – by paying out some money. That’s publishing – online!

George Seimens (f Knowing Knowledge fame) says:

Google is essentially stating that individual ownership of articles is important. How will knols be listed in Google searches? Will they receive better search returns than Wikipedia articles? A part of me would like to dislike this service (how much more of our soul must we give up to Google?). But the idea is well conceived.

Digital Inspiration provides a Quick Start Guide.

Resources on the site are quite scarce now, as to be expected. But I am watching this development because I see furture e-texts staring me in the face. The anonimity of wikipeidia is its strength and its weakness. I’m tipping that plenty of teachers will love Knol as the content expands.

Knols are citizen reporting. Knols are democratising information access. Knols are here to stay – aren’t thet?

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