Google recently announced its response to Wikipedia, a collection of webpages called “knols,” so called because they’ll be discrete chunks of knowledge. The announcement on the official Google blog puts a lot of emphasis on the way in which knols are not Wikipedia with a link to Gmail in the top corner: expert authors. Knols will be written by people who already have a reputation connected to the relevant subject, with prominent attribution for contributors.
It’s an interesting idea. First, it should prevent people and organizations from tweaking entries to suit their PR preferences (unless, of course, the Pentagon gets to write its own knol). Second, it could be a great opportunity for academics to make their work accessible to the lay audience that doesn’t have university-provided access to the journal sites. Disseminating your work to the unwashed masses looks good on grant applications (filed under “broader impacts”), and lord knows we can all use the practice at explaining our work in common sensical terms.
At this early stage, knols contributions are invitation-only. Hey Google! Want a knol about Joshua trees?