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Knol: a unit of knowledge

Knol, described as “a unit of knowledge” by the project’s creators, is a new initiative by Google that allows anyone to write an article, called a “knol”, about any topic. It’s a bit like Wikipedia in that respect but is limited to discrete articles with no links between them. Authors can also decide how much freedom to give users in terms of editing, either allowing anyone in the public, only knol collaborators, or no-one at all to edit their knols.

The bulk of the knols written so far seem to be focussed on health and medicine and have been written by specialists in that particular field. After a brief review of some knols, I felt that they seem to be of a higher general standard than those of similar topics in Wikipedia. One of the advantages of knols is that there’s a structure and flow to the article that may come from having been written by one author and that unfortunately is lacking in some Wikipedia articles that often suffer from having been tacked together by many editors.

Of course, a potential disadvantage of having only one author may be a lack of either depth or breadth to the article, as well as raising questions regarding the credibility of the author. Having said that, many knols have complete reference lists and in-text citations that seem to offer reassurance in terms of the accuracy of the knol content.

I’d suggest including Knol as a useful point of reference when beginning to research a topic. It’ll not only give you a good overview of that particular subject, but will also point you in the direction of other sources.

Links:
http://knol.google.com/k/knol and Wikipedia article on Knol

By Michael Rowe

I'm a lecturer in the Department of Physiotherapy at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. I'm interested in technology, education and healthcare and look for places where these things meet.