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There has been a lot of discussion about the poor quality of Google Knol articles. Even though the service has only existed for a little over six months that hasn't stopped people from calling for Google to pull the plug:Why Has Knol Survived Google's Orphan-Project Killing Spree?
We admire Google's willingness to experiment with new ways to build cool (and potentially profitable) features onto their existing service. And we admire Google's willingness to realize when their experiments have failed and shut them down. So why still back Knol?
I visited Google in Washington, D.C. last week and one of the topics was Knol. I signed an NDA so I can't discuss what I learned, but I can tell you that it was very interesting. When I got home I was motivated, so I spent a good deal of time kicking-the-tires on Knol once again.
I read a bunch of Knol articles, and I have to admit that I was taken back by all the crap. Where I didn't come across the tons of spam that people talk about, I did experience some very poorly written stuff. I couldn't miss the obvious bias (non-NPOV) in many of the articles, and the lack of consistency in the style of writing. As I moved from article to article it became very distracting.
I also came across a lot of high quality articles written by people with impeccable credentials who I would trust. The articles were well written, informative, and enjoyable to read. When I was reading I had to remind myself that was I was doing, browsing Knol, was an abboration. People don't browse Knol anymore than they browse Wikipedia. Not happening! They'll come to a Knol article the same way they come to all content today-- from search. Every article stands alone. (See: Searchable wads of content: Pulling the plug on the Web site)
That Knol articles don't rank high in search is more a reflection of the age of Knol than their quality. It will take time for the good Knol articles to start ranking higher. They won't be returned high in search results until people start linking to them. That's how it works. The crap articles will fall by the wayside and no one will ever see them. They'll be relegated to the Knol dead-pool, and the fact that they exist at all is irrelevant. If a tree falls in the forest.... The high quality articles, however, will eventually rise to the top.
Anyone who understands the most basic principles of Search Engine Optimization knows that it takes time for an article to rank high in search. To be calling for Knol's shuttering half a year into its existence is absurd. Knol solves some very significant issues for people who have expertise, and want to share it with others. Given more time (5 years?) I have no doubt that Knol is going to be a force to be reckoned with.