Google Knol Comes to WordPress

Google Knol logoYou’ll be forgiven if you’d forgotten about Google Knol, an online encyclopedia project begun with much fanfare as a “Wikipedia killer” in 2007.Thus, when Google ended its sponsorship of the project last week, some folk’s first reaction was “it isn’t dead already?

Many in the mass media and tech press thought this site would become the place to go for solid basic information on the Internet. After all, Knol was backed by the most popular brand on the Internet and written by peer-reviewed professionals, clearly to be trusted more than the hive mind producing Wikipedia.

Clearly that didn’t happen, nor would it be the first time the collective punditry of the universe was wrong about something, either. But this post is not an obituary for a failed project, nor is it a victory celebration for Wikipedia and the hive mind. I want to briefly look forward, and suggest that the project might now see new life.

You see, Knol authors are being offered the opportunity to continue their project on WordPress, by way of the Annotum Project. As the original Knol site fades away (no new content after May 1, 2012; closure in October 2012),  Knol authors can choose to move their existing articles to WordPress.com, or set up their own Annotum sites using self-hosted WordPress. Of course, this means that Knol authors are less likely to be isolated off in their own little part of the Internet (where they could be easily forgotten), and become part of the broad and lively WordPress community. Could be good for all of us!

Meanwhile, it’s been a week since the announcement by Google and WordPress, and it appears that Annotum may prove to be a rebirth, not a final resting place for Knol. The beginnings of an infrastructure for Annotum are coming together:

  • In the first week, the Annotum base theme has been downloaded more than 5500 times from WordPress.org.
  • A support site is live at UserVoice, with a knowledge base and a small bit of feedback.
  • Annotum even has “Annotum2Go” packages at GitHub that will set up a web server on Windows and Mac machines and configure WordPress/Annotum sites.

Recognizing that this bit of optimism might also end up entirely wrong, I intend to follow the project’s progress, and see what happens. I might even contribute a WordPress or openSUSE article at some point.

If you’re a Knol author, welcome to the WordPress community! I really want to know what you think about the future of the project. Are you sad that Google pulled the plug? Are you surprised that you didn’t transition to another (say, more Googlish) platform? I know of at least one person who is. Will Annotum meet your (individual and collective) needs? Will the Peter Arno article ever be finished?

Other comments on Knol and Annotum appreciated too.

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4 thoughts on “Google Knol Comes to WordPress

  1. “Knol was backed by the most popular brand on the Internet and written by peer-reviewed professionals…”

    That’s exactly why the predecessor to Wikipedia failed.

    Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. 🙂

  2. Yes, I am sad that Google failed to develop Knol. As a top-ranked writer at Knol, I plan to move many of my hard-work articles to Annotum. However, I’m concerned that the causes behind Knol’s failure will also move to Annotum in the form of pure garbage libraries.

    One fella, for example, has penned over 5,000 Knols but enjoys embarrassingly low page views per Knol — the lowest of any serious writer. One look at samples from his library reveals why. Not “units of knowledge” (Knol’s promise) by any measure except his own.

    What happens when Annotum and WordPress fill with this flotsam and jetsam? Surely this stuff will tax the servers and produce lower rankings.

    One group of Knol writers — Knol Publishing Guild or KPG — did an informal study, concluding that more than 80% of the vast Knol library could be pruned in accord with even the most liberal definition of quality. How will WordPress deal with the low- or no-quality issue as “authors” migrate their Knol libraries?

    • @knol911 Thanks for your comment. I mean to do some more research on Knol, and quality is certainly a critical issue. Are you saying that the star rating and review system never really worked in Knol? Is the KPG study online somewhere?

      I will assure you that WordPress is not likely to depress the search rankings of quality work. What will happen to the flotsam and jetsam, I’m not so sure; but perhaps a more active community of readers and contributors will help quality overall. Between honest commentary and a willingness to help, WordPress folk will either drive out the clueless or simply shun them.

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