Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Was that "Knol" or "Null"?

So Google has this new thing called "Knol" that is going to replace "Wikipedia" by being more complex. Instead of people just dropping in and changing entries, now they'll have to sign their names and, if they want to change things, as I understand it, they'll have to consult with the original writer.

Now, I only change things for a living, but this sounds like ... well, never mind. Let's look up some things and see how they do, because it's not fair to trash a concept without giving it a chance.

So ... how about Jimmy Stewart?
Search Results:
No results found for Jimmy Stewart

Okay. Let's look up "Thirty Years War."
Search Results:
No results found for Thirty Years War

That's okay. Um ... Mona Lisa ...
Search Results:
No results found for Mona Lisa

How about "Missouri"?
Search Results:
No results found for Missouri

Search Results:
No results found for Mickey Mouse

Search Results:
No results found for Julius Caesar

Search Results:
No results found for penguin

Search Results:
No results found for America

Search Results:
Results 1-3 of about 3 for dog
Finally! Let's look at "Dog Training" by Sierra Senyak. Here it is:


No dog is born with good manners. Pooping on the carpet, leaping enthusiastically onto guests, pulling so hard he practically yanks your arm out of the socket when on walks -- that's all perfectly acceptable in the canine world. It's up to you to teach your dog to behave the way we humans want him to. Not training your dog and expecting him to be pleasant to live with is like never sending your child to school and expecting him to ace the SATs.

As well as making life with your dog more enjoyable, training is the best gift you can ever give your pup; friendly, housetrained, well-behaved dogs are less likely to be surrendered to shelters or put down. Plus, training is a great way to bond with your dog or puppy.

Despite the adage about old dogs and new tricks, there are no age limits to teaching dogs: puppies as young as three weeks old can learn, as can adult dogs of any age. And whether you've got a brand-new pup or a senior dog, the first step is the same: learn how to be a good teacher.

See all at


The verbiage here is cut-and-pasted from, which is a commercial site that wants you to basically buy in. So this Knol entry is essentially an ad.

Let's go the next one:

Um ... it's another director to

Okay, let's try the third entry:


Today, class, I will be lecturing on dog genetics. As you may know, our canine friends are descended from wolves. How did wolves turn in to dogs? Humans messed with their DNA by selective breeding. Want to create a dog with a long tail? Only let long tail wolves mate.

Dogs are wolf mutants.

What can we learn from this? The more your dog looks like a wolf, the closer your dog is to nature. The wimpier your dog is, the more your dog is a man-made freak. I know this is harsh, but it is the truth.

You homework assignment is to use the visual scale below to rank your dog’s wolf-freak level.

(I didn't stop ... that was the entire entry)

Oh, yes, this is much better than Wikipedia. Now, granted, Wikipedia has entries for Jimmy Stewart, Thirty Years War, Mona Lisa, Missouri, Mickey Mouse, Julius Caesar, penguin, and America, but when you ask about dogs, what do you get?

Well, you get an article about dogs, and you get references to
But nothing about

You call that a reference work? Feh.


Vt Teacher said...

Does this mean you could be the original author regarding the Mona Lisa and other contributors would have to go through you?

That actually sounds like fun.

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Ooo, a fun activity! the librarian cracks her knuckles and starts running searches... Darwin, Patricia Hearst, Lizzie Borden, Peanuts, boolean algebra (or anything), metric system, Nixon, Iraq (!): "no results."

If they're just in the early stage of building it, that still doesn't explain the lack of subject tags and links. To not build those in as they go is nuts - doing it later is a mess! I got "no results found" for feminism, but "feminist" pulled up an entry on feminist analytic philosophy that ought to have had the "-ism" form of the word linked.

What's even weirder is that they have lots of info in google books, with searchable text! Why not build this off of still-useful info in that?

At best this will be a pointless duplication of info, unless they surprise me! But maybe i should do the entry on algebra. Heh heh.

Sherwood Harrington said...

You go ahead and take "algebra," Ruth. I'm sorely tempted to start one on "Mike Peterson," but then he'd start one on me and things could get ugly from there.

I just checked out their article on eclipses (by astronomer and eclipse aficionado Jay Pasachoff) and noticed that a large majority of the 23 comments were by people with Asian names. I wonder if they're developing (and publicizing) Knol more there than here -- Mike's post was the first I'd heard of it.

Mike said...

As I read the rulebook now, it seems that I could write an entry on "children's literature" that was nothing more than a plug for my own work, and nobody could edit that entry without my permission. However, someone else could write an entry on "children's literature" that was completely different than mine, so that, when you searched for "children's literature," you'd get both entries, plus whatever other "children's literature" articles people had put in.

Am I wrong, or is this format useless?

Sherwood Harrington said...

No, I don't think you're wrong. The whole enterprise seems utterly useless. I wonder what the thought process was, if any, in determining that this sort of thing would be an improvement on Wiki.