December 17, 2007, 12:52 PM ET
Can Google's New Open Encyclopedia Best Wikipedia?
On Wikipedia, you never really know who wrote the article you’re reading. Some are written by experts, but others are written by people with time on their hands who may or may not know what they’re talking about. Actually, most Wikipedia articles are written by a combination of the two. But Google’s new Web encyclopedia, announced last week, will put the authors of articles front and center, so you’ll always know who is talking and what their qualifications are.
The question is, which model will produce a better quick-reference guide?
Daniel Colman, director and associate dean of Stanford University’s continuing-studies program and author of the blog OpenCulture, picks Wikipedia to win this face off. He thinks that Google’s planned encyclopedia will have a hard time attracting experts to write articles, whereas Wikipedia works by letting everyone write articles that are then often corrected by experts.
“Take my word for it,” writes Mr. Colman. “I’ve spent the past five years trying to get scholars from elite universities, including Stanford, to bring their ideas to the outside world, and it’s often not their first priority. They just have too many other things competing for their time.”
Others have pointed out that Google’s project, called knol, is similar to other efforts to create authoritative topic pages, like