Why Knol Failed: A Dire Lack of Peter Arno

By  |  Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Peter Arno CartoonOnce again, Google is swinging its corporate axe at secondary projects. It’s killing also-ran Facebook Connect rival Google Friend Connect. (I assume it’ll eventually introduce something similar built around Google+.) It’s doing away with Google Wave and Google News Timeline. (Wait, weren’t they dead already?)

And it’s closing Knol. Depending on how you looked at it, Knol was either a lot like Wikipedia (it was meant to be an immense user-generated repository of the world’s knowledge) or not much at all like Wikipedia (opinion was welcome, and contributors had a shot at making money from their articles). I started out skeptical about the service, then got intrigued before deciding it was off to a lousy start.

Knol didn’t get much better with time. Whenever I checked in, the items on the home page were mostly a bit odd, a bit spammy, or both. Google has an exit strategy for Knol content: It can be exported to a WordPress-based platform called Annotum. But Knol’s termination is really just a formality–it never lived up to any of the big plans Google once had for it.

Still, Knol started out promising. It certainly sounded interesting in the launch story by Wired’s Steven Levy. He wrote about the service’s inventor, Google exec/search pioneer Udi Manber, and began with an anecdote that resonated with me. Manber, Levy wrote, was moved to create Knol because he was felt that the Web was still full of “black holes”–important topics that were insufficiently documented. Such as the life and work of the wonderful New Yorker cartoonist Peter Arno. (Manber, it turns out, is, like me, a cartoon fan.)

Levy ended his article by returning to the topic of Peter Arno:

If Google’s plan works, future searchers will get higher-quality results from searches of subjects commonplace and obscure — even Peter Arno. In fact, a knol has already been written about The New Yorker cartoonist. If its author posts it — he hasn’t pulled the trigger yet — Google won’t have to work hard to verify the expert who worked for weeks to pen that item. It’s Udi Manber.

Each time I dropped in on Knol, I searched for Peter Arno. Each time, nothing came up. And searching Google for “peter arno” still returns shockingly little information on one of the greatest magazine cartoonists who ever lived. Even the Wikipedia article on the man is woefully inadequate.

In other words, Knol was a good idea–it’s just that the smart, knowledgeable people who Udi Manber thought would fill it with content failed to do so. Including, apparently, Udi Manber.

I wonder if he’d consider beefing up Wikipedia’s Arno entry?

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5 Comments For This Post

  1. Addy@Joomla Design Says:

    This is bit saddening. If Google would have paid a bit more attention, Knol would have been a great success and a valuable resource.

  2. The_Heraclitus Says:

    Gurgle even had people working on creating a renewable energy source that is cheaper than coal. Word is that they finally hired someone with a H.S. level EDU in physics. He shut it down.

  3. eden rug Says:

    The result of the children is already declared by the schools and the students below 14 years were asked to pay their annual fees. Why education minister failed to implement and execute the policy as per the law or is it a mere joke or fooling the parents and students.

  4. Mae Loraine Jacobs Says:

    And now I'm fearing for Google Plus.

    Google should learn to play by their strengths. They're great in searches and e-mails, to name a few. They have YouTube. Surely, with their ingenuity and technical talent, they can come up with a wide range of products and services that revolve around these strengths.

  5. contractor umbrella Says:

    "Military historians classify suicide bombing as a form of armed violence, belonging to the tactics of asymmetric warfare—suicide bombings are only common when one side in a violent conflict lacks the means for effective, conventional attacks."

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