Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Craze Over Knol

There are a lot of things being written about Knol ... first glance? The user interace rocks. But, if we go beneath that, what would we find? Lets examine this for a minute ...

Firstly, knol is like a multi-author blog ... a place where, with controlled access, multiple authors can pen their thoughts. At the same time, it is a wiki. Now, i know this is a crude way of compartmentalizing something which is a completely new concept, into concepts which have been around for some time now (wouldnt call blogs and wikis old!), but i thought this was called for, because these are the kinds of descriptions i am hearing about knol. This is not fair to the tool, while at the same time, restrictive in terms of defining what the tool is all about.

Having said this, i am more interested in looking at knol from the perspective of an organization, and how a tool like knol may have advantages over existing tools.

First of all, controlled authorship. As i am sure you would appreciate, controlled authorship of wikis is something which is required in the organizational context. While you might want everyone to read a wiki about a particular topic, you might want specific people to write on the topic. Now, this does take a bit away from the egalitarian idea of the wiki, as espoused by wikipedia, but then, whoever said that the tool can remain that way within the organizational context, too? Two reasons ... Firstly, you dont want a novice to write to the wiki, because this might mislead people, and have them make mistakes which is not desirable. Second, the possibility of leakage of IP. While these are not concerns on the internet, behind the firewall, these are concerns which a lot of knowledge managers face when it comes to social computing. Now, they are not necessarily justified, and i am sure there cannot be a single justification for all, and that existence of non-existence of justifications for this would depend on the unique context of each sutiation. But, where there is a valid requirement, this concept can be quite useful.

Second, this doesnt restrict the organization to having only one entry on a particular topic. If there are multiple projects running on similar domains, they might have different viewpoints on the same topic, so instead of having to compartmentalize them into a single page, it would be a better option to give them their own space on the intranet. Of course, this could be provided by a blogging engine, but then, blogs, once written, are written, and editing them takes quite a bit away from the flow of the conversation. This is functionality which is more suited to the wiki compartment.

Bottomline ... this seems to be a tool which can address a few requirements which come up in the organizational context, and which have not been addressed by the internet based, completely open paradigm of web 2.0 tools.


KVSSNRao said...

Is knol going to be available as an intranet product?


Are you suggesting that companies can create a knol like product for their internal purpose?

Atul said...

Hi Narayana,

i dont know whether it would be or not, but this is surely something which the doctor ordered for getting the conversation going in the organizational context! :-)

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