July 23rd, 2008, 3 Comments »
As you’ve probably heard, Google Knol launched publicly today. It’s considered a more or less direct competitor to Wikipedia, as it permits anybody to author an article on pretty much anything. It doesn’t have the same degree of ‘wiki’ collaboration as Wikipedia, though–it’s more about individual experts. From the Google blog:
The key principle behind Knol is authorship. Every knol will have an author (or group of authors) who put their name behind their content. It’s their knol, their voice, their opinion. We expect that there will be multiple knols on the same subject, and we think that is good.
With Knol, we are introducing a new method for authors to work together that we call “moderated collaboration.” With this feature, any reader can make suggested edits to a knol which the author may then choose to accept, reject, or modify before these contributions become visible to the public. This allows authors to accept suggestions from everyone in the world while remaining in control of their content. After all, their name is associated with it!
What’s the marketing angle? In the coming days, I anticipate a great land grab as people author ‘knols’ on topics that matter to them. They’re going to permit multiple knols, but I anticipate something of a first-mover advantage. If Google Knol takes off (and odds are that it will), then it’s probably a good idea to write a knol on a topic in which you’re an expert. Knols may not be direct traffic drivers, but they may help cement your expertise in the space.
Julie and I put together a knol on social media marketing. It needs work, but I think it’s a satisfactory start. If you have the time, please consider rating, reviewing, editing or commenting on it.
And now I must try to resurrect my blog on Google Knol.
3 Comments »
May 4th, 2008, 10 Comments »
Tonight I noticed this image go by on Reddit. It accompanies this Wikipedia article on the age of consent.
I noticed something interesting. There seems to be a strong correlation between a young age of consent (12 to 15 years old) and Catholic countries. I created this little graphic to illustrate.
- This image shows the age of consent. The blue countries have an age of consent between 12 to 15 (disgustingly, the age of consent in Yemen is nine, but forgo that for this experiment).
- Hover your mouse over the image. It should switch to a shrunken version of this image, which shows various flavours of Christianity by colour. The Catholic countries are yellow.
What’s the cause of this correlation?
10 Comments »
April 30th, 2008, 7 Comments »
If you’ve been on the web in the past week, you’ve probably seen references to Clay Shirky’s terrific talk (or video, if you prefer) at Web 2.0 Expo. The bit that seems to be resonating with most people is his answer to the question “where do you find the time [for all this new webby, social media stuff]?”:
So if you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project–every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in–that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it’s the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.
And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that’s 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads.
I’ve been known to bemoan the ubiquity of televisions in public spaces. I write this blog post from a quaint little coffee shop in Yaletown. And, yep, there’s a TV in the corner.
I’ve been taking BC Ferries a lot lately. I used to sit in the traditionally quieter upper lounges. A few years ago, though, they stuck TVs in them. As if travelers can’t be responsible to entertain themselves for an hour and a half. Now it’s that much harder to find a quiet corner of the ship (I’m not paying for that ‘Lantern Lounge’ thingie until they get wifi). Yesterday was actually an exception to my curmudgeonly complaints about BC Ferries TVs. The TV was showing the second half of the Manchester United-Barcelona Champions League game.
During the game, I saw promotions for the forthcoming Euro 2008 football (er, soccer) tournament. For the first time in a few months, I felt a TV-related twinge. “Ooh, it’d be cool to have cable and watch that”.
Live Sports and Lingering Twinges
Those twinges are rare. I think the web and computer games were wearing away at it in recent years, but living abroad seems to have finally broken my TV watching habit. And it was ingrained. I watched a ton of TV as a kid. Bring over a blonde and a brunette and I can re-enact entire episodes of Three’s Company. The same goes for university.
I download shows, obviously, but I’m pretty selective about what I watch. My lingering interest in getting cable revolves entirely around watching live sports–hockey and soccer. I’d gladly pay a small amount to watch a high-quality, commercial-free-ish sports event on the web, but the media companies can’t help me with that yet.
Today, my options are either a minuscule, unreliable CBC live feed, or buying NHL games on iTunes. For reasons I don’t understand, the NHL is only offering an occasional game on iTunes. What’s stopping them from immediately posting every game? I’d gladly pay $1.99 each to watch 10 or 15 games a year.
Still, I don’t think this sports gap will be enough for me to pay for cable next fall. Goodbye, broadcast television. It’s been real.
7 Comments »
March 24th, 2008, Comments Off
One of my favourite writers, Nicholson Baker, recently wrote an essay on Wikipedia for The New York Review of Books:
Wikipedia was the point of convergence for the self-taught and the expensively educated. The cranks had to consort with the mainstreamers and hash it all outÃ¢â‚¬â€and nobody knew who really knew what he or she was talking about, because everyone’s identity was hidden behind a jokey username. All everyone knew was that the end product had to make legible sense and sound encyclopedic. It had to be a little flatÃ¢â‚¬â€a little genericÃ¢â‚¬â€fair-mindedÃ¢â‚¬â€compressedÃ¢â‚¬â€unpromotionalÃ¢â‚¬â€neutral. The need for the outcome of all edits to fit together as readable, unemotional sentences mutedÃ¢â‚¬â€to some extentÃ¢â‚¬â€natural antagonisms.
To his credit, he actually made a bunch of edits to Wikipedia articles, and seems to have spent a reasonable amount of time pickling in the community.
I’ve always admired Baker’s awesome vocabulary. To pick a random example, he just slides the word ‘panjandrum‘ into a concluding paragraph, as casual as a drop pass.
The essay is ostensibly a review of Wikipedia: The Missing Manual. However, like almost all literary book reviews that I read, the book itself seems an afterthought. This tradition of literary review seems like it’s centuries old–I wonder how it started? It’s unique among the art forms in mainstream media. Movies, plays, dance, visual art–they all only get the same standard treatment, entirely focussed on the artwork itself. Why did books turn out differently?
January 22nd, 2008, 9 Comments »
I’ve been running this Knol blog (though, ironically, Google’s project may actually be called Unipedia) with an occasional post, and paying attention to the space. Today I encountered Qassia (link goes to my profile page, as the site is in barely-private beta), which seems to be a startup in the Squidoo, Wikia and Mahalo vein. From their FAQ:
Qassia is a site to which you can add your websites. You can also add your knowledge, in the form of tidbits of information called “intel”. The more intel you add, the better your sites will rank, the more backlinks you get, and the more money you make.
Qassia is 100 percent free, and does not require reciprocal links. You can get unlimited quality backlinks to your websites from Qassia.
Before you get too excited, it’s not real money. It’s Qassia dollars. Which, according to the FAQ again, you’ll be able to spend on “front-page advertising, site-wide links, and other novel ways for you to burn through your hard-earned Qassia dollars”. Er, wahoo.
I built a page, just to check out the editing interface. Like the rest of the site, it’s pretty unremarkable. Clearly it’s just another attempt at the user-generated content plus SEO equals profit equation. None of these sites, as far as I can figure, is a threat to Wikipedia. Google Knol (or whatever), however, may be.
In any case, if you want to check out Qassia, there’s a sign up link on my profile page. In the interests of full disclosure, I get some magical Qassia bucks if you sign up. Maybe I’ll spend them on a puppy. Oh, uh, never mind.
9 Comments »
December 20th, 2007, 4 Comments »
I was just inexplicably humming their first hit, “Wanna Be”, which of course features this claim:
If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends.
Zigazig Ha, and so forth. They make this sound like a universal truth, but it’s really not, is it? If I had a dollar for every disapproval I’d heard from a female friend about her friend’s new boyfriend, I’d have, well, at least twenty dollars.
Plus, didn’t one of the Spice Girls get knocked up by Eddie Murphy? Surely the other Girls couldn’t have approved as Eddie. So, in fact, there probably wasn’t much, uh, ‘getting with her friends’.
I’m just saying.
Heh, I just visited Wikipedia to determine which Girl was bearing Eddie’s demon spawn. Wikipedia is an extraordinary thing, and mostly accurate, but not always:
I fixed that.
4 Comments »
December 14th, 2007, 4 Comments »
About six or eight hours ago Yesterday (I lost a day somewhere), Google announced a new project which threatens the balance of expert content creation on the web. It’s called Google Knol (I’m not keen on that name):
Earlier this week, we started inviting a selected group of people to try a new, free tool that we are calling “knol”, which stands for a unit of knowledge. Our goal is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it. The tool is still in development and this is just the first phase of testing. For now, using it is by invitation only. But we wanted to share with everyone the basic premises and goals behind this project.
For a while, I’ve been hunting around for a specific, technical, bloggable topic that I could sink my teeth into. Plus, I’ve wanted to mess around with the possibilities of monetizing blog content. This seemed like an obvious option, so I give you www.WriteGreatKnols.com. I’m going to take a shot at writing the definitive blog on Google’s latest fanciful endeavour. If it works, great. If not, no harm done.
It’s fresh off the (word)press, and in fact the domain may not even resolve for you for a while. Go check it out, if you’re at all interested (and I don’t blame you if you’re not) to hear some initial thoughts on the subject.
Here’s one random thought that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere. The blog post was written by one Udi Manber, VP of Engineering at Google. The sample ‘knol’–which basically means ‘article’–is written by a Rachel Manber, a professor at Stanford. I’d guess that they’re related, and that Udi can rely on Rachel to skillfully deflect all interview enquiries and respect whatever NDA she signed.
4 Comments »
October 30th, 2007, 1 Comment »
I periodically contribute to Wikipedia. One of my favourite Wikipedia phenomenon is the seemingly organic growth and distillation of articles, from tiny saplings to towering firs. Here are a few examples:
- Two years ago (almost to the day), I wrote a blog post soliciting filming locations in and around Vancouver. Derek thought it would make a good Wikipedia entry, so he started one. Look at it today. It’s grown from 8 locations and 94 words to at least 100 locations and 4350 words. Length isn’t usually a good measure of a Wikipedia article’s quality, but given that this entry is mostly a hyperlinked list, it’s a useful metric.
- Two years ago (again, I wrote about Cougar Annie, and started a Wikipedia article for her. It hasn’t had zillions of revisions, but it’s really evolved nicely. It’s got photos now, and a contribution (which needs editing) from Annie’s grand-daughter. I also got the author of Annie’s biography to review the entry.
- I started an entry on cage dancing, because no encyclopedia is complete without it. I see that it’s acquired a photo by Kris.
1 Comment »