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Google is to close Knol, and not before time. Knol was an ill-conceived play of pure evil, a ghastly blight on Google's history. I was appalled when it was announced, for it was a shamefaced attempt to move Wikipedia activity into proprietary Google borders. If you searched for information, Google could not just show you ads on the search result but also, when you clicked through, on that page as well. It was as though Google decided to recreate itself as a Calacanisian empire of ad-agglomerating lowest-common-value websites.

Google often, rightly, says that it benefits as the open web grows. It is in a symbiotic relationship with the rest of the web. Knol sought to muscle into a big niche in the ecosystem, going directly against one of the other most popular sites on the web. And, unlike entering auctions or book sales or email, Google was competing against a public-good public-built site. They were trying to deny sustenance (visits) to a public good, in order to build a private good. Knol wouldn't be usable by Google competitors, unlike that pesky Wikipedia, and it could be ours! Ours! OURS! BWAHA!

The good news is that Knol didn't succeed. The bad news is that Google Maps has built a Knol-equivalent (users contribute roads, corrections, and other map-related data) and it is just as closed. Unlike OpenStreetMap, which existed before Google Maps and which, like Wikipedia, built a large community of contributors, Google MapMaker doesn't release the information under any kind of open license.

I'm sure it's pure coincidence, but the announcement of Knol's execution comes in the same week as news of a half-million dollar donation to the Wikimedia Foundation in the name of Sergei Brin's foundation: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/googles-brin-answers-wikipedias-wales-gives-500000-through-foundation/2011/11/18/gIQAdbJAZN_story.html Bravo to this!

Google acts wisest when it works with its customers, not against them. I hope this is a lesson that's taken away from Knol, and one that finds its way back to shape future company plans.
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Russell Nelson's profile photoMark Atwood's profile photoJohn Douglas Porter's profile photoNat Torkington's profile photo
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Your reference to OpenStreetMap is interesting and insightful. Google, Yahoo, Flickr, and the closed map data sources have frozen OSM out. Remember when Flickr used OSM? Remember when Google Maps pulled in OSM data? Know why they don't know. Ask a Yahoo or Google exec why not, and watch them change the subject.
 
Google Maps cannot pull in OSM data -- the copyright doesn't allow it. Flickr only used OSM data when their own map data was worse. I don't know if they still are, or if so, where in the world they are.
 
"...going directly against one of the other most popular sites on the web..." -- uh, isn't that what G+ is doing? and yet this time it's ok?
 
+John Douglas Porter I'm not sure if you stopped reading immediately after that bit you quoted, but the full relevant extract would be: "going directly against one of the other most popular sites on the web. And, unlike entering auctions or book sales or email, Google was competing against a public-good public-built site." So I don't care if Google, eBay, Amazon, and Yahoo! fight it out for most privacy-invading way to show you ads. Well, not in the same way as if they take on a non-profit public good that is doing a perfectly fine job.
 
I'd have preferred that Google threw all their might behind advances in mesh networking, plug computers, and free distributed social networking software so people could all store their own data at home. But they don't have the motivation for that, that's something we will have to do for ourselves. In the meantime, I'm just glad Google+ is beginning to encroach (albeit at least 2 years too late) on the "everybody's on Facebook, aren't they?" assumption. Though it sucks that they made the wrong call on anonymity.
 
One of the reasons that Google Maps has been succeeding against OSM is that OSM was (I haven't checked recently) absurdly painful to contribute to. That isn't necessarily a justification for Google Maps move into the same territory, but in my mind it certainly explains a big part of why it has been successful while Knol wasn't successful in disrupting Wikipedia. (Wikipedia has long had a much lower barrier to contribution than OSM.)
 
OSM is not painful to contribute to. It's painful to contribute everything to, but it's not painful to contribute a few things to.
 
That's good to know. I'll check it out again. But a few years ago when I last tried it was most definitely very painful to contribute a single fact. I was wanting to correct a street name and could find no way that didn't involve finding, selecting, downloading and installing software. And even what software I should be using was not obvious. At least at that time it was the realm of people willing to figure it out without adequate documentation or simple online tools. That's painful. 
 
There's now a web interface called Potlatch. Version 2 is very nice. I prefer JOSM, myself, but to each their own.
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