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What Is the Motivation for Editing Someone Else's Knol Article?  (View post)

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

Monday, July 28, 2008
14 years ago7,595 views

> What is the motivation for editing someone else's Knol article?
> I don't really see the use-case for editing someone else's article.

Wow, it surprises me to hear that! In my opinion, moderated editing is the most important part of Knol. It's the one thing that might make knol become more than just a free hosting service for random AdSense-monetized content.

The best knols will be written by people who could be experts, or they could just be people with an interest in the topic. But these people won't consistently keep updating and improving their articles. They'll forget about certain pages for a while, or may not notice new developments in the field, and so on.

Volunteer contributers (of whom there will be many) will notice a typo, notice that something is out-of-date, notice an inconsistency or factual error, or notice that there's some other problem with an article.

The Knol website could give these people the "ability to send a private message to a Knol author" that Reto asks for, and these people could send a message to discuss the issue with the knol owner. But in my experience that's unlikely to be productive for two reasons. First, it's extra work for the knol owner to try to figure out what the person is suggesting, and to actually make the edits. Second, some people tend to get into long-winded discussions (arguments) with authors about what should or should not be in the article. I get that kind of argument all the time from people who don't like the way something has been written at Uclue.

Much better for Knol to let the volunteer contributors make the edit themselves. Just making them do all the hard work will discourage most of the troublemakers. Then, for the remainder, all the knol owner needs to do is to click the "Accept" or "Reject" button for each edit, and make any tweaks they feel like.

If the site makes the job easier for the experts and the enthusiasts, and harder for the timewasters, it's a winning situation.

And that's why I like moderated editing!

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

[Edit: Changed "trustworthiness" with "factualness".]

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

> But these people won't consistently keep updating and
> improving their articles. They'll forget about certain pages for
> a while, or may not notice new developments in the field, and so on.
> Volunteer contributers (of whom there will be many) will notice
> a typo, notice that something is out-of-date, notice an
> inconsistency or factual error, or notice that there's
> some other problem with an article.

But it seems that would again waste a lot of energy in comparison with an open wiki model, because people would all see the same typo when they try to fix it, as the author didn't update the article. (Or if you were referring to articles which weren't set to moderation but were set to be open, than isn't that a big risk to be an expert and have your name cited as author but then forget about the article for a while, and everybody else can edit without your approval?)

mrbene [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Consider the bus factor: how many people does it take getting hit by a bus in order to stop a project.

In an open wiki, the bus factor is in the millions, since anyone with internet access and a few other requirements (common language, basic knowledge of subject matter) can contribute.

In the Knol model, the bus factor is often 1. An article is maintained only so long as the original author is alive – and will lapse if they lose interest.

Now since each Knol is attached to a specific author, multiple Knols on the same topic can exist. This will theoretically result in the best being top rated – or at least the most popular. But it'll also result in a whole lot of dead branches.

It's a different way of doing things, and I'll give it some time to play out. At this point I'm skeptical – and I don't see the value in contributing.

Freiddie [PersonRank 7]

14 years ago #

Maybe there should be a way to "transfer" ownership of articles.

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

[put at-character here]Freddie: There is a way to transfer ownership.

For a voluntary transfer, the original owner invites someone else to be a joint owner. After that person accepts, the original owner removes themselves from owner status. The new owner changes the AdSense details if necessary, and the transfer is done.

A "fork" is also possible for any knol that is creative-commons licensed. Just set up your own knol with the exact same text (and the necessary attribution). This provides a way to keep a knol alive where the original author has died or lost interest. You could post a comment on the original knol pointing people to its replacement. In time, the new and active version will work its way up the search results.

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Philipp wrote:
> What is the motivation for editing someone else’s Knol article?

I think the motivation is to participate in a collaborative process to improve something. It's exactly the same motivation as for contributing to Wikipedia.

In each case, your changes may or may not last very long. Someone else may revert or change change your Wikipedia edit. The knol owner may reject your proposed edit. But, on average, if you submit worthwhile edits they should be more likely to be retained than rejected.

Consider the Matt Cutts knol:
You posted a comment suggesting that Matt make a change. Matt replied, requesting clarification, but didn't make any change. I added a comment mentioning that I had submitted an edit which made that change. So far Matt hasn't accepted or rejected the edit – maybe he just hasn't seen it, since there may not be any notification.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

> The new owner changes the AdSense details
> if necessary, and the transfer is done.

What will happen to the permalink (if it's supposed to be a permalink... considering the author name is in the URL)?

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

A request please. Would someone please submit an edit to any of my articles? Just log in and click "Edit" on my Bio page, or on any of the pages reachable from the right-hand column of that page:

All of my knols are set to "moderated collaboration", and I would really like to see how the moderated collaboration process works from the knoll owner's point of view. I'll write it up here if there's anything interesting.

If you can't think of an edit to make, just change the spelling of a word or something, because I'd like to see what happens when edits get rejected too.


Matt [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

I made an edit. Let us know how it comes out.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

I also made an edit. And it seems I can't see Matt's edit right now by going to the revisions tab.

sl0o0m [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

there is no Motivation for editing someone's article. But if we consider knol as a preference we will look at an knowledge or summary of experiences from many people whom contribute together and give us the conclusion, or someone who involved in this particular issue and give us last update.

Now knol give us the individual opinion. so what is the different between Blogger & Knol?
(my point of view is that there is ONLY one different, articles in Knol sorted by titles, in Blogger sorted by authors)

let we assume that I search for let say X, I will find many articles that talk about X , obviously they repeat the same let say history of X, categories, information and statistics.
nobody have time to read all the articles of X and choose the best one. we will confuse with this frequently information.
If I read only one article or top rated, actually I didn't read the X preference, what i read is someone opinion.

anyway, I think that you don't want Knol to be copy past Wikipedia, But till now you don't find another way to follow wikis.

imma [PersonRank 3]

14 years ago #

Editing someone else's article or leaving a comment suggesting something would be caused by the 'something is wrong on the internet & i must help fix it' mentality ;-) Writing *another* article instead makes it more likely that neither gets read

I think the editing would be better than leaving a comment if the change is difficult to explain clearly, perhaps a change of layout or updating several links where the owner would have to do quite a bit of work for minor changes they might not be too bothered by.

hmm, I wonder if it lets you see a before/after of suggested changes, that might be good.

For me the main difference to Blogger seems to be that Blogger is mostly used to record events as they happen and not so much for encyclopedic content.

Reto Meier [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

I think a lot of people have misunderstood the basic premise behind Knol.

It is *not* trying to encourage current Wikipedia users to create a new collaborative Wiki of knowledge.

It's specifically trying to get people who are subject matter experts to 'drop some knowledge' on the rest of us. In essense, if you're not an expert on a given subject the Knol doesn't really want your input. That probably rules out a fair number of Wiki editors, who (by definition) are modifying articles based on information they foudn elsewhere.

Knols are about sharing a expert knowledge from an individual perspective.

Importantly 'expert knowledge' in this context isn't limited to a PhD in a subject, if I lookup the 'Knee Surgery' Knol I'd love to see a detailed post by a surgeon detailing how the surgery is performed, but a personal account of what the surgery was like from a patient would be just as 'expert' in this context.

Both of these annecodatal accounts would be very useful, but neither is really suitable for Wikipedia. It's that sort of thing that's the target.

It's the sort of thing you see posted on Lifehacker, those incredibly detailed answers you sometimes see in AskMeFi, and all the knowledge and experience regular people don't have anywhere appropriate to put.

The 'editing other people's Knol' debate is a sideshow. Occassionally people will spot an error (typo, specific detail has changed over time, etc) and they'll use this mechanism to help the author fix it. But for the most part it will be single a author (or multiple in collaboration) per article, with multiple articles.

As far as the 'dead branch' problem goes... so what? If it's the sort of subject that needs constant, regular updates Knol probably isn't the right place for it.

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Thanks Matt and Philipp for making those edits. Heres a description of how moderated editing works.

I received no email notification of the submitted edits. I sure hope knol adds email notifications soon. When I visited the page, I saw this message:

Clicking on "View" took me to editing mode and displayed this list of pending edits:

This list shows each pending edit, and a snippet showing part of the changed text. Philipp and Matt each only made one change, but I'm guessing if they changed more than one thing that only the first change would be shown in the snippet. So I clicked on "Review" for Philipp's submitted edit, and the list of submissions is replaced by this rather interesting control panel:

Below that is the usual editing view of my page, with Philipp's submitted edits highlighted. Programmers know this view as a "diff", but this is a particularly nice "diff" because it separately highlights edits to the text and edits to the formatting. The "Currently Selected" highlight shows which proposed change is currently being considered. I guess if Philipp had suggested changes in more than one part of the document, the "next" link would become active and allow me to see them one by one. In this case, I saw the following change:

I clicked "Accept" to accept Philipp's suggested change. The drop-down arrow provides an "Accept all" option.

Next I reviewed Matt's suggested change. The process was the same, except that I clicked "Decline" instead of "Accept".

If I go to "Versions", there are now two new versions. One new version records the additions suggested by Philipp. The other new version is exactly the same as the one before it, because it represents Matt's changes and I did not incorporate them into my knol.

It seemed a bit odd to record a "null" change, but then it occurred to me that you can intermix your own edits with the submitted changes. So, if a contributor suggests an edit which isn't quite right, you can combine their edit with your own modifications to get things exactly how you want them. It's a nice, smooth implementation.

There's no longer any trace of the submitted edits, except for the parts that I chose to accept. But Philipp, whose edits I did accept, is now listed on the right-hand-side as a Contributor:

Overall, it's a powerful feature which works well, although it will really need email notifications if it's going to be useful. As soon as you have more than 5 or 10 knols, you can't possibly check them all one-by-one on a regular basis.

Calab Morgan [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

This is a great explanation of the feature! I'm expecting that all my knols will be easier to manage if I can control which public edits make it into the next version and which ones don't. I wonder what happens if two people make an edit to the same sentence in a contradictory way?

+1 on notifications. I don't know now how anyone gets things done without RSS feeds these days.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Thanks for the detailed rundown of this Roger. As far as email alerts are concerned I hope by default they show notifications on the homepage only, and then require additional opt-in to send out mails (as email alerts can get noisy for people who don't like them...).

Calab Morgan [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

I just noticed that Knol permalinks are not so permanent. The URL for one of today's featured knol could be represented in a bunch of different ways:

It seems like the stuff in the middle is some kind of symbolic filler and that ownership transfer would not effect any existing links to the article which may have included old title or owner info.

Reto Meier [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Notifications definitely need to be opt in. They need a smarter 'home page' as well that can give you updates on pending edits, lets you follow other authors, and summarises your Knols.

Here's a bunch of other changes I'd like to see:

Mustafa Ahmed [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

In a wiki people actually don't say opinions. they tend more to be informative. They write about facts. Even trying to know the article's writers in a wiki is kinda more difficult than knol. In a wiki it is all about informations not opinions. If you want to express an opinion there is a discussion page with every article, or try blogging. In my opinion Knol is good as a magazine but it should never be compared to a wiki.

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

I noticed I had received some contributed edits on two of my articles. It turned out they were from William Strathearn, one of the software engineers who works on Knol:

He submitted an edit to my article about Google Answers, but also submitted an improvement to a piece of fictional whimsy called "The 1958 Hiker" which I had written as a knol:

To squeeze fiction into the Knol format, I started the body of the article with the words "In the story of The Lone Hiker, ..." which turns the story into an article. Just exploring the possibilities here.

David Sarokin [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

Hello everyone. I've been knolling as well, and I'm perplexed at how Knol is (or isn't) indexed by Google.

Take Roger's knol story that he mentioned, which opens with the line: "In the story of The Lone Hiker..."

A search of that exact phrase will bring up this blogoscoped thread, but does not bring up the actual article in Knol.

My own knols have been similarly invisible. An article on newspaper archives is at:

and has been up for a week or so, but it remains totally invisible, as far as any web searches go. By and large, only the front page Knol articles seem to make it into actual search results.

Is Google hiding its Knol content?

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