I'm guessing I'm the only guy weird enough to make this connection between these two big stories in the news: Google starting a wikipedia competitor and supermarket tabloid claims that John Edwards knocked up a woman (not his wife.)
The connection is money.
The big difference between Google's new thing called "knol" and wikipedia is money, Google will allow the authors of knol pages to share in some of the ad money that comes in to that page. The basic theory is the same as if you run a site that gets lots of clicks on ads, i.e.: if you do something that creates value, you should share in that value. It makes sense. In general wikipedia is terrific, but there are some weird and rotten bits that get in there all the time.
Because nobody's making any money at helping keep the content on wikipedia good, it relies on volunteers to do a good job maintaining it. What is the motivation of people to get information out there when they won't be paid? I'm sure there are lots of answers, but it's a valid question.
I once saw the editor of the National Enquirer speak on a panel. Everybody else on the panel criticized the idea of "checkbook" journalism, saying it corrupted the whole august tradition of journalism. This editor very responded by saying, essentially, "The thing about paying for information is that I know exactly what the motivation is of the people who give me information; they want money. When someone tells me some information that has value in the marketplace, and they want to give it to me and not take money, well, then I really question what their motives are."
I'm not saying Edwards did get that blond knocked up. (I'm not linking to that story. Ewww. But the graphic here really did come from the NE site.) And I'm not saying checkbook journalism is better than the Wall Street Journal or whatever, but I do know that the National Enquirer has to live under the same libel and slander laws as all the other papers.
I'm also not exactly equating Knol to the National Enquirer, but I have to say that I will feel better knowing exactly why someone wrote a Knol page (money) rather than trying to guess why someone might have written a wikipedia page.
OK, two posts in a row about Google, one comparing Google to Stalin, the other to the National Enquirer. The funny thing is, I like Google.