Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Invisible Hand no 355

‘Smoothspan’ posts (14 December) on SmoothSpan Blog (‘for executives, entrepreneurs, and other digerati who need to know about Saas and Web.2.0’) here:
“Google’s Knols (the anti-Trolls) Are Opportunity for All, But Especially for Google

The name “Knol”, BTW, apparently is a short form for “Knowledge Unit”, which is what the Googlers think of these articles as. I prefer to think of the people writing as the Knols, since they’re one of the big differences here. In fact, a “Knol” as content creator is sort of the opposite of a “Troll“. Malik goes on to say this move is also a tacit admission by Google that the almighty search algorithm isn’t everything. It takes people to get to the next step. I’ll have more about that to say below, but he’s right.

Stowe loves the idea of bringing the individual to the forefront, principally because he feels that Wikipedia and similar services homogenize content too much and reduce it to a committee-run process of consensus. This can drain the life out of an idea and certainly an article. There certainly have been problems with unseen backroom tampering at Wikipedia, a phenomenon that Stowe politely refers to as the, “tyranny of the bureaucratic infighting around what is and is not true.” There have been some more nefarious doings in that respect, but I’ll let that be lest we digress. Stowe amusingly replaces the backroom bureaucratic process with Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand’ as a means of determining truth, which he says is aptly Googlesque. I agree. Capitalism will decide based on who gets the most ad revenue and reader votes, with some subtle jiggling as well. There will be Google’s staff at work for the latter to ensure “quality.” Some moderation will be called for to ensure that Trolls do not infiltrate the Knols, but I hope any such editing will be done with the gentlest touch.”

Problem is that the truth is not a matter of opinion, which is all that ‘majority votes’ and ‘advertising hits’ gives you. That tells you how many believe the myth in the content.

A pity. A rival to wikipedia is a good idea. A sort of second opinion.

See archives for previous (354!) posts on the myth of the invisible hand.


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