Saturday, December 15, 2007

Google's answer to Wikipedia

Google Blog describes yet another work in progress, the knol project. Without editing or endorsing, Google aims to open its pages for people with knowledge, to share that information with the rest of the world as part of a searchable database.

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.

The key idea behind the knol project is to highlight authors. Books have authors' names right on the cover, news articles have bylines, scientific articles always have authors -- but somehow the web evolved without a strong standard to keep authors names highlighted. We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content. At the heart, a knol is just a web page; we use the word "knol" as the name of the project and as an instance of an article interchangeably. It is well-organized, nicely presented, and has a distinct look and feel, but it is still just a web page. Google will provide easy-to-use tools for writing, editing, and so on, and it will provide free hosting of the content. Writers only need to write; we'll do the rest.

Go read about it.

I'm thinking how I have dedicated the bulk of my working life to being a good food service manager in general, learning to run a Southern cafeteria in particular. My knowledge of this subject is vast but obsolete, having been overcome by a combination of technology (which produces lovely biscuits from a frozen puck that look and taste as good as those made from scratch), real estate prices (which makes that part of a cafeteria investment drive prices out of the competition) and a global economy (which makes cooking from scratch too labor intensive for the market).

What I have learned that will NOT go out of date is that good management requires understanding that your subordinates are peers, regarding them with respect, treating them with dignity and looking for non-monitary rewards over which you have the most control, starting with being friendly and greeting them with a smile every day.

I'm vain enough to think that someone might want to read my ideas about management. But I'm also realistic enough to know that those who would are probably the very ones who would least need to know. Can anyone say "cocooning"?

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