Google describes Knol as:
A platform for sharing information, with multiple cues that help you evaluate the quality and veracity of information.The mainstream media and blogosphere have both labelled it a Wikipedia killer, but the comparison to Wikipedia is lazy and superficial.
As I supposed when it was initially announced, the purpose of Knol is fundamentally different to Wikipedia's mission. Where Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, Knol is a library.
Wikipedia delivers a single, collaborative, and verifiable article on every topic worthy of inclusion (and the editors aggressively kill new articles that aren’t). That fine. That's great even, it's like a living version of Britannica that tends towards consensus over time.
A Library of Knol(edge)
But that’s not what Knol is about. Knols aren’t about consensus, they're about authority. Lots of authors willing to stand by their claims. You judge the veracity of a Knol the same way you do a book, newpaper article, or tech paper – by looking at the comments and reviews of other readers, looking for citations, and reading up on the author (their background, affiliations, and other articles).
Just like your local library, Knol will contain a collection of opinions, knowledge, and experiences backed by the author’s name and reputation . Just like a library, many topics will have several 'books' written by different authors–often contradictory.
Rather than consensus articles with a neutral voice, for contentious or subjective subjects you can browse a number of personal opinions and experiences and form your own consensus. It’s noisier but it provides a personal perspective that’s inherently missing from an encyclopedic approach.
Check Out My Knowledge
Anyway, Knol looks pretty cool, I’ve set up my Knol Biography and I’ve started creating Knols based on some of my more popular E2 write-ups. You can check out Flooded Member Detection to find out if that’s as dirty as it sounds.
It’s worth sending a shout-out to the people over at Everything2 who have been doing the Knol thing for years and who still have a few tricks (particularly in the reputation system) that Google would do well to copy consider.
Authors, Start Authoring!
If you're an author or a subject matter expert, you can and should be using Knol to demonstrate that to the world. If you've written a book or authored a paper Knol is a way for you to demonstrate to potential readers that it's worth paying for more of your stuff.
I can see this being a great resource for professionals and academics who want to share their latest insight or discovery outside the four people that will read their journal article or internal white paper.
A New Tool for Research
For readers I think Knol provides an excellent addition to existing web-sites, including Wikipedia, as an additional source of information to browse when investigating a particular topic. Chances are most people won't be going to Knol directly for answers, but they're bound to end up there through Google searches before long.