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Wikipedia vs Google grudge match July 31, 2008

Posted by cmvlibrarian in Information Sharing, Web 2.0.
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Google takes aim at Wikipedia. Photo by Djclear904 on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license http://tinyurl.com/y25aak

In a blow aimed squarely at Wikipedia Google recently announced its knowledge sharing service dubbed Google Knol.

According to Google a Knol “is an an authoritative article about a specific topic”. This sounds surprisingly similar to a Wikipedia article, however there are some major differences:

  • Most Knols only have one author
  • Google registration is required and author’s name as well as any credentials are prominently displayed
  • Users can rate Knols and the aggregate rating is prominently displayed

So Google’s set up a system where some topics are likely to have several different articles that can be screened by users easily via the author’s credentials and the article’s rating. This kind of system is likely to attract people who were turned off to Wikipedia due to disputes over content, as well as people looking to increase their name recognition in a particular field.

While Wikipedia currently trumps Google Knol in sheer number of articles (particularly those relating to pop culture) having to create a Google account seems a small constraint given the Web giant’s ubiquity. Still the critical factor in Google Knol’s success is going to be the quality of articles.

To compare article quality I examined the general HIV article from Wikipedia and the highest rated HIV article from Google Knol by Rick Hecht, a doctor in San Francisco (a search for HIV resulted in 10 Knols of varying quality). Both articles were of decent length, included a number of authoritative references, were organized according to a hyperlinked table of contents, discussed clinical and historical information about HIV, and linked to statistical information from UNAIDS. However some notable differences included:

  • The Knol was written more informally and was easier for a laymen to understand
  • The images in the Knol were incorporated into the article more efficiently to enhance clarity
  • Wikipedia’s article linked to a variety of related material and topics to encourage exploration
  • The references in the Wikipedia article were hyperlinked making their quality faster to evaluate

Despite the hype I’d say Google Knol is a promising complimentary platform to Wikipedia rather than a knock out blow to it. With Google Knol researchers new to a topic can quickly filter for higher quality material and evaluate controversial topics by reading multiple articles on the same topic from different points of view. Wikipedia’s more likely to have material of interest because of sheer number of articles and researchers are more likely to discover new information through serendipity. In short don’t count Wikipedia out yet but definitely add Google Knol to your research utility belt.

The New Facebook July 22, 2008

Posted by cmvlibrarian in Social networking, Web 2.0.
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Photo by jurvetson on Flickr. Used with permission. License information at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Facebook recently unveiled its new look after months of planning. Users can volunteer to try the new interface and offer feedback via a link at the top of the page or return to the old interface. It looks like Facebook’s really encouraging users to transition into the new interface, since according to their update they’ll be transitioning everyone to the new interface.

I’ve scanned the new interface and it looks like it has a number of good features. The homepage boasts a better information architecture that makes it easier to see content of interest. The profile pages have a tabbed design with the option for users to create tabs for their favorite applications. Profile privacy is further enhanced by users’ ability to select one of their friends and view their own profile the way the friend would see it. This makes it much easier for people who want to use their profiles for both professional and social networking to customize their profile’s appropriatly.

The only downsides that I found so far is that the “box” tab (the default location for most applications) seems a little cluttered, but is pretty easy to clean up. A more serious flaw is the merging of the activity feed with the wall. On its default setting what was once an easy place for your friends to write a quick message can become overwhelming cluttered. Hopefully Facebook has the sense to break this into separate tabs or at least distinct areas of the same tab before they finalize their design and move all users to this format.

Creating A-Z Indexes for Websites or Intranets July 18, 2008

Posted by cmvlibrarian in Cataloging, Web productivity.
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Heather Hedden of Viziant Corporation Principal facilitated an informative Click U session on how websites and intranets can benefit from A-Z indexes.

First Hedden differentiated indexes from sitemaps. Though somewhat related sitemaps show users how a website is structured like a book’s table of contents while indexes guide users to key content/concepts. So while sitemaps might aid navigation it’s site indexes that can enhance site searching.

Given the effort and complexities that go into making A-Z indexes Hedden recommended that they be used for content not likely to be changed often and for small to medium size websites (about up to a few hundred pages). She also recommended double posting multiple synonyms unless it was important to educate users about a certain terminology in which case “See” notations are justified.

Hedden also described some of the strengths and weaknesses of two automated web indexing tools. XRefHT might benefit organizations with smaller budgets since it’s freeware. An alternative with stronger term editing features available for purchase is HTML Indexer. Using either of these tools can help librarians create fairly complex indexes without having to know any actual HTML or CSS.