Saturday, December 15, 2007


There have already been numerous postings about it (Google's Knol), so I probably don't have much new to say. If you don't feel like reading the above links, its a user-generated knowledge base, similar in spirit to wikipedia (and apparently mahalo and squidoo, which I tried for the first time today (neither turned anything useful up on category theory, so I quit early)). I am excited about it, because it could be fun. As mentioned elsewhere, the project may cut into wikipedia's (which I also like) success. But if google('s algorithm) is fair about deciding quality of articles, it shouldn't be unreasonable. Both systems should be able to coexist, they both have a place and will both contribute to global knowledge. As pointed out in the above links, the two systems are based on slightly different principles. Where wikipedia is focusing on having a single page for a topic, google is encouraging competition - and rewarding winners with ad revenue.

Would I post to it? Sure, if I thought I knew something I could post about. Would I read articles from it? Of course. Hopefully there'll be some good math ones. I've basically been waiting to try getting my math database together until google (or somebody else) beats me to it. They sure are taking their time though. On that note, while I'm here, I was reading the conference proceedings from the third international MKM conference, and the article on c-corn looked like it'd be inspiring. We'll see.

This is certainly an exciting time. We've got applications becoming more and more web based, and hopefully in the process more open. We've got olpc and co. distributing laptops to (hopefully) millions of children worldwide, opening everybody's worldview (maybe?). And this large new set of users mean more big changes are probably right around the corner.

Talked with Sean yesterday, who raised doubts about the olpc mission. I still wonder, like him, if laptops are really the priority. Maybe I should be giving my money to another cause? Which? Is it ok to pick one, make myself believe I'm helping, and keep about my day to day life? Or should I quit everything and sign up for the peace corp? Live escetically so I'm able to donate more? Buy a laptop and try to come up with a program to write for it that kids would benefit from? Buy one and not?

What a mess. I think I'll go have some ice cream.

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