News of the News.

By the way: for those who’ve missed my UnNews, I’m now writing them for (vanishingly small amounts of) money for, roughly one a day. Read News of the News and join the daily alert email. Here’s one for the Wikipedians.

Update: I have moved my stuff to my own site,

Forget the writers.

Knol is Google trying to recreate Squidoo or Helium, not an encyclopedia. Wikipedia is #8 on Alexa, Squidoo is #431, Helium is #4999 and only Google knows how well Knol is actually doing. I mean, I was incredibly impressed when I first joined Wikipedia in early 2004 that it was #500. But nevertheless. At least makes #86.

(In fairness, Google has never pushed Knol as a Wikipedia killer; that’s entirely a media-created synthetic controversy.)

There’s hardly a “Wikipedia replacement” that hasn’t started from trying to make a welcoming environment for authors. Wikipedia, however, is popular because it’s what readers want. Writers are important, but way less so than the readers.

I’ve seen very few Wikipedia replacements or even forks that aim primarily at creating a better resource for the reader, and leave the rest to happen. Citizendium is the only one that springs to mind — CZ is very reader-oriented, and slowly accumulating lots of good stuff. It also expressly tries for good writing, unlike Wikipedia.

If readers wanted ten articles on one topic, they’d just click the first ten Google hits. It’s like metasearch engines that gave you results from ten bad pre-Google search engines in the hope you might find a damn thing, when the real answer was one search engine that didn’t suck. Tell you what, the main value of Cuil is to explain to the kids how bad search engines were before Google got it right. One good resource kills ten mediocre resources.

Leaving the editors to battle it out to collaboratively create the one article on a topic appears to have worked to give readers the simple quick reference site they actually want to use. Inherent unreliability and all. Discuss. your second hit is also free.

I’m sitting here with my dear friend Kirrily Robert of Freebase. Her office is being remodelled, so decided to work from home in London for a week. We hung out with the geeks and drank to excess on Sunday (Kirrily says she drank to “sufficient”), so today we’ve been geeking Freebase and Wikipedia and social content creation and so forth.

Freebase is a collection of structured data, with little or no notability barrier. (Spam is fine if it’s structured data!) The differences from Wikimedia are that (a) it’s all CC-by (b) it’s run by a company, not by a charity. The differences from Google Base is that (a) you can do mashups of every data table with every other data table (b) they don’t want your private data (unless you want your daily calorie counts available forever under CC-by).

I didn’t think it was way cool until she showed me David Huynh’s Freebase Parallax demo video. I most strongly urge you to watch this.

Advancing Freebase is in line with Wikimedia goals, as it’s useful free content (and the dumps work). The really good thing you can do is: if you’re getting someone to release a bunch of data, do your damnedest to get it under CC-by or public domain. That way we can have it and they can have it and everyone can have it.

The other thing we rambled about was the social structure of the thing. At the moment Freebase’s Alexa rank is about 47,000; socially it sounds like Wikipedia in 2002. The key point is that in a public participatory content production project, people are all your problems and this is not susceptible to quick fixes, technical or social. Just so she knows what they’re in for.

London readers: there’s a Freebase meetup at the Yorkshire Grey pub in Holborn from 6:30pm.

KDE 4.1 is really nice.

KDE 4.1 is made entirely of delicious eye candy. It’s still slightly unfinished and geeky, but remains deeply tasty. As I say that “KDE is like Windows but it works,” so KDE 4.1 is like Vista but it works. Which is a bit like “KDE is like anthrax but not bad for you,” but anyway.

If you’re not willing to geekily beat it into behaving, don’t try it yet. But if you are: how to set it up in Ubuntu Hardy (you have to add an experimental repository); install gtk-qt-engine-kde4 to solve the Fugly Firefox problem; install quick launch if you want that (though I couldn’t get it to work); switch off single-click launch in Konqueror; reboot; fiddle with all the settings. Play and have fun.