Google's Knol online encyclopedia launches debate forum

Initial effort features opinions from think tank experts on federal bailout implications.

Google Tuesday launched the first of a series of debates on Knol -- its version of Wikipedia -- that aim to help voters during this election season by gathering expert opinions on a variety of economic issues.

The first debate on Knol, which Google launched in July after announcing plans for it to great fanfare in December, feature the thoughts of experts from the Cato Institute and the Economic Policy Institute on what actions should follow the recent congressional financial rescue package.

"As with most articles in Knol, these are open to collaboration, so you can rate what you read, submit comments, write full responses (i.e. reviews), or even suggest edits to the author by making changes right in the knol itself," Google said in a blog post. "These experts are using Knol because they want to collaborate with readers, and they are committed to updating the articles based on your input."

The debate area also includes forums where users can use Google Moderator to suggest additional topics for Knol debates, and let users vote on those suggestions.

Marshall Kirkpatrick, a blogger at Read Write Web, said that adding debates to the Knol site is a good business move by Google, considering that evidence shows that Knol is doing unusually well in Google search results.

"Knol truly is aimed to be a Wikipedia killer and Google would no doubt profit handsomely by making its own content pages the go-to sites for matters of public concern," he said. "What better topics to do that with than hugely popular controversies leading up to the Presidential election? These Knols will probably be read by millions of people and in the process of becoming more educated, they will also be exposed to Google's Knol site."

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