In 2008, Google opened a project competing with Wikipedia: Knol. The project at January 2009 had grown to 100,000 articles, something it is hard to define a success.
Since then it seems the attitude of Google towards Wikipedia have changed a bit, more like “Ok, you (Wikipedia) can become the de facto monopolist in the user-generated creation of knowledge, we have other and more challenging competitors to defeat now, we will incorporate you later on down the way”.
Two example of this new attitude (according to my view of course) are the Kiswahili Wikipedia Challenge and the Health Speaks Wikipedia pilot project.
The Kiswahili Wikipedia Challenge was a challenge launched in November 2009 by Google. The task was to translate English Wikipedia articles into Kiswahili or to write Wikipedia articles from scratch. Participants received prizes such as laptops, mobile phones, prepaid internet access modems, Google T-shirts. Google stated goal: “We hope to make the online experience richer and more relevant for 100 million African users who speak Kiswahili.”
The results might not be that great. The Wikipedia Signpost of 2010-07-26 quotes from the blog post what happened on the Google Challenge @ the Swahili Wikipedia:
Nearly all of them are gone now and left a lot of articles which often are not really state of the art formally and also linguistically … they don’t care because they were there for laptops and other prizes (no need to be rude, but it hurts me pretty bad).
An article in New York Times is similarly not exalted. The last paragraphs of the article comments on Google-generated content in Wikipedias in languages of India.
However, the surge in content created by Google’s project to improve these sites still needs work, according some local site administrators. For example the Wikipedia in Tamil – one of the underrepresented South Asian languages – the entries covered “too many American pop stars and Hindi movies, which Tamils may not need as a priority.” There was also sloppiness in language and coding.
Despite these concerns, Tamil Wikipedia plans on working with Google to continue the additions. The Bengali Wikipedia, however, took greater umbrage and simply deleted the Google-generated content. The Bengali Wikipedians explained that the material simply did not meet their standards.
The Health Speaks Wikipedia pilot project was announced yesterday and is focused on increasing the quantity and quality of online health information in languages spoken in developing countries. They started a pilot project to support community-based, crowd-sourced translation of health information from English Wikipedias into Arabic, Hindi and Swahili Wikipedias.
They have chosen hundreds of good quality English language health articles from Wikipedia that they hope will be translated with the assistance of Google Translator Toolkit, made locally relevant, reviewed and then published to the corresponding local language Wikipedia site. They have also funded the professional translation of a small subset of these articles. And they are additionally providing a donation incentive to encourage community translators to participate. For the first 60 days, they will donate 3 cents (US) for each English word translated to the Children’s Cancer Hospital Egypt 57357, the Public Health Foundation of India and the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) for the pilots in Arabic, Hindi and Swahili, respectively, up to $50,000 each. This means that community translators will help their friends and neighbors access quality health information in a local language, while also supporting a local non-profit organization working in health or health education.