I ran across this in the Google bloghttp://googleblog.blogspot.com/2007/12/encouraging-people-to-contribute.html announcing a new beta feature called Knol that allows an author to publish a page about on whatever topic they choose. The page at a time publishing metaphor is interesting, something that would presumably have more depth and focus than a blog entry, but not rise to the level of building a site that focused on the topic. It also makes it easy, or at least easier, for an author to look at writing as a way to profit from their efforts, by adding ads or getting a sponsor for their pages.
Monetizing is important; if done well it encourages authors to work harder, work better, produce better content. Sites like SSC allow authors to monetize in limited fashion, typically paying a flat fee rather than a per view rate. I like that model because the author can see that they will earn x dollars (removing the will I make any money issue) and because it discourages breaking up content into multiple pages (or worse) just to drive up their earnings. The Google model fits those willing to take on a little risk for perhaps greater reward.
The downside to the Google model is they may well wind up with a lot of junk pages designed just to attract pages views, there's no one to monitor for outright plagiarism, and it's very likely that for the most popular subjects we'll have 18 different authors all writing about the same thing. Community sites offset most of those dangers through a combination of the resident editor/owner as well as the oversight of the community members. Will Knol be able to build that kind of community? Doesn't seem likely, but perhaps I shouldn't bet against them?!
For us SQL Server people it could be an interesting twist - will authors who previously published on SSC, SQLTeam, etc, opt to give it a try? Will they post on a community site for 90 days or whatever and then repost on Knol? Would we better served if authors wrote purely based on wanting to make a profit? Or would we get better content if they were trying to write the best page in the world about a sliver of SQL Server and just used Knol as the platform? I'd like to see the pressure of Knol cause community sites to evolve into being a little more author friendly as they fight to stay relevant. For now I'll continue to publish here in the community I helped build and continue to enjoy, but I'll see how things evolve and perhaps give it a try (on the list after trying the wiki thing in some form or fashion!).