Archive for July, 2007

Human-powered Search!

July 25, 07 by Bharani

Killerstartups.com, a user-driven internet start-up community, profiles a whopping 249 search-related products! There are various flavours of Search engines originating from different parts of the globe.

Wikipedia, the Free encyclopedia, lists down around 100 odd search engines. It’s interesting to see the way they have classified these search engines in to 29 categories.

Off late, I am fascinated by the concept of human-powered search engines like www.Mahalo.com & www.chacha.com. They focus on serving high-quality relevant results using the human intelligence. This is accomplished through the people-centric approach, whereby experts hand-pick best sites and difficult-to-find sites under each category and add them to the search engine. This approach clearly overcomes the problem that the mega search engines like Google, Yahoo et al poses. For example, the PageRank algorithm of Google prevents new, niche, less SEO’ed sites and not-so-often-quoted sites to figure on top results. Many a times, such sites turn out to be the most relevant ones.

Until the “artificial intelligence”, “machine-learning”, “natural-language processing”, “neural-networks” and other esoteric concepts gather some traction and shape, the human-powered approach is a dependable way of solving the problem. But there will be questions raised like “How to do you scale it up?”, “How many years, people you need to accomplish this?”, “How will you eliminate the subjectivity and bias of the experts?”. This is where I think Mahalo and Chacha are doing a good job. They invite users/volunteers to hand-pick the results. They also have a good reputation system which enforces sanctity and validity on the user-contributions. The focus is on top search terms and to add the long-tail terms as and when a demand is seen. The approach eliminates spam-sites, copy-paste sites, SEO-oriented blogs et al., The game of “online advertising and marketing” has clearly spoilt the quality of search results on major search engine. It is refreshing to see search engines that are powered by humans and that are clean from advertising gamers.

Mahalo.com: Mahalo is the world’s first human-powered search engine powered by an enthusiastic and energetic group of Guides.

Chacha.com: The first search engine that uses the brainpower of really smart people to find anything you want on the Internet.