13 07 2007

main_page_logo.gifLast week I came across this new “human powered” search engine called Mahalo. The goal of the site is not to be a comprehensive search engine. According to Jason Calacanis, founder of Mahalo, the site is “very comprehensive for the most popular search terms. After that, we give the others over to Google or Yahoo.” The goal is to have people use Mahalo as supplemental tool to look for answers on popular topics (it’s not intended to replace the larger, traditional search engines like Google or Yahoo). “Mahalo aims to cover 25,000 top search terms. About 4,000 have been created already, and the goal is to do 500 per week scaling up to 1,000 per week. This includes revisiting and updating existing terms.”

This concept is interesting, particularly because I spend my work days performing numerous searches using the traditional platforms (Google, Yahoo, Ask). So I decided to submit a couple of relevant client links to their search engine, checked back a couple of days later & found they were posted on the appropriate pages. Ummm…good response time. I like this. Plus, as a user, you have the option to request edits to any SERP. Similar to the Wiki model.

I came across another section called Mahalo Greenhouse. This is where people can apply to be part-time Guides. Guides search, filter out spam, & assemble search results. If the search result doesn’t exist yet, the searcher can make a specific request, as well as suggest links. Again, interesting concept. I thought to myself…I should apply. I know a lot about search & it’s a good exercise to expand my research skills. Guides are required to have a solid working knowledge of social media, its outlets & of course, how to perform effective searches. Each SERP a guide submits has to be approved & accepted by the admin at Mahalo. Guides can choose what topic they’d like to write about – as long as it meets all the required criteria.

Yes, the odds are against them. Over the past ten years, there’s been a handful of failed attempts to launch human based search engines. But Wikipedia finally broke the loosing streak & has shown that people can pull together to compile interesting, resourceful, & factual information. It’s by no means perfect. As with all new innovations, there’s critics ready to tear it down. Who knows, maybe we can find a balance between human & machine?

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