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September 13, 2006

User-Powered Search

Batettle posted about Jatalla, a 100% human-powered search engine that works on the increasingly universal language of tagged content. Why am I interested in this?

It's an idea that my IT and Strategic Opportunity class discussed back in April 2005:

Professor [6:08:15 PM]: What about if we had wikisearch?

Professor [6:08:46 PM]: Where everyone could contribute webdata/pages to the search engine, and modify, delete, edit, and categorize

Student 1 [6:09:25 PM]: letting the public doing the classification

Student 2 [6:09:25 PM]: DG: it would be a lot more efficient to tag the web if it were done in a decentralized manner, like Wiki

Professor [6:09:38 PM]: It may be a great way to take search to the next level and dethrone Google

Not ground breaking stuff for even back in 2005 but it's nice to see how far we've come. We have social search engines that are wiki-powered, like Swicki, and now Jatalla is hoping to leverage tags and humans to create a more decentralized, user-generated search engine.

Digging a little into Jatalla, submitters use a "lexivotes," a combination of a search term and a URL, to vote their preference for a given website's optimal relevance to that search term. Voting could be potentially gamed in ways that we've seen with splogs or on Digg but the more critical element is creating incentives for people to vote.

Would their be pride-based incentives like Digg, monetary-based incentives like Netscape, or would there be the old stalwart of civic-duty-based incentives for why people voted?

The more important, perhaps million dollar question, is whether this user-generated process is scalable enough to ever extend beyond niche segments and reach critical mass?

For the present time, Google doesn't need to be scared but I think the concept of social search will gain significant traction, maybe not through either of these two companies, in the future. 

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