Yahoo! & Wikia - User Engaged Search
Yahoo! just announced, as part of their SearchMonkey initiative, the launch of Search Gallery on Wednesday and TechCrunch has a piece on the new and improved (“doesn’t suck”) release of Wikia Search. Both efforts, although they use very different methods, put tools in the hands of the community to offer a better search experience.
It’s quite easy to build a bad search engine, but quite difficult to build a good one. For most job boards, it’s generally not necessary to build good search tools. It is relatively straightforward how to categorize the listings, they can control the data used to make up the listings, and there just aren’t that many jobs to browse through. Newspaper boards fit this profile.
Job boards that start small and grow large, since they don’t have search in their DNA, often offer a poor search experience i.e. a request for a VP job, will usually include jobs that report to a VP or a PA for a VP.
The real challenges for search engines
are sourcing then structuring data, developing great relevancy algorithms, then figuring out the presentation layer.
Back to Wikia search, it adds human editors to its use of distributed web service “Grub” for data acquisition/structuring efforts. It has a kind of a “don’t find what you’re looking for then add it” functionality which seems open to abuse and turns the basic notion of of the utility of a search engine on its head. Whereas individuals were willing to put in effort to share their expertise to increase human knowledge, it’s not clear if they’ll be that excited about building a better google. Through the use of AJAX, users can also do some repositioning but the SERPs remain standard issue.
Although the founder talks about it as a potential “google killer,” it seems to me that wikipedia had a much better chance to supplant google although it was stymied with a tricky name, awkward UI, and weak search functionality. For me, my wikipedia requests always start with Google.
Search Monkey, has the potential to enhance the utility Yahoo! search results by giving users more control and options about how they want to have data presented in certain verticals. This could be a stealth way for Yahoo! to bring better vertical offerings to a generalist search tool. At present, there weren’t many break through offerings - visually enhanced summaries of links to linkedin profiles aren’t game changing. That being said, it’s early, and we’ll be closely monitoring these efforts for better ways to present data and we are looking for developers and partners to enhance our workhound.co.uk