Chip Shots by Chip Griffin

Calacanis’ Project X Revealed: Mahalo, a Human Search Engine

I’m a big believer in the notion that computers can’t yet do everything that humans can. No matter how comprehensive a job that a programmer does, nobody has yet replicated all of the judgment of people — for better or worse.  As good as Google is, there are still results that don’t make sense.  (For a time, one of my blog posts was the #1 result for “teacher tenure” for instance, which I’m fairly certain is not what someone was looking for.)

So the concept behind Jason Calacanis’ much talked about “Project X” is promising:

Mahalo is the world’s first human-powered search engine powered by an enthusiastic and energetic group of Guides. Our Guides spend their days searching, filtering out spam, and hand-crafting the best search results possible. If they haven’t yet built a search result, you can request that search result. You can also suggest links for any of our search results.

It feels sort of like Google meets Wikipedia

It could prove to be a valuable resource.  Right now, however, just hours after it was unveiled, it feels thin to me.  I’m not talking about the number of searches that have been customized — I expect that it will take time to get that to a broad level.

I guess what I mean by “thin” is that the results pages don’t feel especially robust.  They do a decent job of providing the obvious links, but I’d love to see the results page act more as a portal for more information — perhaps a “dashboard” of information for the search term.

I should also note that this is likely to work best when you are searching for a concrete topic, company, product, person, etc.  For instance, there is a “Star Wars” page but if you type in “Star Wars AND Lucas” you get zilch from Mahalo.

If it doesn’t evolve significantly from its present form, though, I’m not certain that Wikipedia isn’t actually more helpful since it provides the nuts and bolts on one page, whereas Mahalo just provides links to the real info.  Google and the other generic search engines are all pretty good at the basics.  They tend to start having difficulty with more complex searches.  And that’s where I’d love to see Mahalo or some similar engine come through with tailored results.

Nevertheless, glad to see this project has come to life, and I’ll be watching to see how it evolves.

Read more about Mahalo: TechCrunchWSJ, Danny Sullivan and Mashable.

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  1. Hi Chip,
    I see it more of a ChaCha + Wikipedia … It will be interesting to see the point to it…I think that he has some underlying SEO angle that he is going after..

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