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Google SearchWiki: An Interesting Take on PIM

November 21st, 2008 · 11 Comments · General

Google launched SearchWiki today–I hadn’t realized it was pre-launch when I blogged about it a few weeks ago. Here is their official description:

Today we’re launching SearchWiki, a way for you to customize search by re-ranking, deleting, adding, and commenting on search results. With just a single click you can move the results you like to the top or add a new site. You can also write notes attached to a particular site and remove results that you don’t feel belong. These modifications will be shown to you every time you do the same search in the future. SearchWiki is available to signed-in Google users. We store your changes in your Google Account. If you are wondering if you are signed in, you can always check by noting if your username appears in the upper right-hand side of the page.

My first thought: who could possibly care about this feature? This feels more like bookmarking than personalizing search, and the feature raises all sorts of questions because of the dynamic nature of the search results.

But then it occurred to me that this feature is supposed to feel like bookmarking. At least if I understand the intent, the goal is not so much about a personalized search experience as it is personalized information management. Think “Stuff I’ve Seen” or “Information Scraps“. Google expects users to treat the results for particular search queries as static pages that can be manipulated and marked up.

I find this idea striking and a bit disconcerting, especially given that, at least in my experience, most web search results are anything but static. But I can see the potential appeal of wanting to stop the world so you can edit it. I’m not entirely sure what makes this approach a search “wiki”, though it is certainly reminiscent of Mahalo and Wikia Search. Incidentally, both of those seem to be struggling.

One incentive for Google to get users to adopt SearchWiki is that its users will increasingly invest effort in storing information on Google’s servers. And, because this information is tied to Google search results, there’s far more lock-in than from using Gmail and Google Apps, whose content can be ported to competing applications.

And, unlike Mahalo and Wikia Search, Google is starting with the lion’s share of the web search market. Even so, I’m skeptical that many users will see value in this feature. Lively lasted about six months. I’ll give SearchWiki a year.

11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Daniel Tunkelang // Nov 21, 2008 at 9:52 am

    Lauren Weinstein suggests that the ability to view the comments that all other users have associated with search results may lead to dueling comments over popular search results.

    http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/000473.html

    If Lauren’s concerns bear out, the results make SearchWiki something of a Wiki 0.0 — a slew of scattered comments.

  • 2 lively // Nov 22, 2008 at 8:10 am

    I am recieving the google feature where i am located (mid west usa) but im not sure if all googlers are able to see the google searchwiki showing up on their screens yet. If not there is a video and some screen shots of the searchwiki at http://www.thesearchwiki.com do you guys think this will take off? do you think it will effect the search engine search results drastically from now on?

  • 3 Daniel Tunkelang // Nov 22, 2008 at 11:18 am

    First off, I have to wonder at user named “lively” claiming an email address of the same at Gmail and promoting a site whose domain name seems designed to capitalize on Google’s recent SearchWiki announcement.

    To clarify for readers, the Google SearchWiki feature is available to all signed-in Google users at this point–just use Google normally and you’ll see it. And Google has made it clear that the changes that you make to your own results will have *no* effect on others’ results

    Do I think it will take off? No.

  • 4 Focused Comment Spamming | The Noisy Channel // Nov 22, 2008 at 11:34 am

    [...] Normally I take down spam commenters. But a recent comment spammer posting with the name “lively” (claiming the unlilkely email address of lively@gmail.com) struck me as interesting enough to to leave as an example to readers. You can see the comment here. [...]

  • 5 Milan // Nov 26, 2008 at 8:34 am

    There’s also a followup analysis from Lauren Weinstein discussing use of SearchWiki as a covert communications channel.

    http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/000476.html

  • 6 Sérgio Nunes // Nov 26, 2008 at 8:59 am

    I think that Google’s SearchWiki might also be seen as an attempt to fight “bad SEO” (aka spammers). By “personalizing” each search result you no longer have a single top result for a given search query. This makes it harder to execute and evaluate SEO techniques. Thus devaluing SEO strategies.

    SearchWiki definitely adds a layer of complexity to SEO.

  • 7 Daniel Tunkelang // Nov 26, 2008 at 9:07 am

    Sérgio, that is perhaps the only potential value I see in SearchWiki. It reminds me of the better relevance through user diversity discussion I had with Amit:

    http://thenoisychannel.com/2008/04/08/qa-with-amit-singhal-2/

    But there are much better ways to deliver it. As a means of allowing users to personalize search, editing individual query results almost as if they were static is pretty inefficient. Why not give users wholesale control over ranking?

  • 8 Daniel Tunkelang // Nov 26, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Milan: great, SearchWiki as a platform for terrorists–that will endear Google to the feds! But, in fairness, there are already many ways to distribute secret messages, e.g., though comment threads on popular blogs.

  • 9 Google Improves Personalization | The Noisy Channel // Jan 18, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    [...] regular readers know, I have little love for SearchWiki. But Preferred Sites seems to be a real step, albeit a small one, towards allowing users to [...]

  • 10 Life, the Universe, and SEO Revisited // Feb 26, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    [...] personal site blocklists that are reported to Google. Some may see this is as a reincarnation of SearchWiki, an ill-conceived and short-lived feature that allowed searchers to annotate and re-order results. [...]

  • 11 Social Utility, +/- 25% // Apr 14, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    [...] course, Google also wants to know what you like. That’s why Google developed SearchWiki (RIP), Hotpot (now merged into Places), and most recently +1. As Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, and [...]

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