Archive for the ‘Search Engines’ Category

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Summer’s Ending

August 20, 2008

The last time I blogged here it was the start of 2008 and now we’re finishing up the summer. My kids are back in school Monday, so I consider “unofficial” summer to be done at that point, regardless of the solstice action or the temperature.

It’s been a productive year thus far, although I don’t think anyone ever gets as much done as they hoped they would when a year began. It can be a slog, especially if you’re trying to build something via bootstrapping, without the resources to do as much as fast as you’d like. In business, I’m talking about Bessed, but of course life in general is like that, too. You look back and see that the things you wanted to fix still haven’t gotten fixed because some things absolutely needed to get fixed. It’s the eternal struggle between getting things done and putting out fires all day.

This summer’s been a big one in our family, with kids learning to ride on two wheels, learning to read (and loving it as much as I did when I was a kid), and learning to do some other things for themselves so Mom and Dad aren’t in constant servitude. We also had a couple of big events, with back-to-back trips — a vacation to Kiawah Island, South Carolina and then a trip to Niagara Falls for someone’s big birthday (no numbers mentioned). There was much fun, but in some ways I’m looking forward to the structure that comes with school and cooler weather. (I’ve drank a lot this summer, too; scaling back on that wouldn’t be a bad thing.)

I’ll be 40 in about 16 months, and I’ve been spending a good amount of time trying to figure out where I want to be at that point, and what to do if I don’t get to where I want to be. Yes, 40 is just a number, but it doesn’t hurt to use it as a benchmark to take stock of where you are, where you’d like to be, how likely it is you’ll get there, what to do if you can’t get there, or even what you’ll do if you do get there. The “there” is different for everyone — for me, it’s to use this end of summer as the jumping off point for a concerted effort to fill a niche with Bessed and make it a worthwhile endeavor for myself and those who use it. Can I find the people, pay the people, and create the path that will make a somewhat amorphous blob into a useful, focused site, or will it be time to move on?

Well, summer’s not over yet. While I ponder, I think I’ll have a drink out in the sun.

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Not Really Getting Wikia Search

January 7, 2008

As a participant in the human-powered search field, I’ve been very interested to see what Jimmy Wales and his for-profit Wikia Search would add to the mix. Presumably the legend of Wikipedia would have something new and exciting for us as he attempts to “fix” search. Well, giving us results 11-20 on the same page as the first 10 results is maybe a little exciting. Otherwise, I don’t get it.

Maybe it’s not fair to judge a project that begs for human participation but launches with almost none. After all, Wales has said that when Wikipedia launched, the “Africa” page’s content consisted of the line “Africa is a continent.” On the other hand, Wikipedia launched with no eyes on it; not so for Wikia Search. For such a high-profile launch, this should have been left to bake a while longer so people could get a better idea of the vision.

As it is, you get poor results coupled with empty “mini-articles” and the opportunity to use social features like photos, profiles, “friends”, etc. Not exactly cutting edge, and personally I still don’t get why anyone thinks people want social features baked into their search engine. While we offer commenting on Bessed, we have no mechanism for people to open accounts and share among each other because we can’t see the purpose in it, or at least we don’t think people will use it to any extent. It seems to make more sense for a Facebook or Myspace to start a search engine than it does to start a new search engine and then try to add the social features. But then again I don’t have a lot of time to make “friends” on the Web, so maybe I’m not representative of others’ feelings about this.

It will be interesting to see what kind of participation level Wikia will get, whether the Wikipedia “magic” will rub off on a project that has a very different purpose. Of course, Wikipedia has been taking its lumps lately for becoming an insider’s kingdom, but I’m sure Jimmy Wales would be happy to have such a problem with Search Wikia. Better to have a smaller, more arrogant group snatch the keys than to have no one be interested at all.

Time will tell, but the initial take is that rushing to meet a deadline for getting Search Wikia off the ground has left it open to easy criticism.

UPDATE: Not getting the love from TechCrunch, either. I would add that I’ve been on the mailing list for Wikia and this morning Michael Arrington accused Wales of giving the New York Times permission to publish its review of Search Wikia while asking all other media to hold off. Wales denied the permission was given and said NYT jumped the gun.)

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.

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Where is Search Broken?

August 23, 2007

I wrote a guest post on AltSearchEngines.com yesterday asking the question “Where is Search Broken?” Please stop by, give it a read and offer your thoughts.

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Bessed Search Plugin for Firefox

August 22, 2007

Many thanks to Jeremy Weiss of Blue Phoenix Consulting, who created this Firefox plugin that lets you search Bessed straight from your browser’s navigation bar. It’s easy as pie to add—just click the link and it’s ready for use.

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Bessed, Mahalo and Human-Powered Search

July 18, 2007

I’ve been asked about it several times, but have been tardy in writing about Mahalo, the new human-powered search engine that Jason Calacanis is spearheading. I did get a chance to talk about it a bit with the New York Times‘ Randall Stross, who wrote this piece on Bessed, Mahalo and other search competitors a few weeks back.

I’m grateful to Stross for including Bessed in his piece, as my initial fear about Mahalo was that people would think that Calacanis had thought this up all on his own, and had thought of it first, when in fact Bessed was launched in October of 2006, long before Mahalo. I was afraid people would think that we were the copycats.

To his credit, Stross did his homework. He realized that Bessed had launched this concept of a “human-powered search engine” before Calacanis came out beating his chest and talking up the VC money he has backing him up.

I’m not upset about Mahalo launching almost a carbon copy of what Bessed is doing—or, as a friend e-mailed to me, “Dude, they stole your idea!” (Although it was a litte disheartening to see them tout themselves as the “first human-powered search engine.”) That’s the nature of competition. Frankly, I’m jealous of the money Calacanis has behind Mahalo. It will be interesting to see what it gets them.

However, there are some differences between Mahalo’s game plan and that of Bessed, and I think those differences are what will ultimately doom Mahalo, or at the very least force it to change course from it’s currently-stated plan. I’m also afraid Mahalo might kill the idea that human-powered search can work, because its current offering doesn’t offer a ton of value. And if that happens, it could hurt Bessed over the long run. So, while I would not be unhappy to see Mahalo fail, how it fails matters to me 🙂

First, here’s what is good about Mahalo. (Generally it’s the same as what I think is good about Bessed.) Mahalo is having human editors find results, which is eliminating spam from its results. The site looks attractive. It’s allowing visitors to suggest new sites to add. And I think it offers good results for the topics it’s covering.

But Mahalo makes one big mistake. It is attempting to create results for only the most searched-for terms. The problem is, most people are perfectly happy with Google results for the more common searches. They aren’t looking for an alternative. Where Google and other engines often fall flat and and are susceptible to spam is in the “long tail” of searches—searches for specific people, products, facts, etc. These are the searches in which searchers come away dissatisfed and are open to an alternative that can solve their problem and save them time.

I don’t know if any human-powered effort can adequately cover the millions of potential searches that take place each day, but by simply ignoring them Mahalo has no compelling reason to exist. It does not solve a searcher’s problem, so beyond what Calacanis can drum up traffic-wise based on his own personal celebrity, it will fall flat.

Our goal with Bessed is to fill the holes in the long tail, sifting out the junk on those specific searches that so often are maddening—when you find one site selling the same thing on four different domains or you are lured to a site on false pretenses because the site has pasted your keyword (and a hundred others) on a page that is completely irrelevant. Those searches drive you crazy, and Google’s algorithm, which puts so much stock in the links between sites, has a hard time sifting the junk because there are so few links between sites in the long tail, thus making it hard to give any of the pages credibility over others. This is where the humans can and should be; this is where we can make a difference.

This doesn’t mean Bessed will ignore the “short tail,” but it means we know that we can create more value in attacking searches that robots have not yet mastered. If I had Calacanis’ money, this is where I would be spending it. Maybe he’d like to give it to us?

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.

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Free Home Page Links on Bessed

April 4, 2007

One of our challenges in building Bessed is how to cover the thousands of topics/keyword searches that people do every day. Obviously a human-powered search engine will never be able to cover it all. For example, I can’t imagine a day when you will be able to “Bessed” any person’s name in the whole world like you can with Google.

However, we believe we can increase our coverage to the vast majority of searches if our site visitors will help us Build A Better Bessed. We’re asking interested writers to submit a short list of at least 5 links, with descriptions, for topics of interest to them. When you do, provided you attempted to do so coherently and didn’t just heap junk at us, we’ll get your topic submissions listed on our site within one business day AND we will offer you the chance to have your site linked both on the topic page you created as well as on the Bessed.com home page. (Go there now and see sites already listed in the right-hand column.)

We’re not asking you to help us out of the goodness of your heart. We’re asking you to help us in order to help yourself, whether that means promoting your business, your blog, or your association of amateur astronomers.

Contributors on our home page will be ranked based on the number of submissions, so the more you contribute, the higher your listing will be. Also, the more topics/keyword searches you get started, the more pages your link will show up on, helping to make you an authority on the subjects that are near and dear to your heart.

Sound good? Go to Build A Better Bessed for details on how exactly to get started.

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.

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Bessed Review on SEO Chat

March 16, 2007

Terri Wells of SEO Chat wrote a kind review of Bessed this week (maybe even too kind considering where the site currently is in its development).

It has certainly sparked some interest and I’m grateful for that, so thanks Terri!