Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

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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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Should Disney Open the Floodgates?

January 10, 2007

Steve Rubel has a post today about Disney overhauling the Disney.com site. Rubel’s reaction is that Disney should be opening up more of its content to be hacked and mashed up if it really wants to take its interaction with online customers to a new level.

I think this is an interesting question for both Disney and other companies that own content that others want to mess with. On the one hand, sure, you want your audience to use your content in new and interesting ways. But, at the same time, you created that content, it has value, and giving it over to those who did not create it but want to use it as raw materials for their own works may not be easy, and it may not be wise.

This isn’t necessarily a new question. The Grateful Dead encouraged concert bootlegs when the recording industry wanted only official releases. Rap used samples from both hit songs and obscure songs as spare parts in creating a new style of music.

But just as artists like the late great James Brown felt that they weren’t getting paid for having their work sampled, media companies aren’t necessarily keen on giving away their content to be monkeyed with, especially if the result is something that someone else profits from while they don’t.

The arguments for opening the floodgates and allowing greater sharing of copyrighted work is that it enhances the brand, possibly bringing your content to an audience that wasn’t aware of it, or giving stale content new life. These arguments make sense, but everyone’s pretty familiar with Winnie the Pooh. He doesn’t really need brand extension, or need to have new life breathed into his brand. The kids are still feeling him. So, what would be in it for Disney in allowing someone to mashup Pooh eating some yummy hunny with the voice of Brad Pitt in Fight Club saying “I want you to hit me as hard as you can.” I’d find that funny, but it’s hard to make the case that it makes me feel more fondly toward Pooh Bear.

I just read Wikinomics (review here) and was glad to see this issue brought up. Because I think it’s great if content creators want to let their audiences interact with their work in new ways, but there also seems to be a feeling by some that they should, as if to defend your right to keep your content in the form that you created it is somehow wrong or pigheaded.

I’m talking about this from a business perspective, but even from an artistic perspective I think it’s important. If an artist has created a work that he/she is proud of, and if that artwork is somehow the realization of a vision that the artist feels he/she successfully brought to life, isn’t it natural that the artist might feel unhappy if it is twisted into a new shape? Should the Rolling Stones really desire to see Sympathy for the Devil mashed up with a Carrie Underwood song just because someone who may be a fan of theirs thinks it would be cool (or ridiculous, which itself can be cool)?

I’m all for social media and using old things in new ways, but I think the whole “content wants to be free” thing is at times simply justification for stealing. If companies and artists want to share, great. If they think it can help their bottom line, super. But should they feel compelled to share? I don’t think so.

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.