Friday, October 26, 2007

What is "Social Graph-Based Search"? -- and will it overtake Google?

Robert Scoble, a well-known Internet guru, makes some strong arguments that Google is going to be left behind in terms of search (over the next few years) because its core strength is about search engine optimization techniques (i.e., how people can tweak their webpage to come out higher in the rankings because of knowing how the search algorithm works).

Instead Scoble believes social graph-based searching -- or tapping into people-based networks for information -- will reign supreme in the search world, and he discusses three in particular: Mahalo, Facebook, and TechMeme.

Watch these three video tutorials of Robert Scoble talking about "Social Graph-Based Search":

He talks about a fabric of trust -- makes me think of librarians as a reliable fabric in society, providing trusted information ....

Scoble asks, what if everyone has their own Mahalo? Our own network of "people-based systems"....

You'll probably have heard of Facebook (if not, see its Wikipedia entry -- and consider the fact that it has almost 50 million active users and Microsoft just paid $240m for a 1.6% stake in the company). TechMeme is more for technology addicts, while Mahalo, subtitled "Human-Powered Search", is designed for the general public.

I think Mahalo has a lot of potential. Their "guides" (as they call the people who put their pages together) are basically creating what librarians call "pathfinders" -- a summary of the best links on a particular topic. See, for example, Mahalo's School Subjects list. Students should find some of those pages quite useful, e.g., the page on Hamlet has everything you might need.... same goes for the page on Ian McEwan..... I know the book club I belong to would find the the Authors and Writers pages useful...

Mahalo also has some good intro "how-to" pages on technology, e.g.,
I read a recent article/interview with Jason Calacanis, the founder of Mahalo.


His plan was devilishly clever: He would create a human-powered search engine that builds out prefab responses to the most popular search terms. He would shoot for the top 30%, or about 15,000 terms, to effectively skim the cream from the entire search business. Mahalo would deliver results for searches like "Paris Hilton," "iPod," and "Bill Gates," but not for your local high-school football team or childhood sweetheart. And because those results would be prepared by humans, sifted and sorted and condensed for maximum relevance, users would no longer be faced with 10 million hits, as they are with Google, but with a few dozen. Mahalo would be a search engine for people who don't like to search.

Evidently Mahalo has about 60 employees so far.

Most of Calacanis's employees are young out-of-work novelists, screenwriters, musicians, artists, and actors--info addicts happy to earn $35,000 a year plus health benefits by searching the Web rather than shelving books at Barnes & Noble or slinging chai lattes at Starbucks. Calacanis has promised them 15% of the company when and if it goes public, with the investors getting a third and Calacanis keeping the rest.

(Why doesn't he try to hire librarians, who are trained in searching and evaluating information??)

Anyway, if you like Mahalo, you might also look at Squidoo -- which is openly social (like Wikipedia, meaning anyone can create pages). Here's how they describe themselves:


Squidoo is a website hosting hundreds of thousands of lenses. Each lens is one person's look at something online. Your take on football or business or the best thai food in town. Lenses are free.

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