Is Search Broken? Some Mahalo Insight

Interesting Scoblevision video about “human-powered search” firm Mahalo.
Part I of Inside Mahalo, the Human Produced Search Engine | FastCompany.TV
An interesting section (at about 13 minutes) is with Eric Stephens, who’s “director of user experiences” for Mahalo. In the Mahalo “lab,” Stephens does something very close to an open-ended interview. Don’t know if Stephens has a background in ethnography but his methods are pretty ethnographic. In fact, those methods are even closer to what is done in British ethnography these days than to typical North American ethnography. Maybe just a coincidence but, in my mind, a good point for Mahalo as a company.

Most of the interview focuses on Jason Calacanis, Mahalo’s founder and CEO.
To be honest, Mahalo and Calacanis are kind of growing on me. One set of reasons has to do with JaCal’s most recent TWiT contributions and Véronique Belmont‘s role in the startup. Doesn’t sound very rational but at least I acknowledge these biases.

There’s another side to my enhanced appreciation for Mahalo and Calacanis, and this side is more rational. I recently got this strange feeling recently that search was broken. I began to notice that my Google or Yahoo searches weren’t as effective as before. After blaming myself, I came to a conclusion which resonates with what Calacanis is saying here. The need for more and more reformulation of queries (with more and more words), SEO/result-spam, information overload, etc. One outcome of this “search is broken” feeling is that I spend more time going directly to a Wikipedia page by typing the URL directly instead of trying a search. Another is that I’m progressively giving Mahalo a chance.
Though I haven’t really integrated Mahalo in my routine yet, I do feel a bit like I felt when I first saw a beta version of Google.
Did I drink the Kool-Aid? Maybe a few sips.

Another point I can connect with: the blogging community as peanut gallery. Of course, some people talk about reactions to the Lacy/Zuckerberg interview as displaying mob mentality. But there’s more to it than that. In the aforementioned video, Calacanis talks about ignoring bloggers because they don’t represent the core user group for his company’s main product. Even though I blog quite frequently and now consider blogging a part of my identity, I can’t help but agree with Calacanis on this. In fact, some of that sentiment was behind my “geek niche” post just before SXSWi. Sure, bloggers and other ‘Net-savvy people are fascinating and influential in the context of online services. But they (we) still tend to represent a small proportion of the global population. Because of idealism and sociocentrism, several people would probably argue that despite clustering effect and limited demography, bloggers and geeks are “winning.” But social Darwinism has no place in this scenario.

About enkerli

French-speaking ethnographer, homeroaster, anthropologist, musician, coffee enthusiast. View all posts by enkerli

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