Sunday, 30 November 2008

Google Search Wiki - first impressions - the future of Search?

I have previously written about Google's experiments in Social Search and these have now moved from test phase to launch - with the announcement of the Google Search Wiki. Through iGoogle, Google users now have the chance to promote / demote results on their personal searches, see a historic record of all the edits / comments they have made on each search and also see the edits / comments other users have made.

I had a look for a number of things and found the following:


The first search I tried was for ‘Google.’ Top result was for with 873 comments. My search experience was enhanced by the addition of such insight as ‘Google is AMAZING’ and ‘How do these comments work? Ah, that’s cool! Are they really public?’


88 comments with E.Prime noting that ‘This will go horribly, horribly wrong’, with others such as ‘Microsoft has bought Google!’ and ‘Malditos imperialistas!’ (which Google Translate shows as being ‘cursed imperialist’ in English.)


One of the Twitter comments amused me, Ian writing ‘I clicked the link, but all I got was a picture of a whale. What gives?’

So initial searches showed some useful comments, some silly comments and a couple of factually incorrect ones (albeit tongue in cheek, but imagine the potential for ‘Microsoft has bought Google’ if it is applied to companies where merger / acquisition is not so fantastical?)

I also looked at results for public figures to see what they would produce:

'Sarah Palin'

Amongst other things the comments include such pleasantries as ‘the first mentally handicapped woman to become governor of Alaska’ and ‘this woman is pure evil’:

'Gordon Brown'

Just the two comments ‘Vote Lib Dem’ and ‘I prefer number 9 myself’:

'Tony Blair'

No comments or edits:

'David Cameron'
(Leader of the (UK) Conservative Party)

Just the one comment, a link to ‘www.c**’ (starred here and blanked on my image, but the actual Google result is the obscenity in full.)

With personal searches, particularly around love / hate characters like politicians, the potential for abuse is high – as demonstrated by the results for ‘Sarah Palin’ and ‘David Cameron.’ There also doesn’t seem like a way of removing these / flagging them as inappropriate on every result. On most comments you get ‘thumbs up’, ‘thumbs down’ and ‘flag for inappropriate content’ options (see my Sarah Palin example), but on the David Cameron comment there seems no way of flagging the content that has been appended to it. Moderation and quality will be a key thing for Search Wiki.

Also, the Search Wiki comments are not indexed by Google and the changes to results only affect the results for the user who made them – Google state that they will not harvest edits to improve their algorithms or use them to better understand user search intent / semantic web development. However, unlike Facebook, where users rate the ads, the Google Search Wiki functionality is only for natural search results served up through iGoogle. So whilst this may start to cause headaches for SEO / opportunities for Reputation Management offerings, the overall effect of changes made through the Search Wiki are minimal outside of the individual user (seemingly devaluing them?)

Wikia result for my Twitter showing how users can 'Edit', 'Annotate, etc (click for larger image)

There seems to be a missing piece here – the lack of community. On the one hand everyone can see the edits / comments left, but changes to results are only affected at an individual level. If there were ways of changing results for a community of interest / network of friends then I think this could be a lot more powerful. Much in the way that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone for the benefit of everyone else or information that you publish through a social network is shared with your contacts, ‘improving’ search results for a network of contacts could create something ultimately more useful - effective collaboration trumps individualism. This is the model being pursued by Wikia and other social search engines, however if this social search model can be applied at Google’s scale then it could radically change the face of Search forever.

The Google Search Wiki could therefore be the start of something really significant, but to do so it needs to be 'socialised'.

Related posts
Social Search is finally here - Digg, Friendfeed and Twitter push Google to experiment
Live Search on Facebook - more 'search on social' than 'social search'
MSE360,, Social Mention and new Google Blog Search - latest social search developments!

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1 comment:

Manish said...

Gooogle search wiki is soo crazzy! The comments shouldn't be made public and that'll take care of everything!