August 18, 2008

Follow-up on The Problem With Wikia Search

When I said "I'm not worthy", it looks like someone took me at my word :-). Last week I noted an example of one of Wikia Search's problems, in that a pure equal-weight popularity voting system tends to generate buzzy results - giving one of my own blog posts as an example. Someone seemed to have taken exception, and then voted that post down in the search results, among others. I think someone else voted it back up a little later (just what's been missing from search engines, right, edit-wars).

But I'd say there's actually been a notably small amount of participation in the Wikia search engine. It gets an enormous amount of PR, which is a functional subsidy that other search engine start-ups can only envy. But so far, not a huge amount of free labor.

All the blather about taking on Google is so over hyped it's painful.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in wikia-search | on August 18, 2008 11:59 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Seth, Wikia Search may well have been over-hyped, but, as Jimbo has tried to explain several times, responsibility for this lies with the media, not Jimbo. Why do you have to be so cynical all the time?

Wait a minute...what's this...

Posted by: Josh at August 19, 2008 10:49 AM

Josh, I think it's actually somewhat complicated. Jimbo does hype, but what comes out of the media is not what he puts in. So he can indeed say that particular statements are from the media, not him. But at the same time, he's not exactly innocent. I in fact didn't mention him in specific in this post because of that complexity.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at August 19, 2008 10:56 AM

Being serious now:

Surely that twitter means that Jimbo can't complain *at all* that he didn't over-hype Wikia Search? That is, although the media would of course have referred to Wikia Search as a 'Google-killer' regardless, Jimbo can't complain that they did, because he also used the term. And yet he does so complain...

Posted by: Josh at August 19, 2008 11:08 AM

Oh, that Twitter's just a joke. I don't think one humorous reference to that particular version of the hype means he owns it forever more. "Jimbo's jet" was another joke that other people turned back on him because there's truth in it. The deep issue is that Wikia Search is premised on attracting unpaid work, so Jimbo portray working for him for free as a revolutionary political act of freedom-fighting.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at August 19, 2008 11:22 AM

After googling 'fortran', I see what you mean! I'm not a geek... On the other hand, he did agree to appear on a magazine cover with the headline 'Google's worst nightmare' - and then twittered:

(source: Valleywag -

He doesn't exactly sound like someone who is even partly aware of the ridiculousness of that headline.

But yes, I agree with what you say about the deeper problem with Wikia. It's pretty obvious that Wikia is simply the product of Jimbo's fustration over being the cofounder of a top ten site without enjoying the millions other top ten founders get to enjoy...

Posted by: Josh at August 19, 2008 12:38 PM

Another major problem with Wikia Search is that will be biased in favour of not only 'buzzy' results, but also subjects with the greater level of interest generally. For example, while it may do relatively well with a subject like evolution, it's surely not likely to be able to provide any help on obscure subjects, like a small village in the middle of nowhere which someone may nevertheless want to know about. While Google's algorithms will probably still do well in providing whatever references there are on the web to that village, how is Wikia Search going to help? Similarly, it is surely not going to be much use in finding information on people who are not in anyway famous, like job applicants, potential partners, lost friends etc. In general, the quality of the search results depends on the interests of the very few people who will contribute to it.

Posted by: Josh at August 19, 2008 01:43 PM