February 14, 2009

Wikia Search admits having no " "usable" algorithmic search "

Wikia Search, the project to buy Jimmy Wales a jet, I mean, have a Wikipedia-like search engine (i.e. unpaid labor does the work), changed over at some point from using their own back-end to using Yahoo! BOSS (Build your Own Search Service). While not a secret, it's been difficult to find information about the switch (I believe for obvious reasons ...).

Today in a discussion thread Wales posted about the change:

In order to get the front end going successfully (which we have, although there are a lot of bugs to fix and a lot of unmet community needs so far), we needed to have a "usable" algorithmic search.

But our own crawl+algorithm was not yet good enough. So usage wasn't growing, it wasn't possible to "eat our own dogfood" even.

So we have to currently use Yahoo! BOSS for the backend (which is actually pretty decent) to build traffic and participation, while continuing to work and figure out the backend for the future.

Good to have it on record. And one wouldn't want people who go to Wikia Search currently to think the results are proof of anything other than that Yahoo has a program to allow others to use its search system. It would be pretty easy to get a misimpression along the way.

I'll note he goes on to say:

I would totally ask that we switch back to index.isc.org, or to any other free-software solution, as soon as it is "decent enough" - doesn't even have to be *better than* Yahoo BOSS.

Yes, but the difficulty is that people kept pointing out that this was a very hard problem. And Wikia, a venture-capital funded start-up company, was effectively getting a large chunk of its research and development costs here subsidized and funded by user donations. Many search start-ups would love publicity and practical subsidy like that.

Hmm, powered by Yahoo for the moment, selling Google ads, feel how this is really an endeavor to fight the power and bring democracy to search (stand up and cheer! buy The Founder a jet!).

Disclaimer: I'm an idiot.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in wikia-search | on February 14, 2009 11:12 AM (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, you're an idiot'

Whatever happened to 'no personal attacks'?!

It would be interesting to know how many people beyond the Wikia Search community use the service.

Posted by: Alistair at February 14, 2009 12:45 PM

Selective enforcement. Such rules are applied at the discretion of high-status individuals. The "above the law" nature of very high-status Wikipedia people is one reason I'm so critical of its social structure.

Statistics are available for various search engines. Wikia Search has very little usage.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at February 14, 2009 12:58 PM

Everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others...

Posted by: Alistair at February 14, 2009 02:51 PM

Seth, you are simply a quiet buzzsaw. And you just cut out all of Jimbo's Wikia Search B.S. at the knees.

He gets on the cover of Fast Company on the HYPE of Wikia Search, but now that we see it's Yahoo + Google = no traffic, where is the mainstream cover story?

I may just cancel my subscription to Fast Company if they don't address this in some way in the next 90 days.

Posted by: Gregory Kohs at February 14, 2009 05:40 PM

Where is the "donate to this freelance journalist" button with PayPal interface? You deserve more than mere kudos, Seth.

Posted by: Gregory Kohs at February 14, 2009 06:38 PM

In case anyone missed it, here's what Jimbo had to say about Yahoo's BOSS when it was introduced:


Posted by: JTD at March 5, 2009 08:05 PM

JTD: thanks, I hadn't remembered that gem.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at March 16, 2009 06:07 AM