free html hit counter Google SearchWiki | John Battelle's Search Blog

Google SearchWiki

By - November 21, 2008

So here we go – Google is jumping into the social media search world. “SearchWiki” is Google’s answer to the question “Why can’t I make search work the way I want it to work, and share/learn from others doing the same thing?”

But one wonders if Google searchers have that question to begin with. As I’ve argued elsewhere, Google search had become a bit like the morning newspaper of yore – social glue that all of us could depend on because the results were pretty consistent. I don’t believe that search shouldn’t change – I’m a major proponent of change, particularly in the interface. But as Mike points out, many folks may not want this kind of change.

From Google’s announcement:

Have you ever wanted to mark up Google search results? Maybe you’re an avid hiker and the trail map site you always go to is in the 4th or 5th position and you want to move it to the top. Or perhaps it’s not there at all and you’d like to add it. Or maybe you’d like to add some notes about what you found on that site and why you thought it was useful. Starting today you can do all this and tailor Google search results to best meet your needs.,,,Today we’re launching SearchWiki, a way for you to customize search by re-ranking, deleting, adding, and commenting on search results.

..The changes you make only affect your own searches. But SearchWiki also is a great way to share your insights with other searchers. You can see how the community has collectively edited the search results by clicking on the “See all notes for this SearchWiki” link.

Clearly Google will learn a ton about search behavior through this new set of features, and presumably that will improve core search results. But what I find interesting in all this is what is says about what Google knows, and therefore decided to do. Google knows folks come to the site for repeat navigation – to find places they have already visited. And they know that they go there for discovery – to find things they’ve never visited but hope to find. A move like this seems to point Google toward bringing the two together, and potentially, re-portalizing the web.

What do I mean by that? Well, it’s clear that Google is the starting point for a very large percentage of folks on the web. But while many of us start there, we don’t spend much time there – we use Google as a way to jump from place to place. If, however, we can customize Google to become a one stop shop with all our favorite places, as well as comments and social connections, we may well change our behaviors and spend more time at that start place. While Google has never announced numbers, it’s commonly assumed that its iGoogle start page is getting less than stellar traction. But iGoogle + SearchWiki? That just might do it.

I’d like to post more thoughts on this development but the SearchWiki code has not propagated to my account, so I can’t really test drive it. I’m sure when it does, more thoughts will come up….

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20 thoughts on “Google SearchWiki

  1. Interesting new feature indeed. Yet what is driving me nuts is this: will people use this? My takes:

    a. The core actions must be either performed BEFORE assessing the search result quality or AFTER visiting the result, thus requiring a back step on navigation. Seems like this will hamper use.

    b. People will tend to not see the usefulness :| of this feature, since to the vast majority (the ones in exploration no repeat visit mode)their action won’t generate an immediate benefit (I know the more ppl using the feature the more ppl will benefit, alas most won’t see this). Thinking game mechanics.

  2. Martin Tassara says:

    I agree with Mario Santoyo on the “Before and After” hampering usage but only when exploring a new theme.

    However I think this is what Battell mentions that Google knows of “repeat navigation” in some way moving results around and commenting is like having all your bookmarks on the cloud with a very simple access. In this scenario the Before and After don’t present a problem any longer.
    The public comments might present a problem considering spammers. take a look at the comments for the first result when you search for “google”.
    Not sure what the thumbs up&down will do since nothing changed when I clicked them..

  3. nmw says:

    GOOG SearchWiki is for users only – she don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie: Googaine!

  4. Pavan says:

    I think this is a cool feature that can really help the top 10-20 percent of the queries.

    I is easy is imagine how google can improve thier search results with this collective data if they are able to remove all the spam.

    Personally I wouldn’t use this tool unless Google makes this project open source. If this tool ever gains popularity then i strongly believe that the data resulting in billions of man-hours spent shuffling the results belongs to everybody on the net.

    This is not a win-win, just my opinion..

  5. oyun says:

    Nice blog.Thanks John

  6. Engago Team says:

    If Google would ever use this “Promotion” feature to change the SERPS, they will just kill themselves as Adsense has no value anymore:
    A company just needs to hire 100 people that promote the search links for the company with many accounts.

  7. ADSL says:

    Thanks you very much again for you John. This is very interesting and cool !

  8. I think yuo are on the spot Engago. Another thing that would kill them is because this system is sooo easy to manipulate.

    If it effects serps there will be programs in no time that automaticly comment via different ips and promote your websites. Or even worse, bombard your competitors with bad comments. I know google is smart but there is no way to handle this.

  9. Lyndon Lawrence says:

    This is an interesting twist and turn. Probably it is just a toe dip in to what the future may become or may not.

    In my mind and limited understanding of things, I am curious to know if anyone has considered the following.

    I will start with some assumptions. The first assumption is this. Two people are searching for something. They’re in fact looking for the same thing and at the same time. Let’s add in a third, fourth, fifth and thousandth person. But we’ll still focus on the two for our current example.

    They both type in their search query. The queries are not exactly the same, but the meaning in their minds is the same. The search engine returns results. Are they the same? Probably, if we factor in some commonality such as language and therefore grammar and search term structure. So great, they both get results with minor differences. What if though, and this is pure conjecture, the results were quite different. What if though, the one who actually found what they were both looking for, first, could help the other one out and tell them too. This would save time and trouble. It might also let the two hook up if somehow they could mutually benefit each other by doing so. That would be pretty nifty and perhaps even productively handy.

    Is this a silly idea? I really don’t know. It’s a hunch to me that maybe if we could search in communities or “hunt in packs” then maybe we could do some extraordinary things – together. How does one do this? I’m not totally clear, yet have my own ideas here.

    Why mention the above at all? Shameless self-promotion this is not. I’m just sharing an idea on an open forum for what that may be worth. And this is done in light of what Google is now offering us. Search Bookmarks.

    Thanks for your blog posting, John.

    Lyndon

  10. JG says:

    Lyndon, see: http://research.microsoft.com/news/featurestories/publish/SearchTogether.aspx?0hp=n1

    If you poke around, I think you’ll find more groups around the world working on similar projects; I’ve seen a few things here and there.

  11. nmw says:

    @Lyndon @JG Another similar project that GOOG is quite proud of is that neat-o “did you mean” spell-checker.

    :) nmw

  12. Jeff says:

    Search is about instant gratification. I don’t want a partner in search, I just want instant gratification.

  13. Carla says:

    I agree with Optimera. The black hats will find a way to game this, creating tremendous disadvantages for anyone who tries to compete with them.

  14. JG says:

    Search is about instant gratification.

    Jeff: Some searches are. Some searches are not. Suppose you’re searching for a house to buy. Suppose you’re trying to find as much information as possible about digital cameras, to know which one to buy. Those searches are all about process, context, and amount of information. Not about instant gratification.

    On the other hand, if you’re just looking up the correct syntax for some API call, then yes, it’s about instant gratification — you just want to see that API.

    Or do you not see the difference between looking up API syntax, and looking for a house to buy?

  15. Kevin says:

    I’m with Jeff – a la instant gratification. If I am looking for a house or a digital camera, I don’t intend to spend a lot of time on the Google SERPS rearranging things for the next time (do you really believe in repeat searches? after digging around a bunch of organically searched sites, tomorrow I will return and start from square one???). I intend on getting to the site(s) that will help me achieve my aim. There I can find all the content and the “shared insights” and make my own decision. Why do I need a stranger to tell me what she found when I don’t even know what her search intent really was?

    Honestly, why don’t we just close down the Web, and do everything on Google?

  16. JG says:

    Kevin: My comments were not in the context of rearranging things in the Google SERPs. My comments were in the context of general satisfying of user information needs. I was saying that not all information needs are satisfiable via instant gratification. When you need to find someone’s homepage, that is an instant gratification need. But when you are looking for a house to buy, you are really after the comparison and contrasting of lots of different houses, with lots of different aspects to each house.. location, price, amenities, schools, quality, etc. You’re going to want to see a lot of different properties, and make those balances and tradeoffs before you eventually decide on the one you want to buy. So it is not an instant-gratification sort of information need.

    Or are you really saying that we should just be able to type 3 words into Google, and have it come up at the top of the list with the 1 house that you should buy? No matter how advanced search gets, I don’t think that will ever be (1) possible, (2) the type of system that we should be building.

  17. oyun says:

    I agree with Optimera. The black hats will find a way to game this, creating tremendous disadvantages for anyone who tries to compete with them.

  18. nmw says:

    @JG a house is not a home — so I manage both keyword properties! (not just singular — also plural keywords, too ;)

    :D nmw

  19. @jeanannvk says:

    The critical issue for SEO and new media is that of personalizing results. Regardless of whether it affects SERPS, people can now control the results, ie, if I don’t want company x to show up, it won’t. And the reverse, if I want the mom and pop shop to show up it will…which could have the effect of leveling the playing field.

    This has the potential to be a major SEO/SM game changer.

  20. Soapster says:

    Can anyone actually find this stupid SearchWiki thing? Sure, I can see and use the little arrows and crosses to up or down serps results but do Google seriously expect people to add “&swm=2″ to the end of their search result url if they inadvertantly hit the cross?!

    From the world’s largest search engine I really would expect more than a link to the official Google blog (with nothing much there about it) when trying to find it!

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