Digital Culture

Goodbye, Mahalo

A new “search engine” went live this week calling itself Mahalo. How does it distinguish itself from the big guns of search (Google, Yahoo, Ask, MSN)?

Mahalo is the world’s first human-powered search engine powered by an enthusiastic and energetic group of Guides. Our Guides spend their days searching, filtering out spam, and hand-crafting the best search results possible. If they haven’t yet built a search result, you can request that search result. You can also suggest links for any of our search results.

Yep, they are human-indexing the web! Disregarding the “first human-powered search engine” bit, since they aren’t a search engine (they appear to be an index, with a search on top) and they clearly aren’t the first in any case (Yahoo started out exactly the same way, and the Librarian’s Internet Index is the same thing done by information professionals).

I wonder what Weinberger might think of their attempt?

In their FAQ, they handily tell you they selection criteria. Here’s the couple that stood out to me:

Sites they will not link to:

… sites of unknown origin (i.e. we cannot establish who operates the site).
… sites which have adult content or hate speech.

Establishment of “who operates” the site on the Internet? Really? Does a nom de plume count? How about a site whose authors must remain anonymous for political reasons? And that’s setting aside the longstanding legal precedent that anonymity in speech is a necessary for free speech. (see: McIntyre v. Ohio or Talley v. California)

Restricting Adult Content and Hate Speech makes it sound like those are two very clear categories. I’m always wary of groups who feel like they should be the ones making content decisions…one of the reasons I’m so happy to be a librarian.

They will link to:

… sites that are considered authorities in their field (i.e. Edmunds for autos, Engadget for consumer electronics, and the New York Times for news).

I swear on a stack of pancakes, I will get off my ass this year and write that article that’s been rattling around in my head about how Authority as a criteria for ANYTHING is old and busted.

8 replies on “Goodbye, Mahalo”

This is my fav part: Oops! We haven’t hand-written a result page for “justin watt” yet. “Hand-written”? How quaint. I wonder how long I’ll be waiting for that.

Google on the other hand: Personalized Results 1 – 10 of about 21,300 for “justin watt” Nice.


Pardon me for copy-and-pasting, but here’s what I added to “Jason Calacanis launches his new startup, Yahoo. I mean Sorry, that’s Squidoo. My bad, Wikipedia.”

Oops! They haven’t yet hand-written a page for instructional design or for technical writing. They HAVE hand written a page for Wine, but the results are not impressive.
There is no way that Mahalo can compete with the Google behemoth. And no way they can “hand write” the entire web (even just the parts they approve of). I don’t think Mahalo is long for this world.
On the up side, it’s an aesthetically pleasing site.

Now they’re asking for “Part Time Guides” to write result pages now… $10 for your time, information professional?

I sheepishly admit that I didn’t know about the Librarians Internet Index when I wrote this post. Ah well, chalk it up to being new to the field.

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