Posted June 13, 2007 2:17 pm by with 6 comments

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Everyone’s favourite hype fiend Jason Calacanis has announced a scheme to have Mahalo scale its human edited search engine results. Following a similar model to the former Weblogs Inc. re-launch of they are hoping to recruit prevalent social media users to help create their hand-made search results, for the internet’s most searched 10,000 terms, by paying the researchers between $10-15 per results page.

In my previous article about Mahalo I discussed some of the reasons why the engine might take off, despite many people’s belief that the model won’t scale, and was generally quite positive about the venture’s prospects, however the new “greenhouse” initiative has raised a number of questions in my mind about the future of the project.

Will it stop bribes? If Mahalo has people on the payroll full time it’s not that likely there are going to take a twenty dollar bribe, to up the ranking of the local real estate agent, if it will cost them there job. However if it’s just a part-time hobby I’m sure they might not be as fussy. I know at the moment they are being quite selective about who gets on the scheme and only allowing those they deem trustworthy, but with all the results pages I’m sure a few suspicious results might slip through the net.

Is anyone unbiased? They are seeking bloggers, social media power users and the like, many of whom all have their own commercial interests. Everyone expects Mahalo ( to favour engadget over gizmondo on the iPhone results, but imagine that kind of nepotism on every page.

Is the work worth $15? If the curating process is as in-depth as they would like us to believe; surely it will take a good few hours to do. I know people do that kind of work of Wikipedia for free but I see that like charity work, whereas this is more like working for McDonald’s if they donate to your wages to Oxfam but they still keep the profits from the burgers you sell.

Will it actually save Mahalo time? If the full time guides are going to have to approve every results page created by the part-time users surely they are going to save that much time. Checking every result to see that it’s relevant and looking for omissions is going to take nearly as much time as writing the piece themselves.

I’m keen on the idea behind the engine, I think by employing expert researchers they had a chance of creating some excellent results even if the business model was a bit shaky. However with the paid part time guides I’m a bit more pragmatic about whether the search engine will take off.

  • I think you nailed all the key questions.

    Regarding bribes I don’t think anyone will give up their relationship with us to sneak in a link, plus we will be checking ever result that comes in. Also, folks have to use their own names and they can’t cover topics they have a conflict of interest with. If someone does take a bribe AND they get it past us it means that they got a GREAT link into the system…. so a bummer that someone got bribed, but good for the user that a great link got through.

    In fact, an SEO should be able to write a search result for us and we should be good enough to only accept it if it is REALLY in the best interest of users and if it has NO SPAM. Now, I don’t see us accepting SEOs into the program anytime soon. 🙂

    One way we can avoid a lot of problems is taking people with established reputations into the program, and based on the 200+ applications we’ve gotten in 12 hours I think we will do that.

    The other issues…. well, time will tell. I’m very optimistic.

    Mahalo for the feedback,


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  • I don’t know whether you will still be reading this Jason but I was wondering how many people you are planning on taking on the scheme?

    I can understand you vetting and keeping check on a couple of hundred at most but anymore than that is surely going to become a logistical nightmare?

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  • Well thought out questions. I also wonder about page maintenance over time. Surely the iPhone page will need many revisions as new versions are released, information about tech support comes out, and carriers change. How will that be handled?

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