Everyoneâ€™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 Netscape.com they are hoping to recruit prevalent social media users to help create their hand-made search results, for the internetâ€™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 peopleâ€™s belief that the model wonâ€™t scale, and was generally quite positive about the ventureâ€™s prospects, however the new â€œgreenhouseâ€ 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 itâ€™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 itâ€™s just a part-time hobby Iâ€™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 Iâ€™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 (http://www.mahalo.com/Iphone) 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 McDonaldâ€™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 itâ€™s relevant and looking for omissions is going to take nearly as much time as writing the piece themselves.
Iâ€™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 Iâ€™m a bit more pragmatic about whether the search engine will take off.