“And about those profiles. As anticipated, Wikia Search is yet another social network. User profiles include basic elements like a photo, adding friends, and information about interests and skills. And in a direct rip off of Facebook, Wikia Search profiles contain an activity stream of stuff you and your friends have been up to over the recent past.”
– TechCrunch on Wikia Search
I tried out Wikia Search and found it to be quite lame, but it is alpha and, according to the company, it needs human interaction to get better. The Wikia about page acknowledges that the search results are poor, so I probably shouldn’t beat up on them too much, although I think it’s fair to say that I was expecting something a lot better out of the gate… search is hard but it’s not an unknown.
As Michael points out, if it needs human interaction to get better then why didn’t the company release the human interaction tools that are required in order for it to get better. Read the comment thread, this is a point that Jimmy Wales eventually acknowledges. Google isn’t perfect but it does return what you need on the first or second pass, and that’s the job of a search engine and more importantly, it’s been that way with Google from day 1.
To compare Wikia Search to Wikipedia is kind of silly, they are two entirely different universes, and that’s a problem for Wikia. Human powered search is only as good as the humans who are powering it and unlike algorithms they don’t get better, more just show up. Wales suggests that Google search is full of spam and Wikia search is not, but if I can’t use it because it’s incapable of meeting the basic threshold of search competency then where are all the humans going to come from to make it better? Why not just start out with kick ass machine search as a foundation?
There are also some confusing overlaps to Wikipedia. For example, search on any term and you will have the option of creating a mini-article about that term. The mini-article looks very much like a wikipedia article so why not just integrate that into the search result?
Why does everything have to be a social network now? Crikey this is getting annoying.
The wisdom of crowds concept is wonderful but we all know now that Wikipedia isn’t the utopia of transparency that so many fans like to suggest. There is an alpha class of users, secret lists, and as in all good socialist systems, centralized control. Having said that, I still rely on it almost daily for the simple reason that it gets me what I want when I need it, a lesson that Wikia Search itself should should study up on. It’s similar to the phenomena that we had a few years ago when multi-function smart phones started appearing en masse and most of them made pretty crappy cell phones… for a mobile phone the number 1 function is to handle calls, for a search engine the number 1 function is to deliver fast and relevant search results and everything else is extra.