Humans in Search Engine

After a big — a real BIG — success of automatic search technology in search engines, it appears that the humans (editors or guides or whatever term you like) are back in refining search.  Mahalo launched a human powered search engine

Currently, when users search for a term on Mahalo, they are presented with a list of Top 7 links—links that are deemed the most relevant to the query by the guides. The page also presents a set of “Fast Facts” and other important, guide-selected notes to the right for those who don’t even want to comb through human-selected search results; for example, a search for Steve Jobs or Bill Gates displays facts about who they are and why they are significant. Underneath the Top 7 are more hand-picked results from various sources, such as news, blogs, image searches, etc. Underneath the hand-chosen results are a set of Google-generated search results. If a particular search query doesn’t have any human-generated results yet, Mahalo will default to displaying Google results.

Almost all search engines have been trying something or other in such a direction.  Ranking of results is based on the perceived intent rather than popularity of some other peripheral measure that is currently used.  How much can humans help?  Clearly a lot — but issues of scalability and subjectivity (and of course subjective judgement by editors) will need to be addressed.  Interestingly, the limitations of doing things totally algorithmically (or automatically) are being recognized. 

This is a good lesson for many researchers who obsess over completely automatic solutions.

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