Collarity is a social search engine that combines a variety of different types of functionality to produce results in a new and interesting way. The basic concept is very straightforward, and is something that we've seen before - searchers begin to type in their search and as they do a little box pops up suggesting appropriate terms for the search - a little like Google Suggest but rather more sophisticated. There is also a slider bar with three settings for Personal, Community and Global.Clicking on each of these options will provide a slightly different set of suggestions, based on previous searches. Searchers can choose to continue typing in their search, or click on one of the suggestions to add that to their search, or can simply click on a likely looking URL that is displayed.
Results are then displayed on the screen and can be clicked on as usual. The search engine is combining the concepts of a suggest function, a social community element (ala the Eurekster swicki) and a slider element, vaguely similar to the Yahoo Mindset approach. Initially I wasn't overly impressed with the results - not least because most of those on the first page were culled from the same site. However, once I got myself a (free) account and started to explore in personal mode things got rather more interesting.
I ran a few searches that tended to focus on reflexology, alternative health therapy and the area that I live in, just to give it something to work with. I started with the tab set at 'Global' and started to type mass (for massage) and was rewarded with suggestions for city and Boston by the time I got to 'ma'. By the time I'd reached 'mass' we'd moved onto density (with narrower terms being volume, unit and body) and when I'd finished typing the entire word 'massage' I was being given suggestions for health, spa, products and so on. All of these made perfect sense given that the search engine could (and did) interpret what I was typing/searching for in a number of different ways, and it was able to reflect that very well, given that the dialogue or suggestion box was very tiny. URLs were also suggested, as mentioned, and hovering the cursor over any of them displayed another small box describing the website with keywords in context.
I then chose to run the same search with the slider set to 'Community'. By the time I had got as far as 'massa' I was getting suggestions that related to my specific subject area of interest, and by the time I had got as far as typing out the whole word the suggestions were related exactly to alternative therapy and in particular reflexology, which was one of the searches that I'd initially run to give Collarity something to work with. Re-running the search again, this time with the slider over at Personal the search engine immediately started to focus on the reflexology/health aspect of my search, and included suggested URLs that I'd previously looked at in my initial searches.
I found the approach that Collarity is taking to be very intuitive, and based on a very small sample of searches extremely accurate. Of course, there were things that I wasn't overly impressed with - mainly the search engine results page, with similar results from the same site. Other information was quite sparse too - just title, brief description, URL and various keywords that further described the page, based on previous searches. There wasn't an advanced search function, and Boolean operators didn't work. I tried a few of the other obvious search functions such as link or title, but they didn't work either. The lack of any help function or documentation really let the engine down. While I appreciate that it's still in development I would have thought that was more reason, not less to have the functionality fully documented; I don't want to have to guess. This is slightly ironic given that one of their tag lines is that the search engine 'saves time and mental energy' - the idea that searchers can use their resource to save themselves fro having to think is a slightly unusual marketing ploy - but I do see what they're saying.
Collarity is a great idea, and provided quick on topic results based on very limited information on my interests, but it's let down (at this stage at least) by emphasising that element of its technology at the expense of other basic search functionality that should be an integral part of any search engine. These interesting functions need to be a bonus, not a replacement for the basics. Having said that it's worth looking at, most especially if you take the few seconds to register and start to personalise your searches.
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