The Wondir Search Engine Needs Your Help

Wondir is a new and different kind of information service that seeks to unify cutting edge search technology with the web's original egalitarian vision of people freely helping people.

I've been reporting on Wondir's progress since the team of respected search industry veterans building the system made their first public announcement. The Wondir Foundation's ambitious goal is to offer a unique combination of broad metasearch, deep search of the Invisible web, and live human answers.

Combining meta search of the open web with deep search of the Invisible web is ambitious enough in itself. Wondir is going beyond that, attempting to organize both individual volunteer experts and the hundreds of online "AskA" virtual reference services provided by libraries around the world under a single umbrella, to provide human assistance when search fails to satisfy a user's information need.

Matt Koll, the driving force behind Wondir, recently gave me an update on the project's progress. The project has now moved into its alpha testing stage, and is actively seeking volunteers -- both individuals and organizations -- who are willing to help out with answering questions from Wondir users.

"The goal of the Wondir system is to take any question that isn't easily answerable by an available document and get it into the hands of the people most likely to be able to answer it," wrote Koll in an email message. "So the system needs lots of people to choose from."

"The purpose of the alpha is to test the software, particularly the registration process," said Koll. "There is not much content hooked up yet, so search results are not yet at the quality level we're shooting for."

Koll asks anyone who signs up to test the system to be patient. Wondir will improve over the next few months as more content is added.

Signing up as an expert is easy, and you have total control over the number and frequency of questions you receive. You can remain anonymous, should you prefer.

Wondir is unique in the world of search engines because it is organized as a non-profit foundation, designed to avoid the commercial pressures faced by for-profit search engines and directories. There will be no advertising on search results pages, no paid placement, no paid inclusion, and no "recommended sites" that are often commercially influenced.

Nothing except "pure" search results -- with one exception. Wondir is accepting "search sponsorships," but with a unique twist.

"Our Adopt-A-Search program allows individuals or organizations to make a tax-deductible contribution to The Wondir Foundation," wrote Koll. "While making your contribution you may select words, phrases or whole questions to adopt, and construct your own simple sponsorship message. Wondir will display your sponsorship message on search result pages for queries that match your adopted search."

Sponsorships are tax-deductible, recognized as a contribution to a charitable organization under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3)).

Adopt-A-Search sponsorships offer an exceptional "branding" opportunity for libraries and other non-commercial services that may find it hard to make their voices heard above the din of commercial advertising. By "adopting" search terms now, you'll not only be supporting Wondir but promoting the services that your library has to offer at very little cost.

Koll says that with enough support, Wondir hopes to officially launch in early 2003. "This is a grass roots effort and the success of Wondir will depend on lots of people stepping forward to give just a little of themselves to answer a question now and then."


Meta Search + Invisible Web + Virtual Librarians = Wondir!
SearchDay, June 6, 2002
A team of respected search industry veterans is building a new and different kind of information service that seeks to unify cutting edge technology with the web's original egalitarian vision of people freely helping people.

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About the author

Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to several information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was's Web Search Guide.