After midnight on the West Coast, Wikia made its alpha search available. Our heightened interest stems from the early pronouncements by Jimmy Wales, who co-founded Wikipedia. This time, his plan is to apply collaborative tools to build a better search engine than Google.
Right now, Wikia is more concept than reality. Undaunted, I conducted the classic “java” search. While the results were only about technology, there was a mini-article listing multiple meanings for java. In addition, there were people who matched this search. I clicked on a profile, and discovered a Wikia team member who had been hard at work.
After a few hours live, very few people have signed up or shared anything. You see skimpy search results, along with empty mini-article and discussion features for each search. There are few profiles, and thus almost no people who searched before you.
The overall concept is interesting, as relevant search results will ultimately come from the Wikia searchers. I’m curious about what will motivate us to slow down, and take the time to share our rankings or write down our opinions. Most of us want to search and then get over to the destinations quickly. Will that behavior change for most of us?
Some people will spend an awful lot of time influencing results. In today’s New York Times, Miguel Helft reports “the Wikia search engine is likely to be susceptible to people who try to game the system, by, for example, seeking to advance the ranking of their own site. Mr. Wales said Wikia would attempt to ‘block them, ban them, delete their stuff,’ just as other wiki projects do.”
There are plenty of thumbs down reviews of the Wikia Search, based on this alpha release. I want to give this a chance to develop, as searchers provide help on the front end. Still I have healthy skepticism about how all these explicit social tools will get put to good use — for search alone.