PlayerSearch Blog

by Ted Kasten, Founder of PlayerSearch

Mahalo Demo by Jason Calacanis at All Things Digital Conference

Jason provides a quick demo of Mahalo at the All Things Digital Conference. It is interesting to hear him discuss his approach to improving search by making it human-powered. I think what Mahalo is doing is great and it will be very interesting to see how 100% human-powered search scales and if it can be profitable. Mahalo has apparently raised 5 years worth of cash, so they have a long runway to make this work.

Some of the key aspects to his model include a more friendly looking User Interface and “potentially” better search results/content than is provided by algorithmic search. Jason’s primary complaint with algorithmic search is that an entire industry has been created with the sole purpose to game these algorithms for financial gain and at the searchers expense – very true. So the potential for human “Guides” to manually create search results page takes SEO spammers out of the game and can theoretically provide superior search results. Mahalo is going after the top 10,000 search terms which Jason states covers 24% of all English language searches while leaving the remainder of the long-tail searches to Google.

There are three categories of search – navigational, informational and transactional. I see Mahalo having the greatest advantage with transactional searches as these searches get spammed the most and a human can better evaluate hotels, cars, computers, etc. for categories such as quality, price or location. Informational searches (which is what PlayerSearch focuses on for sports information) can also benefit from cleaner results created by human editors or guides. I doubt Mahalo cares about navigational search as there is typically no revenue in these searches (they let Google handle these).

One challenge everyone points to for Mahalo is their ability to scale and maintain high quality, fresh search results. Jason states that Mahalo creates 500 pages a day with a staff of 40 people (growing to 100 people) so one page takes about an hour to create. The real challenge is in maintaining the news at a level that people will keep coming back for. To keep the news fresh they supplement their own content with links to other popular sites (a search on Mahalo for Brett Favre has a link to the Brett Favre results on PlayerSearch!).

Mahalo’s approach to improving the overall search experience is similar to that of PlayerSearch. We both improve search results by replacing algorithms with human editors and by categorizing the content logically. We also improve the user interface and provide blended results. Mahalo is taking on a much larger opportunity while we are focusing only on sports. I think the content included in the PlayerSearch results is an excellent supplement to Mahalo’s search results (see the Brett Favre link above).

Mahalo’s initial press release is here.


April 8, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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