Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Eurekster added some stuff on their home page.
They've added a link to invite more friends, a link to the toolbar (maybe because of complaints it was difficult to find - hmmm... Sanders Consulting Group), and a link to the newsroom.
Great post by Jeffrey Heer on Eurekster.

Here are some excerpts and some thoughts/responses.

With all the hoopla surrounding social network sites these days, I was a bit surprised to see that this one, perhaps overshadowed by the launch of orkut, seemed to fly under most folks' radar…

So I signed up a couple fake accounts to see how it works.

I’ve sent Jeff an invitation to join my network. So, he doesn't have to be his own only friend on eurekster.

The best quick description I’ve read yet:
The graphic design of the site left me feeling bored and uninspired, so fortunately the registration process was simple and quick, with no long list of interests or demographic data to fill out... just a name, e-mail, and password. Like friendster and any other YASNS they then ask you for a list of friend's e-mails to invite into your social network. You then use Eurekster like any search engine, except that search hits previously clicked-through by people in your social network climb up in the ratings, and are marked with the Eurekster 'e' logo to indicate the previous traffic. Additionally, a side bar on the right of the browser presents the most recent and most recurrent search queries and followed links.

On to why he doesn’t think they’ll do well:
Their business model for the moment is to collect money through paid search results provided by Overture. It's an interesting idea, but I don't expect them to do well. First, these kind of sites need a critical mass to be successful, and I don't think the cost of building up yet another social network will give you a reasonable benefit over what you can already get from Google. Besides, do I really want my friends' search results to influence mine? The voyeur in me kind of likes the idea of seeing the "footprints in the sand" of previous searches, but does it make my search results much more relevant? Perhaps if I could segment my friends into different groups, and apply these groups depending on topic, it might add some relevance, but that incurs even more work on the part of the user. There is also the possibility, especially in smaller networks, of spying other's search queries. Your social network can then play the game of "which one of us has been hunting for porn!?", though to be fair, Eurekster includes a "private search" checkbox that hides your searches from your network. Still, what about people following crappy links, both intentionally (search spamming!) and unintentionally, changing your results? Finally, before I get any further carried away, how big does your social network need to be for it to make any real, significant impact on the majority of your searches?

Just some quick responses;
- They filter out porn searches and links.
- Categorization is coming. Not sure how/when.
- Search spamming is definitely a possibility. Although, it would probably only “search spam” your immediate network. I'd imagine that your first level network will filter out results that don't belong there by not spending time at them, even if they do visit them. Therefore, the effect is probably limited.
- Not sure how big your network needs to be to see any benefit in terms of search result relevancy. I am currently trying to grow my network, so that I can see the value. As of now, it is definitely interesting to monitor the most frequent searches and most visited sites. I’ve tried to keep my network to a group of people with similar interests (although there is a long laundry list of interests).
I think using actual user behavior to improve relevance rankings is a fruitful avenue to explore.... but why even bother with the social network? Why not just use the traffic patterns of everyone, or maybe just yourself? The most useful feature may actually be to have a social network consisting of just yourself, and then all the sites you visited before will rise in the rankings, allowing you to revisit them faster. In the case of one global network, with a little analysis or clustering you could even pick out global patterns and groupings which you could use to refine your search upon demand (though I suppose this is akin to adding user interaction data to a search engine like Vivisimo, which already does clustering). In the end, though, how will any of this successfully differentiate a competitor from Google? That's certainly a tough act to beat today, let alone in the future when Google unrolls their own personalization technology, based on the work they acquired from Outride and Kaltix.

Few more responses:
- They are using your past searches and visited sites and presenting those to you higher. So, you can visit past sites more quickly in the future.
- Clustering and/or categorization with user behavior is definitely an interesting way forward. Not sure how that would work exactly. One thought, would be to use user behavior to help cluster results. For example, I could tell eurekster that one of my stated interests is search engines. Therefore, when I run a search and visit a site related to search engines, it would increase the value of that search result in the “search engine” cluster because I am a self-title "search-engine" expert.
- I agree that google is a tough act to follow. One drawback from using alltheweb results vs google results is that new pages and sites on the web don’t show up as quickly. For example, there are 20 references to this site based on google’s index and this site isn’t even indexed yet by alltheweb. I am waiting not so patiently after submitting it to alltheweb. I think that eurekster's intention is to partner with as many search engines, functioning as a metasearch engine with personalization and/or as behind the scenes search refinement for other search engines.

Until they do partner with more engines (especially google), their results will suffer from lack of freshness, which I bet is one thing(freshness) that current eurekster users value highly. Most likely, current Eurekster users are "innovators" and "early adopters". As an innovator, I spend much of my time seeking the next big thing or the coolest new meme. I bet that many of their current users do. Eurekster has the potential to reveal these memes quicker than other search engines, because it monitors and makes transparent your network's searches. However, since their index isn't as fresh as google, blogdex or feedster, I won't be finding the newest-newest cool meme on Eurekster. I'll have to be happy with last month's cool meme.

The likelihood of eurekster partnering with google, imho, is small. However, I think one engine they should definitely partner with (to improve freshness) is feedster. Feedster is the only search engine that indexes and allows searching of the blogosphere in a very timely manner. I use feedster to find out about new people talking/blogging about eurekster. It facilitates a conversation through blogs. It'd be excellent to see relevancy results based on what others are searching for and looking at - at feedster.

Eurekster NewsRoom highlights the eureksterblog.

eureksterblog eureksterblog - unofficial blog about everything eurekster - Peter Caputa [21 Jan 04] "Eurekster is going to be the biggest thing to blow up since Paris Hilton. But, it'll have the longevity of google." Link

Putting the eureksterblog in good company. The list features articles from the WSJ, The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune and many others. Nice. Thanks Eurekster. Check it out. Link

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