Mahalo -now here’s a search engine worth talkin’ about!

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! (Those of you who live in Australia will remember this catchcry from Marcia Hines on replay constantly from Hey, Hey it’s Saturday – really showing my age now – it’s 42 for those of you interested!)

Mahalo is a search engine worth looking at. I mentioned it recently when I wrote a post entitled ‘Big Think – Web 3.0 in action’. That post talked about the notion of Web 3.0, the semantic web, characterised by human intervention and thought processes. Part of that post read;

 a new phase of the internet – internet 3.0, where the wisdom of crowds (web 2.0) is being supplemented by another layer “of truly talented, compensated people to make the product more trusted and refined.” (Mahalo founder Jason Calacanis)  

The quote derived from Newsweek writer Tony Dokoupil and his article, ‘Revenge of the experts’.  This was where I first discovered Mahalo and was impressed with what I saw. I was even more impressed today when I was working with a group of students completing research for their International Studies project. The task was to find information on a major political figure. I remembered Mahalo and directed them to this new search engine. We now have an interactive whiteboard in our library which is just fantastic and so incredibly helpful to demonstrate new apps. They were impressed with the results we were getting and so was I. You know someting is hitting the mark when students are asking ‘what’s that’ and tuning in when you are showing it to someone else.

I really like the way results are arranged but you have to make sure your students scroll through all of the results to see the vast array of differing media returned in a search. We did a search for Aung San Suu Kyi – the Burmese political activist. It began with the Mahalo top 7, and then we had to put up with some ads by Google – I suppose this is a small price to pay for search results that have been cast over by human eyes and are appropriate.  What followed was news, background and profiles, blogs and support sites, photos, videos, a timeline, related searches and user recommended links (there were none of these yet, but as it gains popularity no doubt this will grow). It was an excellent array of results – far more useful than a page of links from Google. Another teacher joined us and wanted to do a search for the Rwandan genocide. When we got the results she was amazed to see links to many sites she had found after trawling the web for hours – quite the revelation was Mahalo for her.    

The sidebar offers many more delights. A guide note providing you with fast facts, the ability to email the page and provide a personalised message with your email, you can share the page with your social networking sites and an explanation of icons they use. Some interesting information is shared in their ‘about this page’ text box;

  • Mahalo’s goal is to hand-write and maintain the top 50,000 search terms
  • Each Mahalo page is quality controlled through a strict editorial process
  • You can contribute and earn money by writing great search result pages in the Mahalo Greenhouse

You can also subscribe to the rss feed from the page so any updates will be delivered to your reader. 

I think it looks like a fantastic resource for students in secondary schools and I’m going to start plugging it with my colleagues. If they don’t have a search results page for a topic you are searching for you can enter a request to have them get one made – they’ll email you when the page has been completed. Alternatively, you could make the page yourself and submit it to their Mahalo Greenhouse and earn yourself some cash! Today we requested a page for Anzac Day. A couple of weeks ago I requested a page for the Bayeux Tapestry but haven’t yet received an email.  

Founder Jason Calacanis is onto a good thing here -you’ve got my vote! Keep on creating those pages! 

New search engines

I’ve mentioned it before on more that one occasion, but it’s worth saying again. Phil Bradley writes an informative blog and is a valuable source of information for Teacher- Librarians. He created the above  picture for a presentation he gave and made it Creative Commons for others to use. Great sharing Phil – I love the picture as it encompasses the newer search engines now available. I (and I’d have to say the majority of students at my school) continue to default to Google as do the vast majority of the population. I was pleased to hear a staff member say today that she gets her students to use Mooter after I introduced it to her last year. She thinks the students can make greater sense of the results with the clustering technology it employs.

I’ve read about a couple of new search engines via my google reader that may be useful. Phil highlighted Green Maven – the green search engine for people interested in looking for websites focusing on green issues – sustainability and the like. I searched for light globes and my return focused on the energy efficient kind. Phil’s take on it was this;

It works well if what you want is in that subject area – if you do rather more general searches the results start to get a little bit flaky.  

Jane Hart highlighted another quirky offering aimed at the K-12 audience. It’s called Boolify and uses a drop and drag of pieces that resemble a jigsaw to teach kids the importance of boolean logic in their searches. I can see the appeal for younger kids but think secondary students would get frustrated with the time it takes to formulate a search. It could be good to use when teaching kids explicitly about boolean operators however, particularly in the junior end of secondary schools. It’s worth having a bit of a play with. It’s creator, Dave Crusoe, has said this about it;

“So, we’ve worked with a team of librarians and others to develop something called Boolify, a graphical search tool meant for K12 use.   It pulls results from Google’s SafeSearch (Strict), so it’s reasonably classroom-safe, and we get the best of both worlds: a great way to understand and build searches, as well as great results provided by Google.”

How Do Ya? Thanks Phil.

Phil Bradley is a Librarian and he writes a really useful blog that highlights many new applications that Librarians should be aware of. I have him to thank for my interest in the Web. When I returned to Teacher-Librarianship in 2002 (after many years working as a classroom teacher, holding various positions of responsibility and having two children!) I was instantly mesmorised by the new landscape of information. I had to figure out how to get around it and a book about internet search techniques written by Phil helped me to do this. I learnt how search engines retrieve results and techniques for exploring the Web in greater depth. He made me realise that I was skilled and should remain working as a TL. People can have enormous influence on you without them even realising it. Phil has been poorly of late – he wasn’t posting as frequently which was unusual. I posted a comment inquiring about his health as I was concerned – I think it’s important to express humanity even in a digital environment. To my way of thinking, life is all about relationships and our interconnectedness with others. Phil sent me an email thanking me and then posted on his blog about the kind expressions of interest he had received from readers. Pleased to know you are feeling better Phil – your blog is a must read.

HowDoYa

That brings me to the point of this post. Phil has pointed out a new search engine called How Do Ya? The search box has ‘How do you…’ already inserted, and you then put in whatever it is you want to know how to do.  Some of the examples appearing on the front page include plan a wedding, write like Kurt Vonneget, paint like Pablo Picasso and fly a plane. Phil tells us that;

“The engine goes off and finds pages that give you that sort of information, and it also provides various ways of narrowing the search down, such as ‘what do you need, who can help, why do it and where should you go’. ” 

It is powered by Exalead, a new search engine that Phil recommends in another post. I had a look at Exalead and it looks pretty good. I like the fact that your search results page provides you with thumbshots of sites and allows you to load a preview. Phil points out numerous other features so make sure you read his post. I have to admit to being overeliant on Google – it’s habit and I do like my iGoogle page. I do think it’s important to explore and be aware of other search engines, particularly when you are teaching students to be discerning users of the Web. Give Exalead a go. 

(Picture – accessed from howdoya.com)

Googlebomb – new term for me

I spend a fair bit of time reading about how search engines work (particularly Google),  but I have to admit that I came across a new term today via Phil Bradley’s site. The term is Googlebomb. According to Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, this is what a Googlebomb is;

Technically, a “Googlebomb” (sometimes called a “linkbomb” since they’re not specific to Google) refers to a prank where people attempt to cause someone else’s site to rank for an obscure or meaningless query.

A better explanation (I think) appears at Google Blogoscoped;

A Googlebomb means a lot of people get together to link to a specific site, often an “enemy site,” using specific e.g. funny link text. This way, the target site will appear ranked at #1 in Google for this text, making for an embarrassing effect.

According to Blogoscoped, the Church of Scientology have been Googlebombed when the search terms ‘Dangerous Cult’ are used. Their site comes up as the first result, even though the homepage at this time contains the word “dangerous” but not the word “cult”…  There’s no doubt it is embarrassing for the Church of Scientology and Wikipedia already have it covered in their page entitled Google bomb;

As of January 29, 2008 Google bombing during Project Chanology has caused the main website for Scientology to appear as the first result when searching “dangerous cult”, as reported by Jason Lee Miller of WebProNews.

Something to use when teaching students about how search results can be manipulated when people know what they are doing.