Wikia launches hackable search engine
What do you think? Will the online cream rise to the top, or will searches yield random-ish results?
Starting today, if you do a search on the engine and don't like the results, you'll be able to change them. Your changes will apply not just for yourself, but rather for everybody.
The engine will launch with a smallish subset of machine-indexed pages, about 30 million, which will form the baseline that Wikia Search will let users go to town on. It's "hardly a full crawl" of the Web, admits Wikia (and Wikipedia) co-founder Jimmy Wales, but it's a start.
The editing you can do on Wikia Search is extensive. If you think a result on a search result page is too low or too high in the listings, you can influence its position by rating it. You can delete entries entirely or hand-write new ones. You can also rewrite the text of a search result, including adding code to the result (to insert, perhaps, a site-specific search, like Google's search-within-search).
For people accustomed to the cold (if hidden) logic of purely algorithmic search, these are scary options. It means that your search results are, in part, up to the whims of capricious or crazy humans, or perhaps people trying to game the system to promote some sites while burying competitors.
If you're lucky, though, your search result may be positively influenced by topic experts, your friends, or just other generally well-meaning people. And that's the hope. For the most part, this philosophy works for wikis. Wales obviously thinks it will work for search as well.
Wikia Search changes are all done all wiki-style. They're transparent, and they can be reverted by users. Hopefully that will offset the gaming of the system.