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Submissions/Bring On "WikiSearchia" – A Collaboratively Built Search Engine

From Wikimania 2013 • Hong Kong

After careful consideration, the programme committee has decided not to accept the below submission at this time. Thank you to the author(s) for participating in the Wikimania 2013 programme submission, we hope to still see you at Wikimania this August.

Submission no.
Subject no.
Title of the submission
Bring On "WikiSearchia" – A Collaboratively Built Search Engine
Type of submission
Author of the submission
Eric Schwerzel
Country of origin
New Zealand
E-mail address
Personal homepage or blog

In this presentation we will be showing how "wiki" technology can be used to better help people find stuff on the web. Although WikiSearchia does have a strong search engine component, its real strength lies in the fact that people can use it to organize the web and provide a way of navigating to related topics. The site is currently in Beta, and we believe that with the "wiki experts", we can build an excellent alternative to conventional search engines. By appealing to everyone who wants to be found on the net it would massively increase the number of editors.

Detailed proposal

Funnily enough, we always seem to get asked the same three questions:-

How Does It Work?
From a searchers perspective, the "finding" process is quite different to Google. You'd still start with a search, but after that, you'd probably navigate to lots of related pages. For example, suppose that you searched for "motels in rotorua", you'd be shown a full comprehensive list in tabular form, of "all" the motels in Rotorua. The table (like a spreadsheet) will also display the motel's address, star rating, map, booking link and a "more" link. The "more" link then takes you to another page with the motel's full contact information, a photo, reviews and so on. From there, you can even browse to other types of accommodation, things to do and so on. In preparing your visit to Rotorua, this would be a whole new "search" experience. In this example, it was one search followed by several clicks to other related pages.

Next we need to explain the editors perspective. Basically, anyone can sign up and improve any content - just like Wikipedia. People can focus on topics of mutual interest, and make the best organized content they can for that topic. Unlike Wikipedia however, we don't provide editorial, but instead provide links, and organization to the web.

Then from a technical perspective, we have an excellent mechanism called "Search Phrases" which handles the many different ways that people can search for the same topic. It is easy to understand, flexible and spelling forgiving.

Finally we have the logistical perspective. We need to cover a lot more topics than Wikipedia. We would like to include every business, every product, help for every technical issue and a zillion other topics. As a very rough guess, we probably need to have about one hundred times as many topics, but from our analysis each topic can be built in about one tenth to one hundredth of the time.

How Is It Better?
A search engine can make web content searchable, but no search engine can organize the content of the web like people can. People can add a whole new "intelligent" dimension to search. This has been demonstrated in the previous "motels in rotorua" example.

People can:-

1) Tabulate Data - People can make tabulated lists of results a little like the "List of …" articles in Wikipedia.

2) Build Collections of Links – People can build collections of links to related content under neatly organized headings.

3) Update the Database Instantly – If someone creates something new on the web, then he or she can make it findable with immediate effect. Compare that to the conventional search engines where it takes weeks, months, years or never to get to be where it deserves.

4) Add Appropriate Images – If the search results are for a person, then we can display an image (or images) of that person. If it is of a product, we can display the product. If it is of a motel, we can display a photo of the motel.

5) Collaborate – Absolute "magic" happens when people collaborate to make the best content possible. Having said that, they can also act excessively out of self interest, and skew the results. For this, moderators whom we trust, play an essential role for many sets of search results (more on this next).

What Happens When A Whole Lot Of People All Want To Be Listed First?
With WikiSearchia, we have four mechanisms for handling editors who are overly motivated by self-interest:-

1) Moderators – The more important or controversial search results have a higher star rating (access privilege) than the less important ones. Moderators with a high enough star rating are then used to come to a balanced solution.

2) Suggested Edits - We have a "suggested edit" mechanism, where someone who doesn’t have enough stars to edit a set of results directly, can still make a "suggested edit". The "suggested edit" can then either be accepted or rejected by a higher ranked editor.

3) Discussion Forums – Each set of search results has many built in discussion forums – one for each component of the search results. For important sets of search results, everything can be thrashed out in the discussion forums, and then implemented by a moderator.

4) Tables – Some sets of results are displayed as an alphabetical list such as “motels in rotorua”. The need to jockey for position is no longer there. They only need to make sure that they "are" listed.

We will demonstrate from a statistical analysis that we can be better than conventional search about 80% of the time, and be many times better for that 80%.

Why We’re At The Wikimania Conference
It is WikiSearchia’s goal to make searching on the web more open and transparent. Google gains tremendously from its privileged gatekeeper status, and we think that it is time to replace their model with a fairer model that is more inclusive and democratic. At WikiSearchia our focus is not about profit margins, it’s about giving people a voice.

Can a community of a hundred million editors make a much better search experience? We think Yes. If WikiSearchia becomes the next hot property on the web, would the Wikimedia Foundation like to manage the community? We hope Yes.

We personally think that WikiSearchia would work a lot better if it came under the Wikimedia Foundation. It would be in "safe hands". You guys are the "wiki experts". With your expertise and experience, we think that the whole world would be better off. If however, there are issues that would make it not suitable, then we would love it if the Wikimedia Foundation partnered or collaborated with us in some way.

We know that we are proposing a significant project, but welcome questions, comments and objections around the concepts we have presented.

Analysis and Public Engagement
Length of presentation/talk
25 minutes (longer if possible)
Language of presentation/talk
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
Slides or further information (optional)
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  1. Slashme (talk) 16:10, 7 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  2. This definitely spiked my curiosity. --Waldir (talk) 23:21, 11 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  3. អមីរ ឯ. អហរោណិ 06:50, 12 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  4. MB-one (talk) 22:25, 16 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  5. Daniel Mietchen (talk) 15:58, 20 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  6. CT Cooper · talk 23:18, 28 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  7. Add your username here.