During the Jimmy Wales ‘cast, some of the fundamental questions involved his new project, Wikia, the future of human-powered search, and competing with Google. Some fantastic content awaits you in the podcast, which will be up on Waxxi very soon.
Can you tell us more about Wikia?
Basically, Wikia is my new project. We are building thousands of Wiki communities in parallel. The way that we like to describe it is that Wikipedia is the encyclopedia, and Wikia is the rest of the library and the magazine racks. So, itâ€™s a totally new organization completely separate from Wikipedia, and growing really quickly. [Weâ€™re] spending a lot of energy in trying to improve the software and make it easier to use, to try to push this whole free culture revolution out to the next wave of participants.
How will human powered search work?
So, the search project is one of the projects of Wikia, and basically what weâ€™re looking at is everything is open source software â€“ all free software. We want to publish all the algorithms; we want to bring some transparency into the search business.
There are a lot of people who are trying to do human powered search, or trying to do new algorithmic search, but I donâ€™t know of anybody whoâ€™s really trying to make a radical commitment to being open and transparent in the sense of free software. So, thatâ€™s basically what our goal is.
How itâ€™s actually going to work? Well, thatâ€™s yet to be determined. I mean, weâ€™re still in the open design stages. Itâ€™s not the kind of thing where we labor for twelve months in stealth mode, then build it all out and announce it in a flurry. Itâ€™s a project to build a search engine, so anyone can participate and weâ€™re discussing and debating how to go about it.
How do you plan to successfully compete with Google? A question via chat, from the incredibly participative Rick Myers:
Umâ€¦I have no idea! I mean, I think the real answer is, if you believe as I do: that quality search is becoming a commodity. So, if you take a look at the results from Yahoo!, look at the search results from Google, from Ask â€“ theyâ€™re really quite similar in many respects, and thatâ€™s been increasingly so in the last couple of years. And then you look at some of the stuff thatâ€™s been going on in the open source world, around search engines. I think weâ€™re in striking distance of having good quality search in a free software package.
If thatâ€™s true, then itâ€™s really a matter of just having the servers and people that manage them, and then you can really compete. If thatâ€™s true, then competition is not about having the most money and the most rocket scientists. Itâ€™s about having open transparency: search results people can trust because they can understand how things are ranked and sorted.
So thatâ€™s basically the approach weâ€™re taking. I donâ€™t normally think much in terms of competition, I think more in terms of finding something cool and fun to do, and doing it.