Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Promise of WikiSeek

Following a trail of bread crumbs on the blogosphere that was created by my recent exchange of thoughts with Wikipedian Geoffrey Burling led me from Burling's Wikipedia-themed blog Original Research to a post on TechCrunch about the launch of WikiSeek a couple of weeks ago. But before I comment on WikiSeek, kudos are due Burling and the many other Wikipedians like him that have helped Wikipedia become a force to be reckoned with on the World Wide Web. This was the intent of my previous post on XODP where I referred to Burling as one of Wikipedia's true believers.

Burling's blog is a must-read for those who are interested in the future of the Open Content Movement. And while XODPers as a group are anything but discrete and insular in their motivations, my original purpose in founding the XODP eGroup was to foster discussion about the future of the Open Content Movement. To wit:
"I'd like to hear any and all other ideas that people have about the possibility of life after ODP and the future of the Open Content movement."
While ODP still has a handful of true believers hanging on to the false and broken promises found in ODP's cynically motivated social contract, I think whatever progressive genius ODP once had has been inherited by Wikipedia.
"Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,
Our faith triumphant o'er our fears,
Are all with thee, -- are all with thee."
To the extent that Wikipedia has claimed the mantle of the Open Content Movement, I think that WikiSeek also holds great promise, notwithstanding the faint praise of Search Guru Danny Sullivan for the latter. On this note, when comparing and contrasting WikiSeek with Wikiasari/Search Wikia (or whatever the hell they're currently calling it), I find myself buying in to the concept of WikiSeek more and more and wondering why Wikiasari is getting so much more favorable press.

Although WikiSeek and Wikiasari share all sorts of common ground, they are still two very distinct concepts. The premise of WikiSeek is that Wikipedia is a source of trusted URLs that can and should form the boundaries of WikiSeek's search engine database whereas the premise of Wikiasari is not unlike the premise underlying ODP -- i.e., "Humans do it better." Both WikiSeek and Wikiasari rely upon human editors, but WikiSeek much less so, enhancing the human-generated product of Wikipedia as a starting point for search engine algorithms that index the content found on Wikipedia as well as content found by following links on Wikipedia. In striking contrast to WikiSeek, Wikiasari relies much more heavily upon human editors to create its database and rank the URLs contained therein.

Perhaps the reason why I believe in the promise of WikiSeek is that it is attempting to put into practice a vision that I already believe. To wit, back in the day when Jimbo Wales was still contributing to discussions at the XODP Yahoo! eGroup, I stated that while Wikipedia is not a classic Yahoo!-style Web directory, it fills a void that such directories do not even attempt to fill by providing peer-reviewed information about particular topics, and that there was no reason why Wikipedia couldn't also serve as a centralized clearinghouse for categorized URLs.

WikiSeek is not the first search engine to restrict its scope to a trusted database of URLs. To the best of my knowledge, the lesser known Turbo 10, which I've written about previously on XODP, was the first to pioneer this strategy under the rubric of a customizable meta search. However, since the founders of Turbo 10 are now focusing their marketing efforts on their award-winning Trexy metasearch, it's highly unlikely that they will be putting forth any development efforts towards a Turbo 10 style customizable meta search, which leaves the field wide open for WikiSeek.

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