Skip to content

Why I can’t use Mahalo.com (but want to)

March 13, 2009

mahalo_logoI have wanted to write a piece on the human powered search engine and info portal Mahalo.com for a while now. However, whenever I try to put the pixels down I have frankly been struggling, the crux of the matter is as it stands Mahalo is just unusable for me.

Mahalo.com is in essence a directory for the web, launched in 2007. Mahalo differs from other search engines by being hand crafted, powered by a team of human editors. The site also contains a great Q&A as well as a daily video show hosted by Leah D’Emilio.

I am a huge fan of the concept of human powered search, I really like the idea that a search is hand crafted, bespoke to find quality information.

After doing some research on my own browsing habits I would estimate about two thirds of my searching is answered by ‘Top Results’, by that I mean the top three with the rest being of increasing irrelevance. The human model is powerful as its already sorted the signal to noise ratio to an acceptable level. Instead of a top three I have a top ten, this provides me with data I just wouldn’t normally find.

So why is Mahalo unusable?

The biggest problem for me by far is its just trying to do too much. Google lead the way with simplicity, but I believe that’s more luck than judgement. People rave about Google’s simple ethos because its search results were perceived to be the most accurate.

However, looking at the Mahalo homepage I instantly get confused. I have no idea what the site is, the messages are so mixed its like a night out with Vince Noir. The search results may be brilliant, but I don’t even know that’s the main product.

Living outside of the US I find the consistent barrage of Mahalo News such a distraction, the content is pretty irrelevant to me, its just noise. The live blog feature is also wrong, but it’s a good first step and I would use this in my proposed site respin.

So, what would I do?

First things first, Mahalo needs to regain focus, for me the two core strengths are its search and Mahalo Answers which I consider to be the best Q&A site available. However, I would also add to this mix a tight aggregation of real time data. I have written and shouted enough about how Google is missing the boat with the Real Time Web, you all to know it’s a big deal for me. Mahalo could really capitalise here by applying the human model to RTW data.

Imagine the brilliant Trending Topics section on Twitter with a direct feed into related questions and answers as well as live blogs or streaming video? Even better, imagine this coming from a hand picked selection of trusted sources, the signal to noise ratio that plagues hash tag searches simply wouldn’t apply.

Because Mahalo is continuously manned the editors can spot trends and react quickly and appropriately, turning the site into my window of what’s happening and where right now.

I would also clean up the homepage, make it simple but not clinical, focusing on these core strengths. Everything else would be a click down, its still important but the message is clear.

I really, really want Mahalo to work; I am a huge Jason Calacanis fan and I love the principle of hand-crafted data. Algorithms can always be beaten and manipulated.

If they can just get it right (and I truly believe the answer is RTW data) Mahalo could really shake up the stale search market, and we all need that.

What do you think?

From → Web Tech

One Comment
  1. Struan McRae Spencer permalink

    P.S.
    The design sucks. Really bad.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: