OK, MSN is late to the party again. Hey, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, how’s that acquisition I recommended coming? That’d get us into the blog search market right now. Among other things. But, since I haven’t been given a check to go company shopping yet, let’s talk about what the state of time-based search is.
In a phrase: it sucks.
No one is doing it well.
I can just hear everyone saying “huh? I thought Feedster, Technorati, IceRocket, Bloglines, and Pubsub, among others, are doing time-based search?”
Yes, but they all are unsatisfactory. Why? Well, for one, they’ll never have the traffic of MSN Search, Yahoo, or Google. Most of the “normal” people around me never will use a search engine other than these three. Heck, most of the people in the world have never even clicked on “advanced search” and you’re gonna try to get them to visit something like http://blogsearch.google.com ? Yeah, right.
But, before I dive into the state of time-based search today, let’s look at Yahoo, Google, and MSN first so you can see just how bad those three are if you want to find something that was added to the Web yesterday.
We have a great case study. Yesterday Microsoft and Real settled their anti-trust case and announced a new partnership. It was written about on hundreds of blogs and hundreds of “pro” news sources.
We also have today’s Apple announcements. So, let’s search on both of those.
Now, Google does the best, but is far from satisfying (and, when I did the same search earlier today had no results, so you can see that Google is reacting pretty quickly and they have links to their news service at the top of the page). First of all, there’s a LOT of noise to dig through (most of the links, even on Google’s page, are old from previous annoucements).
Anyway, let’s just say that the current “big” search engines don’t do a good job with things that just happened and they are totally missing any blog voices (even the big traffic folks like Engadget).
Quick, which gives you the better result? Google/MSN/Yahoo or Memeorandum’s cluster of results for Apple’s announcements? Memeorandum’s wins hands down. How did that happen? After all, Google/MSN/Yahoo index billions of pages and Memeorandum only indexes a few thousand blogs.
Hint: it’s not who indexes the most, but who indexes and brings back the best stuff that matters.
So, let’s go over to the blog searches and try these queries there and see what comes up, shall we?
Apple Video iPod on Google’s blog search, on Yahoo’s blog search, on Feedster, on Technorati, on IceRocket. Unfortunately I can’t link to NewsGator’s blog search (need to register), or Pubsub’s blog search (only exports to RSS feeds).
Now, what do you get on all of these blog search engines? LOTS of time-based lists of blogs. But, is this useful either? No. No. No.
Why? Cause I don’t know where to start. I don’t know the reputation of any of these results. I don’t know which ones are being linked to, which ones are being viewed, which ones write about Apple a lot, or which ones are people who never write about Apple except for today. There’s no context. No help for me to figure out what’s going on. At least Technorati shows me inbound links (but you don’t know what those inbound links were for — what if they were all for a Paris Hilton video that that blog had on it, would that blogger be as interesting for you to read about Apple as, say, Engadget or an Apple-focused blog?
Not to me.
So, what are we left with? Two things: titles and names of blogs. My new favorite? IceRocket. Why? Cause it shows both, and how many links, but it also lets you exclude and refocus your search. And, it shows you how long the post is (longer posts probably are more interesting, unless they are too long, like this one. Heheh.).
Which, brings me to another thing wrong with blog search.
The search for great blogs is way too hard, especially when using a blog-search engine.
Here’s a homework project. Search any of the engines for “scrapbooking blog” and find me the top five scrapbooking blogs. I went to Technorati and searched for “best scrapbooking blogs.” Technorati brought me tons of results. But, they aren’t the right ones. I’m thinking of something like Technorati’s Scrapbooking page, but this is just woefully incomplete and can be gamed very easily (I could go straight to the top of this page if I added the Scrapbooking tag to my blog on Technorati).
Anyway, I thought about going on. I tried various scrapbooking searches at Feedster, Bloglines, Technorati, IceRocket, NewsGator and they all left me wanting.
What do I want? An engine that mixes both time-based searching with relevancy.
How can the engines do it? Well, they should study Mary Hodder’s “social gestures” writings very closely.
Mary, I wish Mary would be in charge of building a new kind of search engine. I hope MSN listens to her, she’s done the best thinking on this topic I’ve seen (and her ideas come out of real user research).
Anyway, what would you like to see in blog search? Time-based search?