Google’s SearchWiki is off to a rough start in the user feedback/public relations department, and has already been knocked offline by some kind of technical issue. SearchWiki usage seems fair to strong, depending on the queries you’re looking at, but is it the type of usage Google wants? Let’s take a look at SearchWiki’s first handful of days out in the wild.
The Reviews Are In…
… and they’re not very good. TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington was one of the first to voice his complaints:
“This new stuff is a mess of arrows and troll comments and stuff moving around the page. That doesn’t make my search experience more useful. It makes it move to another search engine.”
Network World’s Brennan Slattery wondered what’s the point of several SearchWiki features:
“Once you get involved in SearchWiki’s features, it becomes frustratingly meta and throws chunks of logic out the window. You can comment on other user’s comments. You can add your own URLs to your searches. How does that make sense? If you’re searching for something, you shouldn’t already know the destination URL, and if you do, why are you searching? And if you’re continuously seeking the same exact thing, why not just bookmark the site?”
One Google user echoed a similar sentiment in the comments of a SearchWiki article on the Guardian‘s web site: “This is useles (sic). If I want better search results, how about Google delivering them?”
On Friday, Search Engine Roundtable opened a poll that asks, “Is the average searcher ready for Google SearchWiki?” The current results are overwhelmingly in the “no” camp — 84% to just 16% “yes” votes.
By far the number one complaint so far about SearchWiki is that Google made it opt-in for all users, and there’s no logical way to turn it off. Yes, you can log out of your Google account and search without SearchWiki’s icons and buttons, but the general consensus is that having to logout isn’t much of a solution. Many Google users take issue with the lack of an opt-out mechanism — maybe no one more than search marketer Michael Gray, who gave Google some advice:
“Google can stop pushing out changes that don’t have an off switch. If they want everyone else to follow the “do what’s best for users” mantra they should follow their own advice, instead of just paying it lip service. Lead by setting an example, not by preaching from the pulpit.”
Danny Sullivan brought up the lack of a SearchWiki optout in his SearchWiki 101 article on Friday. If you want to turn off SearchWiki, there are posts on Google Operating System and facesaerch offering ways to do it.
But It’s Not All Negative
While there don’t appear to be many glowing reviews of SearchWiki, the feedback isn’t entirely negative. In his PC Magazine review, Michael Muchmore runs through how SearchWiki works and notes that “it’s nice to see Google innovating in its core offering.”
On Mashable, Paul Glazowski compared SearchWiki to its nearest competitor, Wikia Search, and noted that SearchWiki is by far the easier-to-use of the two:
“Google has a substantial leg up here. SearchWiki has had a largely seamless introduction, and the edit options are almost too easy to learn.
Wikia Search – It isn’t necessarily unattractive, but it’s considerably more complex. Which makes it a bit slower to operate.
Although the Mashable review doesn’t choose a winner, Glaazowski does say that Wikia Search is “the more capable of the two when it comes to search results customization and annotation.”
Web Worker Daily offers what’s probably one of the most positive reviews of SearchWiki, encouraging users to tell Google whenever they find “inappropriate/poorly ranked” search results, and saying that SearchWiki can make for more productive searchers if people use it the way it’s intended:
“More customizability means more productivity for web workers in the long run.”
The Spam Problem
But, how many people will use it the way Google intends? That’s the big question, and some users are already pointing out spam in SearchWiki’s commenting system. On the Reseo blog, Chris Thomas shows a screenshot of porn links being dropped into SearchWiki notes/comments page for the query [techcrunch]. Lauren Weinstein also wrote over the weekend that “significant abuse of the SearchWiki comments system has already begun.”
Steve Rubel chimed in, calling the “unfettered user editing” an “epic fail.”
“… of course people are going to run amok on the world’s biggest online stage! That’s like turning a kid with a massive sweet tooth loose in a giant candy store. It’s going to be a haven for spam.”
The Tech Problem
As if spam and user feedback wasn’t enough of a headache, Google also had to answer why SearchWiki went offline on Saturday. While some users hoped Google was pulling SearchWiki altogether, or at least changing the functionality to allow for an easier opt-out mechanism, no such luck. Google told TechCrunch on Saturday that it was just a bug and they were “really sorry” that SearchWiki went down.
The service was back up and running after a couple hours, but with no noticeable changes to the system.