SES New York: Calacanis Pitches Mahalo Social
Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis, after stirring up some controversy at his last SES keynote address, was invited to speak again at the SES Conference in New York, and his tone regarding SEO was a bit softer.
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Calacanis’ presentation was less about snake-oil this time, and more about legitimizing white-hat SEO while promoting a new social graph he is adding to Mahalo. Calacanis assured the crowd that he meant no offense to the SEO industry in his last presentation, and admitted that his impression was more in line with black-hat SEO or, as he put it, "black magic" SEO, which is more about gaming search engines than legitimate site architecture.
"In some ways," he said, "I am an SEO. I’m a white hat SEO," so long as that means building clean sites.
Calacanis said Mahalo was built on a similar concept as DMOZ or Yahoo Directory, both of which he says failed in terms of search because the directories were "neglected." Calacanis believes Mahalo will not suffer the same fate because the Mahalo Greenhouse Most Wanted page, which distributes the work of building search results among 400 at-home workers.
He said Most Wanted trails only Wikipedia and About.com.
The problem remaining, he said, was keeping the content up-to-date, a problem he addresses by launching Mahalo Social, a social graph that allows users to recommend links and updates in order to build a trust score.
Then there’s the problem of user bias. Calacanis claims that, unlike Google or Yahoo, ranking in the results is up for discussion and review in public view.
The system is based upon machines, experts, social influences like friends, and the fabled wisdom of crowds. A search for Macbook Air, for example would bring up blogs, reviews, and sites like Stumble Upon, all of which are integrated into the social graph, which includes also Del.icio.us, blog comments, Wikipedia, and Digg.
Apparently not Netscape, though.
Using My Mahalo, a user can see at the top of search what friends are recommending in terms of movies, books, services, or products. No friends? No problem. The most "trusted" sources will be posted first with user-ratings posted along the right and bottom.
The idea behind this is that social information is more valuable in search than it is in the original destination like at MySpace or Facebook. The concept is more closely related to the semantic web, which relies more on human categorization, but Calacanis says an algorithm, which has yet to be developed, is important to the further development of the concept.
Part of this semantic integration would include the incorporation of information outside of Mahalo. For example, social information from GoodReads, a site for book lovers, or Netflix for movies, would appear in a networked search result. This of course, in light of recent Facebook privacy fiascos, would be on an opt-in basis.