Letters to The Man, Sundry, Technology

Yahoo! Insiders

I recently participated in some beta test challenge thing for something called Yahoo! Insiders. They sent me some schwag, including a nice little flashlight that came without the requisite 3 AAA batteries, and a cute little USB mouse that is too tiny for my massive hand. The program consisted of 9 “challenges” which basically boiled down to “use our search engine to find the answer to this question and you might win a prize.” (The prizes were nice, one day was a nice digital camera.) The search engine had some “suggestions” of what search terms you might be better off searching, which would appear if you clicked a little widget. Kind of like the Google spell checker, but with synonyms.

I didn’t use the feature because, well, it was buried under a widget and because I’m pretty good with typing keywords into search engines. I’m guessing they think “suggested keywords” might do something for newbies, though it really isn’t clear.

They just solicited some feedback. I filled out the form, and at the end they asked “is there anything at all that you would like us to know about Yahoo!, The Yahoo! Search Insiders Program or Yahoo! Search Assist?” I thought a moment, then:

What are you trying to accomplish? Build a slightly better search engine? Google works awfully damn well 90% of the time, so the bar to get anyone to switch for “better” is extremely high. Maybe you can put your massive resources behind a more ambitious idea like combining social bookmarking with Netflix/Amazon-style “recommendations” and thereby build a more personalized “Page Rank” index using social networking . . . the sort of thing Google SUCKS at.

I sound like a big dork.

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Categories: Letters to The Man, Sundry, Technology