Humans Vs. Computers: The Editorial Debate

Directories versus search engines. Editors versus algorithms. Quality versus quantity. However you want to break it down, the age old dilemma remains.

Google has risen to stratospheric levels because of its ingenious link-based search engine algorithm. Wikipedia, on the other hand, has achieved fame following a different path - an editorial-based path. Now Jimmy Wales (creator of Wikipedia) is looking to launch a search engine of his own. In contrast to Google, this new engine will be human-powered, as opposed to algorithm-powered. The trade-offs are very apparent. Nevertheless, a case can be made for either side - there are advantages and disadvantages to both strategies.

The most obvious trade-off is with respect to quality versus quantity. Search engines can crawl a lot more pages and websites than a group of editors can. However, quality and relevance can be maximized using humans. Furthermore, this effort would also eliminate parked and advertising-laden landing pages from the search results.
Speed and frequency are also an issue. Automated search happens at a very fast pace. Updates are always ongoing. An editorial effort would be much slower and less likely to produce updates at a high rate.

I am very interested to see how the search engine model of Jimmy Wales takes shape. This PR darling will undoubtedly grasp a loyal following from the get-go based on the success of Wikipedia. But I am still not unconvinced that a human-led search engine endeavour can keep up to the computing power of a multi-computer, algorith-based system.

Could there ever be such thing as a hybrid?…

One Comment

  1. dating Says:

    Since algorithms like Googl’s are not open, a question of transparency could be raised. But still algorithmic based search is free of prejudice and bias to some extent. I say this because in his recent pod cast Jimbo whales has noted that his collaborative search engine will employ digg like thumbs up thumbs down feature. And this kind of approach can make the search engine open to gaming and mob rule. The gaming part is still there in Google and other search engines but a little twiking of the algorithm will do the trick of minimizing the impact. But with wiki like search engine it’d be hard to precisely point out where the flaw occurs and make some adjustment, as it’s based on community based voting.

    But still he can pull it off by making the building a community based on trust like he did with wikipedia.

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