Mahalo Follow Feedback…

Some recent feedback on the Mahalo Follow Firefox extension (toolbar) has come in. I tried to discuss the extension at Gnomedex and get feedback on it, but the presentation went slightly off the rails as some of you heard (or, probably heard too much about!).

[ Note: To try Mahalo Follow you must have Firefox (IE coming soon!). You can download it here. ]

Anyway, thought I would address some feedback about the toolbar and other things folks are saying about Mahalo. For the record, I *LOVE* feedback. We’re about 5-10% complete with Mahalo at this point and as any great entrepreneur will tell you feedback–good and bad–is what building something great is all about.

1. Alex over at the very cool AdaptiveBlue said a couple of nice things tonight about Mahalo including:

  • “The combination of contextual understanding and targeted search is very powerful. This is what Mahalo team is doing manually is basically that.”

    … “Mahalo’s results are better for two reasons: they are hand-picked and they are better formatted. With Mahalo a person does not need to sift through links, most likely the best link is right there. The secret here is semantics. Mahalo workers are people and people know movies and they know good sites about movies. And this is what lets them pick good links – understanding that Bourne Ultimatum is a movie. Google also “knows” that it is a movie, but it certainly does not take full advantage of this fact.”

Exactly correct Alex. Our Guides can crush the results of any machine or social bookmarking software not because humans are better, but because humans + machines + social bookmarking sites are better. In other words, our Guides start working when the machines and social networks finish. We look at the output of StumbleUpon, Delicious, Google, Yahoo, Ask, Wikipedia, and countless other sites and say “OK, what now?”

2. Sid Yadav over at likes the Mahalo Follow sidebar, which only opens when we have a direct match for your Google/Yahoo/Ask/Wikipedia searches. However, he prefers Google’s toolbar. He says:

  • What I love about the toolbar, though, and the sole reason I’m refraining from uninstalling it, is the fact that whenever you’re on a random page – be it a search result on Google, video on YouTube or a Wikipedia page – and Mahalo thinks it knows what you’re looking for and can provide you with better information, a Sidebar automatically pops open with Mahalo’s human-edited results. Upon trying this with some general test queries and having it automatically happen on (such as the Leeroy Jenkins page on Wikipedia), there’s a place for this in my life. I found that having the actual toolbar disabled doesn’t make a difference to the sidebar, so while it isn’t using any real-estate on my browser, I can be sure to take Mahalo’s help wherever it’s willing to give it to me.

Great, great feedback Sid. I think it’s a great tip for folks and I’m thinking maybe we should also have a version which is just Follow and not the Toolbar.

3. Matt Marshall over at VentureBeat says:

  • “We’ve been skeptical of Mahalo’s chances in the past, because people are habitually prone to use Google, Yahoo, Ask or any number of other popular big-brand sites.”

I agree, it’s a HUGE challenge to get people off a product that is as AMAZING as Google is. In fact, it might not be worth it for startups to even try I’ve learned. So, the Mahalo Follow product only leverages Mahalo’s platform (yes, it’s a platform… right?! 🙂 when we have something better–as Matt points out:

  • “You’ll note that a search for an iPhone on Google provides predictable results, but that Mahalo offers many more practical links in the same amount of space on the left. The screenshot is truncated for space reasons, but Mahalo provides a whole column of spam free, human edited results.”

Thanks for getting it Matt!

4. The sultan of search, Mr. Danny Sullivan gives a very long and detailed review of the product (yes, is my bible!). He mentions some other sidebar technologies that used machines search that I had never heard of. Of course, those services were not very good because why would you need similar machine results next to, well, machine results. Danny points this out:

  • Mahalo maintains the twist over both Lycos and Alexa in that the information it provides is human-powered, rather than machine generated.”

Danny also has a little fun with the fact that keyword matching technology is not perfect, so when we are doing “concurrent search” (that is, matching the keywords on the page to our dataset) you get some funky results. This keyword correlation problem is exacerbated by our PDP (partial dataset problem). That is, we have only 9,200 pages in Mahalo right now, so the matching is limited. Of course, when we get to 15, 20, and then 25,000 terms this problem will go away in large part I’m certain (you should have seen the matches Follow came up with when we had 2,000 results! Yes, we’ve been sitting on this product for four months!). Danny says:

  • “For the Vans web site, Mahalo Follow tells you at the bottom of the sidebar that it found these words:

    post, comment, before, login, must, xgames, silver, bmx, gold, team, grab, skatevanscom, week, clip, password, permalink, sign, check, forgot, media

    As a result, it suggests topics such as American’s Most Wanted, Terrorism and Violent Crime Rate.

Give us time… give us time!

5. Josh over at Webware doesn’t get our “Would you recommend this site to a friend?” StubleUpon like feature. That’s understandable since when you click Yes, No, or Maybe it doesn’t do anything. I rushed to put this into the product so we could start collecting data, but I made the mistake of not giving people a page back saying “Thanks for the vote” and here’s how it will be used. We just ran out of time. It will do something soon!

Josh also points out, like Danny, that this has ben done before… of course, that was machine search matching machine search (which is like pouring water into a water glass… doesn’t change much does it?). He point out some positive things at the end saying:

  • That said, exploratory Web surfing is fun, and the extension itself is snappy. It doesn’t slow down your main browser frame’s load time and doesn’t pop up with any warnings or other nonsense when the sidebar has been dismissed. For those interested, Mahalo is giving away various prizes to people who can get their friends to install and use the toolbar through the end of next month.

So, great feedback Josh and please give us some time while we get to version 1.1. We’re only two months old! 🙂

6. David over at DownloadSquad had some solid thoughts on why Follow is important:

  • While Mahalo only has 8,500 search result pages built right now, Mahalo Follow’s second and more significant feature is really where the genius lies: In addition to comparing their search results with the likes of Google, or Yahoo!, the sidebar will follow along on your surfing (hence its name) and continue to provide relevant results and links based on the sites you surf to. In fact, Follow has a feature I haven’t seen done (at least quite the same way) anywhere else: within the Follow results sidebar, the ‘Open all’ option at the top of each section of links will open every one of those links in tabs. It’s like having your own personal search secretary sitting right by your side, continually providing increasingly fine-toothed results without you having to lift a finger; all you need to do is search and browse.

He also got 259 diggs for the story…. not too shabby!

7. Andru over at Gear Live had a positive experience with the product:

  • However, when Mahalo has a result for the search, their results are displayed in a pane alongside them. This allows you to compare the quality of their results with those of your traditional search engine.

    We’ve been using Mahalo Follow for a couple of days now, and while we weren’t sure we’d like it at first, it’s grown on us.

So, overall some amazing feedback. We really tried to make the product simple, light, and fast. We’re going to listen to feedback and try to make the next version even better. As I mentioned a version for IE will be ready for September 1st.

I’d also like to take a moment to congratulate Mahalo’s amazing tech team which has had less than 10 minutes of downtime since launch AND has had three successful *major* rollouts in as many months (alpha launch, Greenhouse launch, and now Follow). Amazing job guys and rest up for the big October 1st launch (whatever that is!!!)

[ Note: To try Mahalo Follow you must have Firefox (IE coming soon!). You can download it here. ]

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