Trust and the web (or Mahalo adding citations)

One of the main inspirations for Mahalo was the lack of trust users were expressing they had in current online services. When we old-school folks started in the Web business back in ’94 the internet was synonymous with quality and truth. Today? Well, I think we all know that folks look at the internet as a suspect source for information – perhaps even dangerous. This is, of course, one sided. There are tons of amazing, trustworthy sites, but as the number of less-trustworthy ones increases the % of trusted sites gets smaller. This exacerbates the perception of the internet as a trusted source of information.

A recent study covered in TechCrunch showed trust in search taking a nose dive:

  • The survey found that only 51% of people trust information provided by search engines, down from 62% in 2006. Google, as tshe most popular search engine in the United States, isn’t trusted by nearly half (49%) of the people who use it, an interesting result.

We realize this at Mahalo, and we see trust as the most important benefit human-powered guidance services (aka machine search + human search). As such we’re going through our entire database of 50,000 Guide pages an putting citations on them. It will take the rest of the summer, but it’s clearly worth it.

You can see the citations we’re testing in the Guide Note on the left for The Catcher in the Rye. If you click on the citations numbers you jump to the citation section at the bottom of the page. clicking the up arrow at the bottom of the page sends you back to the top of the page where the citation is located (similar to Wikipedia).

Again, none of this is revolutionary, but as Mahalo grows we’ve realized the more trusted and complete the pages are, the more users will buy into using Mahalo for certain types of searches.

Right now our history, travel, entertainment, and video game pages are really great. Over the next four years (we’ve just started year two of the five-year Mahalo plan) they should be the best page on the internet for an average person to start their research.

That, is the evolved goal of Mahalo: to be the best starting place for the most common search terms. If you’re going to start researching The Catcher in the Rye we want you to start at Mahalo (or come to Mahalo via Google, Yahoo, or Wikipedia).

Anyway, this should hep the wildwest nature of the open Guide Notes we started next week.

We’ll keep you posted.

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