I’ll be honest, until recently I’ve never been much of a “wiki” fan. I mean, essentially it’s sort of a deformed version of HTML – not quite web design code, but not quite WYSIWYG either. The interesting thing about wiki is that it was built around the concept of community publishing. You create a wiki page, and then I can come along later and correct all of the factual mistakes you made. Then, you can come back and change them all back.
It’s essentially a big public chalkboard where everyone has a say as to what gets published. This works well on sites like Wikipedia for the entertainment factor alone. However, at the end of 2008, Google entered into the world of Wiki madness with its “SearchWiki” feature which integrates a wiki within the search engine. The new feature received mixed reviews when it was originally offered at Google Labs, but since its public launch last year, it slowly gained a user base.
A Few Cool Features of Google SearchWiki
Many people who’ve been using Google for years have probably noticed a few interesting, new tiny icons showing up throughout search results (provided you’re logged into your Google account). A lot of users have simply ignored the strange, new icons, while the curious geeky types (raise your hands – you know who you are) started to poke and prod this odd new feature.
The very faint icons circled on the image above are Google’s new SearchWiki features that allow you to customize your search results. Why would anyone want to customize search results? I suppose if you perform the same searches often, like “best movie websites,” or “best sites to watch tv,” you probably prefer a select number of top websites that serve up great content on those topics.
In the example above, I typed in “the best sites for watching TV”, and the fourth site listed is the article I wrote not long ago about watching TV for free with your computer (I’m not bragging or anything…really). Well, let’s say that I feel MakeUseOf has far better content on this topic than the other three silly sites above it in Google’s results (because it does) – what’s a web traveler to do? Easy – I’ll customize my web results by clicking the little “up” arrow icon to the right of the MakeUseOf link and bring it up to the top listing.
So now, at least in my own little Internet world – this MakeUseOf article is now king of these Google search results. The only sign that anything has been changed is that now the up arrow turns green – letting you know that the listing is one that you’ve customized.
If you want to move the listing back, you just click the down arrow. Now, another cool feature that I like the most is the ability to just wipe out the listings that you really don’t care for. Sick of seeing the same lame websites turn up in the search results that you perform often? Just click the little “X” box and it’s gone forever.
If you notice in the image above, I’ve circled the one place on the listing where there’s public evidence of your tampering. Each time someone promotes or deletes a link, those “votes” get added to the SearchWiki’s public area.
Apparently, I’m the first person to vote for my article for first place – go figure. Don’t think that you’ll be able to make a positive or negative impact on a website’s search ranking by doing this – according to Google, the actions in SearchWiki have no effect on site ranking. However, they could certainly have an effect on the public perception of a website.
Exploring the SearchWiki
My favorite feature of the SearchWiki is the ability to comment on particular listings. Maybe you just want to jot down a quick reminder for yourself about something at the link that struck your interest and you want to get back to when there’s more time. Or maybe you hated the article and want to jot down why. Clicking on the text bubble lets you enter those comments.
As you can see from my comments of shameless self-promotion in the text box above, I’ve just made a public remark about the link that gets added to Google’s public SearchWiki. If you want to view comments that other folks have made in the SearchWiki, you can browse those by clicking the “See all notes for this Searchwiki” at the bottom of the page.
Any time you conduct a Google search, whether or not you’ve personally contributed promotion, deletions or comments to the public Wiki, you can view what everyone else may have said about those particular listings by clicking on that “See all notes” link. For example, for a “best movies” Google search, I did just that and received the following page back.
The SearchWiki can get pretty entertaining at times, especially for searches and search results that are someone controversial. It’s a bit like watching a very political movie in a theater that allows patrons to voice their own opinions during the movie. Be forewarned however, watching what other people say about certain links can make you laugh, but other times it may also get you pretty angry. Of course, you’re also free to express your own opinion about the link – it is a wiki after all.
Have you ever used Google SearchWiki? Share your own opinion about this new Google search feature in the comments box below.
Check out the SearchWiki demo video from the SearchWiki team at Google.
Image credit: brianinsanfran