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« Changes in Fractals of Change | Main | Google Co-op – Experiment # 2 »

Google Co-op – Experiment #1

Cooplogo_1 Google Co-op is a customized search capability brought to you by guess whom.  It’s possible that it will change the web forever.  Or possible that it will have no impact whatsoever.  I’m doing some experiments and you’re invited to help.

What Co-op does is let you set up your own search engine.  What’s that mean? You ask.  Well, it doesn’t get you a free ride (or even a paid one) on the Google founders’ private jet but it’s still pretty cool.  “Your” search engine searches that part of the web you tell it to search.  You give it a list of URLs and those are its universe.  You specify whether these are the only URLs its searches or whether they are just given preference in the search.

[Note to fellow nerds:  Of course, your list can be OPML or XML and a couple of other formats and of course wild card specifications are allowed.  You can also create an exclude list.]

So, if you’re a mushroom enthusiast, you can make a search engine which searches only sites that you feel are good sources for content on mushrooms.  If you have a mushroom blog, you can put the search box for that special search on your blog to help your readers find mycological information.

Ads WILL run on your results page unless you exempt yourself as a non-profit.  If you want a share of the ad revenue, you have to set up an Ad Sense account with Google.  This is the first step towards your private jet and, of course, helps buy fuel for Google Air.

Or suppose you are the coordinator for a network of blogs (or websites).  You can create a search engine which searches only your network or favors the sites in you network.  I’m the coordinator for My Way, The Entrepreneur Network so I set up a search engine for that network which searches only the My Way blogs and put the search box both on the My Way homepage and on Fractals of Change.  That’s a picture of it below.  You have to go be on one of these two sites if you actually want to test the search.

Searchbox

First part of this experiment was setting up Google Co-op so I could use it with my blog and My Way.  This part was reasonably easy.  You click through from the Google Home Page or go straight to http://www.google.com/coop/cse.  Hitch here is you’ve got to have a Google account (they’re free).  Even if you have a Google account, you’ve gotta enable it for Co-op by proving one more time that you’re not a bot.

Google gives each search engine you create its own home page.  Not sure this does much good since they have very weird URLs - http://www.google.com/coop/cse?cx=007128276799695000480%3A1diwjra87ho is the URL for the My Way search page.  (How’s that for branding?) .  It won’t be long before there are popularity rankings and search tools for finding the “right” search engine. There already is http://www.customsearchguide.com/ which is a Co-op launch partner of Google.

But you don’t have to wait for someone to stumble upon the homepage of your new search engine.  Assuming that you already have a site that has people coming to it, you put the search box on your own site as I did so that your readers don’t need to go to the search engine’s homepage.  You can specify whether you want results shown on a page on your site or on a new page served by Google.

Experiment #1 is easy.  If you want to know something about startups or being an entrepreneur or living with an entrepreneur, try searching My Way.  Do you get better or worse results than when you search the whole web?  I’d certainly like to know.  Of course, I’ll also be watching to see whether creating a closed search universe for My Way increases readership of the blogs that make it up.  And if the other My Way authors also support this search engine.  They don’t have to.

But Co-op isn’t only for advantaging sub-sections of the web, it’s also a potentially powerful but currently brain dead tool for collaboration.  That’s experiment # 2 in an upcoming post.

I also haven’t written about the filtering capability of Co-op but will after I’ve played with it.

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Comments

Matt

You can also submit your cse at www.coopdir.com which is free. Its difficult to get listed at the directory runned by google.

Amy Smith

Hi Tom - I found this post at Always On b/c a friend forwarded me an email update. Don't know if you check comments there or not so here we go again....

You may want to check out Searchles (www.searchles.com) and the recent announcement and case study comparing Searchles - a truly custom search engine for high volume blogs and websites - to Google Co-op at PerezHilton.com: http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/11-01-2006/0004464510&EDATE=. It's a misnomer in my view to call Google CSE (or Eurekster or Rollyo) "custom" search engines because they don't take into account unique site characteristics or user intent. They are more like "automatic" search engines (which have value in that it's an improvement on many alternatives available to folks)but if you're trying to make it easy for user to discover the content they care about on your site and stay on your site longer, they have limits. Also, who has time to go tweak the order and relevance of all their search results whether searching one or multiple sites? If you have particular interests, at Searchles, as you bookmark and tag whatever content interests you on the web, you're automatically creating a vertical topical search engine on the fly with the sources you trust. If you create a group for it, peers who share your interests can also contribute.

Example: your doctor diagnoses you with heart disease and you want to learn more about it and the treatment options from the perspective of the top cardiologists in the country. At google, you’ll have to do a lot of digging just to find out who they are. In a Eurekster situation, you’re going to be relying on everybody and their brother including the pharmaceutical companies that want you to use their drugs rather than a competitor’s. With Searchles, you can rely on the masses as a starting point, but if you want to discover information from the perspective of a top cardiologist and his/her network of peers, you have that option. Not now of course – but as the community grows, and users see Searchles as a way of organizing and collaborating around information with peers they respect, this becomes possible.

An active example of how that can work is my group on Identity Theft Legislation http://www.searchles.com/groups/show/Identity+Theft+Legislation. I created it as a resource for a reporter who was analyzing all the flavors of federal legislation, asked about what states were doing and how it could impact them, and wanted my help analyzing the pro’s and con’s to consumers. This saved the reporter a lot of time but it can also be built upon to become an “institutional library” of the evolution of legislative initiatives.

And truth in lending if it's not obvious...I shill for the Searchles! Love your blog and glad to have found it.

Tom Evslin

Aswath:

yes. In fact you can put the search box anywhere. I think most will end up on established blogs and websites.

But Google also creates this page and I expect indices of search engines pointing to their Google home pages will arise quickly.

Tom

Aswath

Regarding the unwieldy URL, can one not create a home page containing the search box alone? This way one gets the branding as well as imitating Google page structure?

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