Wikia Search: Search Engine with Transparent Algorithm

After creating the hugely successful Wikipedia, Jimbo Wales officially lauches an open source, transparent search engine called Wikia Search:

To Wales, this algorithmic transparency is key to what Wikia Search wants to do. Other search engines keep their algorithms hidden in an attempt to keep site operators from gaming the system and competitors from seeing how it works. But Wales believes that it's important to know how the algorithm works, since each algorithm makes an editorial statement.

This isn't the way that most people think about algorithms, which seem like the ultimate expressions of unbiased machine processing. Wales turns to an example to make his point: searching for "Thomas Jefferson" might return a page of ten links. Those links ostensibly represent the most important information about him, but are they? Who says so? The way the algorithm was tuned and constructed means that even these results are "an editorial statement" about the sorts of pages that are important. Algorithms of this kind aren't neutral any more than the people who create them are.

While it's fine to run a search engine this way, Wales thinks that users want more; they want real transparency about the way that the engine produces results, and they want a hand in tuning these results.

Links: Article at Ars Technica | Wikia Search homepage, search page


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