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Update on the "Definitive" NP Tech Search Engine

The Definitive NPTech Search Engine

Logo_swicki_beta3 Deborah Finn is asking for a mashup

"I can't help dreaming about a day when all of the knowledge bases that deal in nonprofit technology will be seamless and interoperable.  Wouldn't it be great if - when you had a nonprofit technology question - you could create a single query that would search ConsultantCommons.Org, TechSoup, TechFinder, Del.icio.us nptech, and the Information Systems Forum archives simultaneously?"

I like to make dreams come true, so I headed over to Swicki to try it out. Maybe I could fulfill Deborah's wish. . .

According to the site:

A swicki is new kind of search engine that allows anyone to create deep, focused searches on topics you care about. Unlike other search engines, you and your community have total control over the results and it uses the wisdom of crowds to improve search results. This search engine, or swicki, can be published on your site. Your swicki presents search results that you're interested in, pulls in new relevant information as it is indexed, and organizes everything for you in a neat little customizable widget you can put on your web site or blog, complete with its very own buzz cloud that constantly updates to show you what are hot search terms in your community.

What's cool about this, you may ask?

Sometimes, looking for specific information has that needle in a haystack feeling. Not only can you get 6,000+ results from a simple query, the most relevant data for you can be buried way down the list. Swickis let you slice and dice and customize your search engine query so that you can specify the most relevant sources, then get further refinement of the results once like-minded users start engaging with the results. Every click refines the swicki's search strings, creating a responsive, dynamic result that's both customized and highly relevant.

So here's what I did. . . I created a search engine that searches Deborah's wish list of sites: TechSoup (a definitive web site) TechFinder (a searchable database), the Del.icio.us nptech Tagging Project (a folksonomy), the N-TEN 501 TechClubs (regional face-to-face gatherings), the Information Systems Forum (an email distribution list), a very promising new project has been launched by CompuMentor: ConsultantCommons.Org.

Then I put the search engine on my Web 2.0 in Nonprofits Wiki and also here on my blog. (It's in the left sidebar).

Now this is the first shot at doing this, so I'm not sure how relevant the results will be or how effective. Right now, what refines the search process is user behavior. Later, there is supposed to be functionality available to actively let me or anyone I choose manage the results (similar to a wiki). It will be interesting to see how that aspect would work. And don't forget this is in beta--could be some bugs.

For now, I'd love to have people try the tool and let me know what they think. If you could try to use it for searches for awhile to help "teach it" how to work, that would be even better.

You can read the Swicki FAQs here. Start creating your own swicki here.

Looking forward to any comments, feedback, etc.

Comments

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This is great. When I saw Deborah's posting I thought of both search and Wiki -- search to find, but Wiki to annotate. Like any social tool, it will need a certain threshold level of participation to work well. Good work!

I thought so, too, Michael, but I'm not feeling like it's there yet. I just did a new version with RollyO that I think it is better. The Swiki version wasn't diving in deeply enough to bring back good results. I like the wiki concept, but if we can't get decent searches to begin with, I think it takes too long to train. I want to keep any eye on it, though, as it moves through beta.

Thanks for the feedback!

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