Friday, August 10, 2007

Follow Up

We've just added a fairly awesome new feature to Mahalo - Mahalo Follow. It even has a cool logo featuring dolphins or, if they are unavailable, porpoises.

What you do is, see, you install the Mahalo Follow add-on into your browser (if you're all using Firefox like good little nerds, this should be relatively simple). Then, Mahalo stalks you around the Internet like a creepy overweight mouthbreather with a new Facebook account. But, you know, in a good way. It checks out whatever you're searching for online and, if Mahalo has a search result for that topic, brings up our results in a sidebar.

So, let's say I'm looking up "Snorg Girl" in Google. (She's that cute girl who appears frequently in blog banner ads.)

Snorg Girl

So, let's say I'm looking up "Snorg Girl." Cause, in this hypothetical situation as in life, I'm kind of a sad little man. I would go to Google and do a search, and because Mahalo has a page about Alice the Snorg Girl, it pops up on the screen as well, allowing you to compare the Google and Mahalo results without ever leaving the page or clicking the mouse.

If Mahalo doesn't have any direct hits, like with Snorg Girl, but it does have some closely related links, they will appear in the sidebar. Much of the time, this feature works really well, as you can see in this search for popular liberal blog Firedoglake. We haven't gotten around to an FDL page yet, but check out the results that do come up...

No FDL, but you get results for Crooks and Liars, Daily Kos and Eschaton, three other popular left-leaning blogs. Still pretty cool and very on-target.

As we continue to add pages to the site (and we're clocking almost 150 a day presently), these results will become even more refined. As of now, we have around 9,000 total pages on Mahalo, so there are still some gaps. When Mahalo has no relevant results to share, the Follow plugin stays closed. Type in "Taxi Driver" (man, how did we miss that one?), "Crushed by Inertia" or "hardcore pornography," and you'll just get your normal full-page Google results.

Mistakes are possible but rare. Sometimes the program will get the wrong impression from a given page and show you some irrelevant results. This was a huge problem when we were first testing everything, but honestly, now that it's live, the developers seem to have figured out a solution. I tried just now for a full five minutes to stump the machine, to get some goofy, silly, totally wrong results to show all of you, and I couldn't make it happen. And I was typing in really weird, obscure shit - in other words, I was trying to make it fail, and couldn't.

If you just leave that sidebar open, it's like leaving Mahalo running, so it will run all your search terms through the system, and then you'll get some irrelevant results. But close the sidebar, and you can go right about your routine forgetting you even installed the thing.

I didn't even mention the best part yet. It has a browseable directory, so you can surf around Mahalo right in your Firefox browser. Sweet!

Anyway, I can't recommend this thing enough. If you have any doubts about whether or not to use Mahalo, give Follow a try for a week.

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