By Tim Devaney and Tom Stein
From ON Magazine
Does the world really need another search engine?
Today machine search is good at helping you find a particular piece of information, like your corner pizza parlor. But when you have 20 million pages on the iPhone, machine search is not good at telling the difference between a mediocre page, a very good page, an excellent page, and a stunning page. Mahalo is based on the premise that humans write better search results and that the wisdom of the crowds is powerful at finding good links.
How has blogging changed the news media landscape?
I think it's made news more dangerous, which is good. For most of my life, news never felt very dangerous. And now, for better or worse, news actually feels dangerous again. I think blogs play a huge role in that because news in general had become so censored, filtered, and sanitized. Go back to the original proto-blogger, Matt Drudge. He nearly brought down a president by ignoring news censorship.
Where does Mahalo sit in the search universe?
We sit somewhere between Wikipedia and Google. If you searched on the term "iPhone" in Wikipedia, you'd probably get a 20-page article, which is more information than most people want. We take that 20 pages and cut it down to 200 or 300 words and the 15 facts people care about most, like the release date, the price, how much memory it has, and so on. Similarly, if you do a Google search for iPhone, you might get 10 million results. So Mahalo selects the top 30, 40, or 50 pages, groups them into categories, and displays them with additional editorial content.
When you founded Weblogs, Inc., you were among the first to build a true media company around blogs. How did traditional media types react?
They said it'll never work, it'll never scale, it'll never make money, advertisers will not want to do it.
What did you see that other people didn't?
My partner Brian and I assumed that it would work. This was my great revelation about entrepreneurs: They believe something is going to work, so they go at it with a delusional nature that frees them from fear of failure. It was clear to us there was an audience of people who like blogs. It was clear that you could make a business out of it. Then the only thing left is execution. It's similar for Mahalo: It's clear that humans write better search results, it's just a matter of executing.
Are there other ideas out there that people are skeptical about but you believe will one day be embraced?
Owning your social network is a meme people just don't think is important. But when they get into year three or four of Facebook, they realize they have invested all this time and effort and they don't own anything. On a site like Ning, you own your social network and you can export it and manipulate it and grow it any way you want. I think that's a dangerous and interesting idea that's going to be very big.
When did you realize you're an information junkie?
As a teenager, any chance that I had to copy software, I would. If somebody's dad had Autodesk and it was on 16 disks, I'd make a copy even if it took three hours. I felt like I had to have this stuff in case I needed it at some point. I spent a lot of money on floppy disks.
How do you manage the explosion of personal information?
I don't even try to keep up with my e-mails and IMs. I get from 400 to 500 e-mails a day, and it's impossible to respond to them all. At some point, I stopped feeling bad about it. If it's important, the person will e-mail again or call.
I like screen real estate, and I don't like to switch windows. So I have a Mac with three large monitors. I basically have everything open at the same time. I have analytics, IRC chats, web pages, e-mails, Twitter, Facebook, iTunes, and two or three instant-message clients. I also like to have a lot of RAM in the machines, like 4 gig or 8 gig, more than you could possibly use. And I like to have really powerful graphics cards so I don't have any lag. And storage goes without saying. I have a lot of storage.
What piece of information would you really like to have at your fingertips right now?
I'm really curious to know if there are other life forms out there, where they are, and how to get in touch with them. I think any logical person would say that the chance of us being the only living creatures in the universe is very small. But an intelligent person would also say the chance of us connecting with another species is also very small.