Real-Time But Not Ready For Prime Time

June 18, 2009
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Extra, extra, read all about it–two new real-time search engines debuted today: CrowdEye and Collecta.

I love the headlines from Techmeme:

Yes, folks, it’s really, really, real-time! Of course Twitter and Facebook have their own real-time search offerings. And apparently Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft are looking hard at real-time too.

I concede that there’s something in this real-time mania. I’ve live-tweeted events, and I’ve followed others who were doing so. I certainly read current news and blogs–as they say, today’s newspaper wraps

Extra, extra, read all about it–two new real-time search engines debuted today: CrowdEye and Collecta.

I love the headlines from Techmeme:

Yes, folks, it’s really, really, real-time! Of course Twitter and Facebook have their own real-time search offerings. And apparently Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft are looking hard at real-time too.

I concede that there’s something in this real-time mania. I’ve live-tweeted events, and I’ve followed others who were doing so. I certainly read current news and blogs–as they say, today’s newspaper wraps tomorrow’s fish (someone will have to translate the expression for folks who’ve never read an analog newspaper). But yes, recency / freshness  is a certainly a concern in information seeking.

But it’s not the only one, and I doubt it’s the dominant one. Moreover, the dismissal of web search engines as if their index contents are ancient history is preposterous. Search for iran election on Google, Yahoo, or Bing, and you see a lot of current news. I suppose Twitter offers more recently generated bits, but the main virtue there is not the immediacy–rather, it’s the social nature of the content. For example, a number of people are following @persiankiwi for a personal perspective. I’ll let you decide for yourselves if Collecta or Crowdeye offer something new or valuable–I’m still waiting for the former to show me anything at all!

I know that the technology press likes new buzzwords, and “real-time” search is surely the buzzword du jour, even giving “semantic” search a run for its money. And I understand how many in the blogosphere feel it is their moral duty to cheer on any start-up that makes a go at disrupting the current regime. But I wish these folks would evaluate the new entrants on their merits, rather than simply on the drama of the David vs. Goliath story.

I understand what it’s like on the startup side–it wasn’t that long ago that few people outside the Boston-area technology scene had heard of Endeca. For a long time, I was jealous of people whose companies had generated more buzz. But, in retrospect, I’m at least glad that my colleagues and I had a chance to build a robust product before the press noticed us. Overenthusiastic press isn’t necessarily a good thing, as I’m sure a line-up of prematurely crowned Google killers can attest.

In that spirit, I hope that CrowdEye and Collecta bring something interesting to the market. But I doubt that “real-time” search will cut it, especially if it’s not ready for prime time.

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