The company, Eurekster, known for their SearchPublisher Platform, has recently released a new service that caught my interest right away. It is called, Eurekster Swicki (in Beta) and is a service that allows you to create a search engine the way you want. Jeff Clavier is using it and also gave his thoughts about it. Just like the search service, Rollyo, you can select certain sources that you want to be included into search results. But the swicki is even more powerful because it allows you to exclude results, use keywords, and it even is community based. Notice how the name “swicki” sounds like, “wiki?” Well, that is because in a sense, the search is fairly comparable to a wiki. Eurekster says, “Swickis are like wikis in that they are collaborative. Not only does your swicki use Eurekster technology to weight searches based on the behavior of those who come to your site, in the future, your community – if you allow them – can actively collaborate to modify and focus the results of the search engine.” So, with a swicki, you get accurate search results using Eurekster technology, Yahoo results, heavy focus on sources you specify, and even the community plays a role. What’s even better is that you can include the search on your site, allow anyone to search it, and it is all free! I was lucky to receive Beta access to the service so I can give you all a review of it! Now, lets take a look.
First thing I should mention is that I have the search installed on my site right now. You can see it on the bottom of the right sidebar. You will see the search field and below that a “buzz cloud” of keywords that you may have interest in. Right now I have it searching the Web 2.0 Workgroup sites as its focus and any other site that provides relevant results. I originally wanted to add all the sites in the 9rules Network, but that would have taken a while because of the large amount of members. I will explain how that works and the how adding of the search to my site was later on in the post. Lets first go over the creating a swicki.
After signing up to the service, I went right to “Publish New Swicki” page. This page will bring me through an easy three step form to creating my swicki, and believe me, it is quite painless and very simple. What you see above is the first step, “Customize.” This is where you keep in mind that you may want to add the search to your site and how it will look outside of your site. You are first asked what layout you want it to look like. You have the option of wide, narrow, or short. If I had wide set, it would span this whole content area being that it is greater than 400 pixels wide. If I selected short, it would make it span the to the size of the container it is in but will stick to the height of 90 pixels. Lastly, selecting narrow, which I am using, is good for setting it up in a sidebar of a site or anything less then 400 pixels wide. The next step is to add keywords that you feel your visitors would be interested in. These are actually the keywords that you see in the search on your site, like you see on mine in the buzz cloud. These are just your selected keywords. The keywords will also update automatically as people make searches. The cloud will build up with what you visitors search and the sizes of the keywords will differentiate depending on how often the term is searched. The thing asked is to specify a style for your swicki with the preset styles provided for background colors and fonts. Once this is all set and you give it a name, continue onto the next step, “Train.”
The step, “Train,” is the section that allows you to, in a sense, train your search engine. You can tell it to search for results from the web, blogs, and your site. You also add what sites you want to be included in the results of the search. So, I said that my search is focused on the Web 2.0 Workgroup. It is because I added all the sites that are in the group into the text area. The next area allows you to insert sites that you want to exclude from the results. Being able to specify what sites you want to be included and what not to be included is great and really allows you to get the results you are looking for in your search engine. Something else that struck my interest was that you have the option of including sponsored ads or not in your results. If you don’t like sponsors, you can easily take them out. But, what if you allow sponsors? Eurekster Swicki has this covered too. They are actually working on allowing you to earn commission from clicks on sponsored results. This feature is not added yet, but I am interested in seeing how this will play out when they get it running. Lastly, on the training step you have to include information for the Swicki directory. The Swicki directory is currently viewable from the website and anyone can search the directory and find swickis related to specific categories. So, fill in your information, much like you would adding a website to a search engine. When you finish this, you will see on the bottom that you can either continue or actually test your search. I like the fact that they let you test the search, but it comes up in a fairly small popup and it didn’t have scrollbars. Nothing big, but it would help to make it bigger or even make it come up in a new full sized window.
Now, if noticed in the above, I mentioned the promoting of websites. This is actually a great feature that I think really helps in providing your searchers with accurate and trust worthy results. What the service allows you to do is to add sites that you trust and feel should be promoted results. When a user searches for a term and the promoted result comes up, it will add an icon on the side of the result saying the moderator of the swicki trusts it. To see an example, you can search, “Brian Benzinger.” When the results come up, you will see that my website has an orange icon on the side of it. This is because I have promoted my website. If you are the owner of the swicki and you are logged in, you will see arrows next to every result. You will see an up arrow, which will allow you to easily promote a result, and you will also get a down arrow, which allows you to demote a result if you do not like the result. It will add this result to the list of sites you exlude. This makes it very easy for you to help manage what your searches will get as their results. I really like the promotion and demotion feature for swickis. It definitely does help battle inaccurate results.
I have covered the main features that I wanted to go over with you. Now let me express my thoughts, opinions, and suggestions on the service. First, I love the fact that this is a free service and will also allow users to earn a commission from sponsored results. I also like how you can take your search engine and very easily include it into your website. However, I do feel that the customization is a little limited. The style of my search on the right is not the default style. I actually had to do some tweaking around with CSS to get the search field to fit correctly and I also adjusted some of the coloring that isn’t available. It would be nice to do all of this within the control panel, but if not, tweaking the CSS on my site seemed to do the trick just fine. Another feature that I feel would be great to allow customization to are the search results them selves. Nothing drastic, but maybe allow us to change the font, background color, and possibly even a logo. When I make a search, it makes me feel that I have completely left my site and there is no coming back (unless I use the back button, of course). Now, about the buzz clouds. I like the buzz clouds and I like how terms get added to it as searches are made. This allows me to see activity from my visitors and also I like how I can easily remove keywords from the buzz cloud when logged in by clicking on the “x” next to them. But, one thing that I am curious about is to why we can’t get these buzz clouds on the main search page that include terms from users on the buzz clouds on our sites. As of now, the clouds on sites only show the keywords that the swicki owner has added. I feel that showing terms from users would give it a more lively and social feeling to the search and would attract more searching.
I did run into a minor problem in the control panel of Swicki involving customization and reported it to Eurekster. But other than that, everything was very easy and getting the results on my site took no time at all. Overall, great work to Eurekster and I am excited to see the final release of Swicki. Swicki is definitely a great service for companies, groups, individual sites, or anything that needs filtered results. I will keep the search on my site for a little while and see how it goes.