This week saw the launch of a new way of searching for blogs. It carries the ASK label, which is just fine by me. I have long pushed for the focusing of the various search properties that used to carry exotic names such as Ask Jeeves and Teoma. IAC the owner of this stable has now begun to put all its energy behind what may be an eventual winning horse, ASK.
Strategic decisions are often almost soul wrenching. As Michael Porter said, it’s tough to say No to what may be working well. Jeeves, the aristocratic man-servant to Bertie Wooster in P. G. Wodehouse’s novels, used to be the figure-head for the Ask Jeeves search engine. He was retired earlier this year with many nostalgic outpourings from his fans.
So in what way does the spirit of Jeeves live on? Well it’s interesting to compare how the ASK blog search engine works against the key competitor, Google Blogsearch. Google may have as its public slogan, Do No Evil, but it also works with the underlying slogan of We know what’s best for you. That goes very well with the KISS principle. So have a very simple search form, which is good, and then deliver just one set of results that are the most relevant. Indeed if people have confidence in you, you can even offer them an I’m Feeling Lucky button that serves up the single most relevant web page in Google’s opinion.
Well that’s all very fine. However the world is often more complicated than that. When is the last time you used the I’m Feeling Lucky button? Search is often an iterative process. You need to wander around the results a bit to find exactly the right answer. Jeeves typified the ‘How May I Help You?‘ approach. The new ASK search engine carries on this tradition which was evident with the old Ask Jeeves search engine. So the regular ASK search engine gives you the search results but, where appropriate, suggests how you may Narrow Your Search or Expand Your Search.
Google Blogsearch serves up blogs related to your keywords and there it is. It’s in the order that Google thinks is best for you. The ASK Blogs and Feeds search on the other hand offers you choices. You can for example sort by: Relevance | Most Recent | Popularity. The popularity is based on the Bloglines database. Bloglines is a news feed aggregator that can display your favourite news feeds. It is the most widely used and is another ASK property.
Google hasn’t pushed its Blogsearch process as strongly as it might and it remains a somewhat undiscovered jewel for many. With a little more publicity, we might see the ASK horse in this race overtake the favourite. If it does, it may be because there’s a ghostly figure of Jeeves holding the reins.