Searchonomics: Incentives for Infomediaries


Wherewithal founders Steve Thomas and Darrin Skinner have spent two years designing a powerful search technology which is scalable to the growth of the Internet. They believe they have overcome the fixed taxonomy problem that limits the usefulness of conventional web directories like Looksmart, ODP, and Yahoo. This
article at Traffick
takes an early look at this fledgling service.

Another fledgling directory using volunteer reviewers is Zeal. Zeal\'s volunteers gain points which can be exchanged for charitable donations. This is Traffick\'s review of Zeal: \"Volunteer Directory Seeks Zealots.\"
Legend has it that a major plank in Ronald Reagan\'s economic platform - the Laffer Curve - was sketched out for him on a napkin. On this foundation, Reagonomics became the ovverriding theme of a decade of US fiscal policy. A vast array of reforms flowed from some basic reasoning that essentially argued that if you put a luxury tax on boats, sales will decline, and the luxury boat industry will dry up.

A lot of powerful ideas would appear to originate this simply. 1998 was a year in which everyone in the Internet business decided that there was room to improve on Yahoo! - in particular, its directory, which, critics charged, couldn\'t scale with the growth of Internet content. The overworked team of Yahoo! editors let \"link rot\" set in, and ignored many submissions.

It\'s telling that Yahoo!\'s job descriptions refer to directory editors as \"surfers.\" If you\'re thinking \"just about anyone could do that,\" you\'re not far from wrong. And in fact, there is a huge thirst amongst heavy Internet users to get more involved in rating sites, offering advice, publishing articles, and ranking products. A host of innovative business models are appearing on the scene today, promising to give a platform, and sometimes some pecuniary rewards, to these legions of enthusiasts and experts. This new type of knowledge worker may potentially fuel the next leap forward in information delivery on the Internet.

One team of inventors, led by Steve Thomas, a software developer and aficionado of cognitive science, sketched out some principles for the ultimate web search resource \"in a one-page concept paper\" in February of 1998. Barely larger than the proverbial napkin, this paper kicked off a process of planning and development for a new system of \"Searchonomics\" under the company name Wherewithal.

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