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Mahalo – A Powerful Tool in the Right Hands

Jason Calacanis and I have not agreed on much of anything in the past and we may not in the future. However, when it comes to Mahalo, I agree with Robert Scoble: Technologies like this will kick butt over time.

Here’s how we came to appreciate what Mahalo offers:

  1. Daughter has an assignment due tomorrow in rough draft. The assignment is to argue that Steve Jobs is either a celebrity or a hero, within the set of constraints defined by her teacher.
  2. Daughter dutifully goes to Wikipedia and Google and begins research, figuring that the best place to find Steve Jobs info is on the internet.
  3. Four hours later, daughter has six pages of information and facts, and a daunting set of Google results to sort through. Part of her assignment is to cite at least four primary sources. Video doesn’t count, but a transcript of a speech or video does count.
  4. She easily locates a transcript of his 2005 Stanford commencement speech and the transcript of his keynote from last week introducing the new iPods. She doesn’t want the second one; she does want the first. She still needs three primary sources.
  5. I decide this is a great opportunity to give Mahalo a spin. The reason it occurs to me to do that is because the results are compiled by people and claim to be the most credible links around that search term. Here is Steve Jobs’ Mahalo page. On one page, we have a nicely compiled list of primary and secondary sources, multimedia, and links to images and information. One of the primary sources she wanted was the piece Jobs wrote in February about music and DRM.
  6. Instead of picking through Google searches, DG is wrapping up page four of her paper and polishing the spelling, formatting, and cites.

Here’s the thing: All of this information is definitely discoverable on Google or Wikipedia. But the Mahalo page saved her hours of time reviewing and verifying that she had a credible source, because the top information links off to the primary sources. In this case, that was Apple, the official Wikipedia entry, Jobs’ article on music, videos of his keynote speeches, and so on. In one place, ready for the user to click into and use. The middle sections with news and articles had a good mix of information, including his interview with Rolling Stone as well as current Google news and other recent articles.

What Mahalo does is take the cream of the crop info on a topic and aggregate it on one page…a search aggregator. To geeks, this is not a revelation. But to ordinary everyday users like my mother and my friends who are not constantly tethered to the Internet, it saves them time and aggravation.

Here’s the other element of Mahalo that is absolutely critical to its success and vital to the people using it. The links are trustworthy. The pages are hand-built and reviewed. I am not saying there won’t be mistakes or bias, but having seen the process through which these pages are built, I believe that there is a high degree of accountability built in, which will build trust — something that is not true of Wikipedia at this time in many circles.

Finally, it looks friendly to someone who is not a geek and is unfamiliar with the Internet. Wikipedia looks…daunting to someone who doesn’t use it every day. Google is utilitarian but not particularly pretty. Okay, it’s pretty ugly but it works for power searchers. The thing is, there are lots of people who are NOT power searchers who just want to find the damn information and find it fast. Mahalo gives them a nicely formatted list of the most relevant information and it’s right at their fingertips, neatly laid out on one page.

For the majority of Internet users who are not geeks twittering, powncing, blogging, and facebooking, Mahalo offers them a clean door to the information they want.

Perhaps they should adopt this motto: Mahalo: It’s not for geeks. Whatever they do, I see it as being an incredibly useful tool for busy people who want easy access to trustworthy information.

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