Monday, January 25, 2010

Searching when there is no content

What's a search engine worth when there's little content in your language? Or on topics of interest to your region? That's a problem for Google because if there's no incentive to search for something that's not there then it has fewer eyeballs to sell to advertisers.

As reported in the New York Times, Google is working on that:
The company is sponsoring a contest to encourage students in Tanzania and Kenya to create articles for the Swahili version of Wikipedia, mainly by translating them from the English Wikipedia. The winners are to be announced Friday, with prizes including a laptop, a wireless modem, cellphones and Google gear.

So far the contest, Google says, has added more than 900 articles from more than 800 contributors.

“Our algorithms are primed and ready to give you the answer you are looking for, but the pipeline of information just isn’t there,” said Gabriel Stricker, Google’s spokesman on search issues. “The challenge for searches in many languages for us no longer is search quality. Our ability to get the right answer is hindered by the lack of quality and lack of quantity of material on the Internet.”

Sitting in a Google cafeteria, Mr. Stricker outlined all the ways information eludes the search engine — wrong language, not digitized, too recent, doesn’t exist but should. Feeding the maw is clearly an obsession of Google’s.
Another example is lack of content in Arabic.