Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What's Wrong With Dogpile

Walt Mossberg, tech columnist for the Wall Street Journal, was the keynote speaker at the closing seesion at the SLA Conference in Baltimore earlier this month.

After his speech, he fielded questions. Someone asked:

"What do you think of Dogpile?"

Mossberg replied: "Do you work for them?"

This reminded me about this metasearch engine that currently garners all of 0.5% of the search market. Google, in comparison, leads the way with almost 50%. Dogpile, so the scuttlebutt goes, is popular with librarians. Mossberg, apparently, doesn't rate it so highly (although I don't think he addressed that question but answered another the woman had asked).

Personally, I've never liked Dogpile very much without really consciously understanding why. But now I want to examine what there is not to like.

What's wrong with Dogpile? The name of the service is a negative. A "dogpile" is something negative. I don't want to think about a dogpile, much less surf to a Web site that would name itself that. I see on their site that the word has a different origin than I would have thought:

The inspiration for Dogpile came when its founders noticed that different search engines often return different results for the very same term. The more engines they searched the more results they found.

Following this discovery, the founders set out to create a way to bring the Web's best search engines together in one place to deliver more comprehensive and relevant results.

To capture this idea, the founders borrowed a sports term used to describe players piling on top of one another in the celebration and the Dogpile search engine was born!

But of course, I imagine few people think of this meaning for the word "dogpile." I wonder if people who work there even think of that meaning. Dogpile to me has a hugely negative connotative meaning--and I'm the customer. You just don't hit your customers with negatives. Hello 0.50%! Of course, there are other reasons why competitors like Google and Yahoo! are far ahead. The words "Google" and "Yahoo!" aren't negative at all, are they?

Librarians, I gather, supposedly like Dogpile because it produces results for your search from several of the most popular search engines: Google, Yahoo!, MSN, Ask, etc. You don't need to go to the others; just go to Dogpile and search them all at once!

But that's the problem. You don't get what the others offer. For example, if I search on the phrase "Paris Hilton," Dogpile returns an anemic 90 results! Google, on the other hand, returns 94 million. And Dogpile seems to mess with my phrases in quotes, sometimes ignoring them.

I learned a bit more about metasearch engines like Dogpile at searchengineshowdown:

Problems: These multiple search engines are a commendable effort; however, the problems still outweigh their benefits. All have significant limitations as a comprehensive search tool. They are subject to time outs, when search processing takes too long. Since most only retrieve the top 10-50 hits from each search engine, the total number of hits retrieved may be considerably less than found by doing a direct search on one of the search engines. Advanced search features on individual search engines are not usually available. Phrase and Boolean searching may not be properly processed or available. Often they exclude one of the major databases such as Google or Ask.

It's fun once in a while to see which search engines queried by Dogpile return which results, but I don't think I'll switch from the popular search engines anytime soon.

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1 comment:

Jim Milles said...

I've never cared for Dogpile either. My standard search option is the Aggregate Google & Yahoo extension for Firefox. Combining those two search engines gives excellent results.