Jason Calacanis & Mahalo: Hypocrites to the End

Jason Calacanis & Mahalo: Hypocrites to the End

Disclaimer: I’m an SEO by trade. I’ve been around the game since there was a game. That’s not said to toot my own horn, it’s said to prove a point. The point is that SEO is alive and well. While SEO continues to eat into the advertising budgets of every major corporation in the World, guys like Jason Calacanis still get off thinking that this industry is “bullshit”. And while he may not have the balls to use such language on his blog, I’m pretty sure I’ve done worse in my time.

Mahalo is nothing more to me than a failed business model that has been attempted before; Albeit by much more talented and accomplished individuals. Perhaps more importantly though — the model’s failure has come at much more encouraging and fruitful times for the search and tech sectors.

By now it’s obvious that I’m rubbed the wrong way by Calacanis’ claims, character and efforts with Mahalo. I trust that this and my previous blog posts invoke the same feelings on his end. With that said, I actually look up to Calacanis for what he has been able to accomplish in his career and personal life.

Still, Jason’s being extremely hypocritical here.

Please review the comment that Jason offered on my previous blog post regarding Mahalo (numerical references are mine):

(1) Thanks for the feedback. Yes, it is ALPHA and ye it is never going to be as comprehensive as machine search.

(2) However, we are paying people well to make our search results and I think our SeRPs are really good. Take a moment to put our version of Paris Hotels, iPhone, Flatpanel TV, and Pizza next to the versions by google, yahoo, ask, and MSN. It’s clear we a) have no spam, b) are more organized, and c) have better links in less space.

(3) The goal is not to do everything… the goal is to do the top 10-25k search terms with humans using machines and partner with google for the rest.

Let’s just jump right in, no?

Paragraph 1…
It’s an ALPHA product. I got that. Thirty two times thanks to Jason’s blog. So why am I seeing it on USA Today, the Boston Herald and even the Wall Street Journal, with none of those media outlets ever referring to Mahalo as an Alpha staged product?

Use of Mahalo itself (which is akin to jabbing a pen in your eye) reveals that:

What comes after Alpha?
1. After we hit 10,000 pages, Mahalo will move into Beta
2. Beta is typically the second major test version of new software
3. We will remain in Beta until we hit 25,000 human-built search results

When do you plan to officially launch?
1. Once we hit 25,000 human-built search results, we think Mahalo will be a full-grown search engine and we will officially launch

Okay… so in other words, when this human edited directory grows to the a certain point, it reaches a new level. Awesome… except that when I try to search for things, I end up with no valuable results at all. (More on this later)

Furthermore, if Mahalo is “never going to be as comprehensive as machine search” — then what is the point? I just have to ask this point blank… is Mahalo a search engine, or a human edited directory? It can’t be both, and we’re getting conflicting information. You’re telling us it is a human edited search engine, and you sir — are a liar. You’re not going out and scouring the ‘net for new and resourceful sites. You say so yourself!

(We will link to…) sites that have been operating for over one year. Sites under a year will be considered, but most will be placed in a “member-submitted” section at the bottom of the page until they hit the one-year mark.

Sweet…. let’s penalize new sites and content because they don’t meet a pointless criteria that your engine human editors deem to be important.

Paragraph 2…
I love the part where Jason says that he thinks their search results are good. My guess is that he also has the cutest children, the most attractive spouse, and anything he flushes down the toilet smells like roses.

I tried to search for the suggested keywords that Jason offered to me too — but I found them to be confusing and frustrating… and I soon realized that they didn’t have much in the way of results for that specific phrase. Case in point — a search for “paris hotels” gave me the Mahalo Top 7 — which is really just 7 quick links that tell me nothing about the sites I might visit should I click on one of the non-descriptive links.

Then, Mahalo dishes out seven more links for multiple related searches (including “Paris Luxury Hotels” of which I wouldn’t have interest in) in more detail. Again… and again… and yet again. Seven links on what you want — 21 with descriptions on things you don’t.

In other words, Mahalo works like this… You search for something. If a “well paid” editor at Mahalo has weighed in on that specific result before, you might get seven quick links. After that, you’ll be bombarded with information that bears less relevance to your search needs.

Sweet!

I will credit Calacanis though. He is absolutely correct in that there is less “spam” on Mahalo. I searched for “spam” on Mahalo and got zero results. Then I searched on Google and found 219 million results. This guy is good.

Of course, Calacanis still thinks that his results are better organized. And, I continue to firmly disagree. Still, I’ll let you be the judge of that.

User Tip: this task is easier done and more enjoyable if you really do stick a pen in your eye while viewing Mahalo

Jason concludes this piece of his comment by indicating that they have more links in less space. Which is another way of saying that Mahalo will try to push you through to a search result with limited, if any, additional information on where you’re heading, and in 75% of the cases — you’re off to a site that doesn’t fit specifically what you searched for.

Paragraph 3…
This is the best part of them all, so thank you Jason for saving the best for last. Again, we know that Mahalo will not be considered as a BETA release until they have 10,000 search results hand picked and under their belt. Furthermore, they will not be a full operating search engine until they have 25,000 results taken care of.

Jason: Assuming you actually want to succeed… Can you please defend “the goal is to do the top 10-25k search terms”. By your own standards, that makes you an engine that’s somewhere between a BETA release and a final release.

If that’s what full venture capital funding buys you these days… Rock on. I want a piece of that.

In Conclusion…

I’m not the only one who got the same cookie cutter response from Jason on calling out Mahalo on this. I saw the same comments literally copied and pasted on Scoreboard Media’s Blog. Way to promote the human element there Jason.

“Mahalo is all about creating the best search results possible. This, of course, means that we have to weed out all flavors of undesirable Internet sites. Consider us a spam-free oasis.”

If, by “oasis” you really mean “barren wasteland with links to Google results because they get it right” — I call a truce. You’re succeeding phenomenally.

3 thoughts on “Jason Calacanis & Mahalo: Hypocrites to the End

  1. >> It’s an ALPHA product.
    >> I got that. Thirty two
    >> times thanks to Jason’s
    >> blog. So why am I seeing
    >> it on USA Today, the
    >> Boston Herald and even
    >> the Wall Street Journal,
    >> with none of those
    >> media outlets ever
    >> referring to Mahalo as
    >> an Alpha staged product?

    Well, I think the reason it is getting so much press is because the idea is very contrarian. Also, I’ve done a couple of high-profile things in the past, and we have some significant investors.

    Why they don’t list it as ALPHA is anyone’s guess… my guess is they don’t think anyone cares or that anyone knows what ALPHA means.

    >> After that, you’ll be
    >> bombarded with information
    >> that bears less relevance
    >> to your search needs.

    I would disagree with that. If you’re interested in Paris Hotels 6 of the top 7 we serve up are NOT in the Google top seven! Also, the google results for paris hotels are filled with spam. The links below are of value if you want to get right DIRECTLY to the award winning and most recognized hotels–something that is very hard to do these days on the internet.

    >> “barren wasteland with
    >> links to Google results
    >> because they get it right”
    >> — I call a truce. You’re
    >> succeeding phenomenally.

    Actually, almost everyone in our users testing expressed major frustration with Google’s results because they were filled with index spam. They also responded very well to our design, organization, and ability to give feedback.

    Again, Mahalo for the feedback and keep watching us grow.

    For example today we covered the JFK airport plot in real time–something machine search just doesn’t do.

    best,

    Jason

    ps – this is not cookie cutter… this response is just for you! :-)

  2. I’m with you 100% on this one, Eric. It’s very questionable whether this “search vehicle” can ever be really functional. I guess it comes down to a question of marketing. Having one of the most visible names associated with it cannot be bad.

    It’s all a question of link love or should that be link bait. It struck me that it’s becoming visible in the weeks where Paris Hilton is assuming that a stretch behind bars will help to achieve even more notoriety. Perhaps the name, Jason Calcanis, will be sufficient to create the buzz. Poor old DMOZ never managed to create that, particularly after Google lost interest in it. Perhaps the only way for the Open Directory Project to win this viral marketing battle will be to seek the help of Martha Stewart.

  3. > Well, I think the reason it is getting so much press is because the idea is very contrarian

    I can’t agree with that. Yahoo started as a directory of websites found by two guys, over 10 years ago. Mahalo puts a prettier face and more people on the same concept, and it won’t scale in just the same way that Yahoo’s directory didn’t. Calacanis at heart is a con man, who builds up properties of dubious value and then flips them for good coin before the shit they are is exposed. Netscape has just started the shutdown of his project there, which was supposed to in his words surpass Digg. Now that his words are shown to be the steaming pile they are, where is Jason? On the next project. Sadly, you can get away with this on the internet, and Jason knows it so he’ll keep running to the next project, never staying long enough to pick up the pieces.

    His latest rants against SEO are just rants, and amazingly enough he sends emails every week to his Mahaloites imploring them to add links to social bookmarking sites to build up link juice. Trashy, just trashy.

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