hengine Interview

UPDATE — An interesting look back at my little search engine project. Mostly, it was an experiment I created out of curiosity (I’m always tinkering with such ideas). I just never had the time or programming skills to really nurture it into anything truly useful. I ended up selling it in the hopes that someone else could do something with it, but it just remains there still today, unchanged.

I was contacted by The Hartford Advocate Newspaper to do an interview about hengine on the subject of human search engines for this article “The Searchers“:

Hartford Advocate (HA): Interesting, I haven’t used Google Talk yet, this is Brianna Snyder at the Advocate, are you there?

Bryan Hadaway (Me): Yes, I’m here, Hello.

HA: Hi, Great! I really can’t get enough of Google.

Me: Yeah, big Google fan too.

HA: But you must hate Google, because you started your own search engine, right?

Me: Nope, that would be a good place to start. I love Google. I’m not intending to compete with Google. Just add something different, helpful for people. hengine is a somewhat cross between Google and DMOZ (ODP – Open Directory Project).

Go ahead and go there real quick: http://hengine.org/ and search: “tv repair” without the quotes.

HA: Already there, says no results.

Me: Exactly. But, instantly drops in a Google search option for the user, because (again) we’re not looking to compete, but integrate or add a helpful quality filter to Google if you will.

HA: Right. I was reading the Wiki on DMOZ. Can you explain to me, in oversimplified terms, what DMOZ is, exactly? As though you were talking to Michael Scott, or an 8-year-old?

Me: Nice Office reference. Well DMOZ is closer to what I’m doing with hengine, as opposed to crawling websites blindly filtering “good” from “bad” as much as possible and collected pages, DMOZ is human-filtered, meaning that nothing gets by without being checked first, quality control if you will.

Another point would be that Google collects all types of pages and sub-pages whereas DMOZ and hengine only index the root URL of a site.

HA: But DMOZ is just a system, it’s not actually searchable, for example: I can’t go to dmoz.org or something and search, right?

Me: You can search DMOZ: http://www.dmoz.org/.

HA: Ah.

Me: But, it has more of a services directory feel, which is essentially what hengine is but it gives you the feel of a Google search.

HA: So the motivation behind human search engines is quality-control?

Me: It’s about knowing that every time you click on a link, it won’t be spam, or useless information. You shouldn’t need to worry about getting a virus and most importantly, I customize the keywords myself (and future possible volunteers/employees) to make sure the results are relevant to a search.

For example: say someone submits a website on sail boats and they put something ridiculous like twitter or myspace as keywords because they’re “hot” keywords likely to land a search. These are removed to make sure searches are relevant and useful.

One more point I want to make going back a little: hengine is in its infancy, it’s centuries away from what Google is.

HA: I mean, I imagine it takes centuries to get to being Google if you’re not Google and if you’re working on a much smaller scale.

Me: It’s essentially crawling hundreds of millions of pages daily (Google) versus hand-picking quality websites or websites that are manually submitted, reviewed, and the Titles, URLs, Descriptions and Keywords manually edited for quality for every link (hengine). It will be a big journey, but I have no intention of stopping.

HA: So when did you first start hengine, why, and how many people do you work with on it?

Me: Started last year (March 30th, 2009), with one original silent partner in its programming. As hengine grows I will eventually need a staff to handle the reviewing process.

HA: How old are you, and do you do this full-time?

Me: I’m 23, my main business is http://calmestghost.com/. I’m primarily a web designer. However, I have many different business endeavors.

HA: Why did you start a search engine and how much traffic do you get?

Me: Well, some might try and argue, but I would call it fact that Google is the definitively best search engine. There’s of course Yahoo and MSN (now Bing). Most people feel that Google has completely cornered the market, that may be true, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t still possible to contribute.

For traffic, I currently only get a handful of people that are visiting hengine everyday, of those visitors my assumption is that all of them are submitting their own sites which is perfectly fine, as hengine is in the building process. And frankly, doesn’t have very much exposure at this point, which in some way this interview may help.

HA: So what exactly compelled you to start your own search engine?

Me: I’ve written this article here: Google Competitors & Contributors — simply, to contribute.

I have no immediate intention of monetizing hengine, its success will dictate that and bring in the possibilities of expanding with new features. In the near future I have 2 plans for hengine:

  1. Crawling ( don’t get the wrong idea ;) ) — I still very much intend on only allowing quality sites and deleting those that don’t meet a certain standard. (crawled sites will still be reviewed before going live)
  2. Adding a sharing feature similar to what digg does.

HA: How much time would you say per day do you work on this?

Me: I get a handful of submissions every day and once a week I’ll spend 1-2 hours reviewing. Once I start crawling that will definitely change.

HA: Are you making any money on this at all?

Me: None whatsoever and have no immediate plans of monetization. I think the users, the potential users will dictate what direction hengine goes in. So in effect, it really is the “human search engine” or the “people’s search engine”.

HA: How do you feel about HSEs (Human Search Engines) like ChaCha and kgb?

Me: They’re great. That’s the beauty of the internet, the more options people have of finding what they need, the better. Again, hengine’s goal is contribution, not competition. If you think about it, we’re really all (us search engines) just tools (small joke) or middlemen for people to find what they’re really looking for.

…we then closed with our thanks and goodbyes.