Spock-People Search Gets Personal

http://www.spock.com

Keywords enable users to search for websites, products, and services. The biggest name in keyword search is Google, but what if you could use a search engine to find and discover actual people? Welcome to Spock.

 

Introduction:

Spock is a search engine that promises to help users to discover and find new people. Spock currently has over one hundred million people already indexed with millions added each day. Spock is funded by Clearstone Venture Partners, a leading early-stage venture capital firm in the consumer Internet space (Overture, PayPal, NetZero, MP3.com, Internet Brands), and Opus Capital Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm with more than $1 billion in committed capital under management. Spock is still in an Invitation only phase, however, I have three invitations to give out. If anyone wants one please respond in the comments section of this article requesting an invite.

How It Works:

Spock is a search application for people. You can use it to look for all types of people, from famous people like Paris Hilton to people in your own personal network. You can search for people by name or search term. So for example, if you are looking for information on a particular person, you can type in their name. Alternatively, you can also type in search terms, such as “democrat”, “republican”, or “drunk driver.” By the way, if you do type in “Drunk Driver” Paris Hilton is one of the results.

Spock uses a special algorithm to crawl popular sites on the web and combines this data with community tagging to create relevant and rich profiles for people. Spock users can add relevant and interesting tags to people’s profiles, vote tags up to make them rank higher, or vote them down to make them rank lower, or disappear.

Your Identity On Spock:

If you happen to come across your own profile while using Spock, you can click on the CLAIM: link at the bottom of the profile to claim that specific profile as yours. Claiming requires you to be logged into the service that the profile was scraped from. Once you have claimed your profile you can add websites, photos, and tags to you profile. Adding this information to your profile not only signifies who you are as a person, but it also makes Spock a more reliable and accurate search engine.

Users Can Claim Their Own Profiles

Voting:

The information on Spock profiles is determined in part by user votes. You can vote on the relevancy and accuracy of tags, websites, pictures, and related people in anyone’s profile. Users are presented with a small blue triangle next to the information located on a users profile, if the information is accurate, vote “yes”. Otherwise vote “no”. You’ll change the score of the information, causing it to become more prominent or less prominent, or maybe even disappear.

Users can see who voted on information by clicking on a who voted link. This will also show the number of “yes” and “no” votes for a particular profile. Spock members can quickly delete information they have submitted if no one else has voted on it yet by clicking the blue triangle, then “Change Vote”, then “Remove Vote”.

Tagging:

Many websites, such as gMail, flickr, del.icio.us, technorati, use tags to categorize information. Spock depends on user-generated tags, so it is important to understand what tagging is and how tagging works on Spock.

O’Reilly says that tagging is “a style of collaborative categorization… using freely chosen keywords, often referred to as tags. Tagging allows for the kind of multiple, overlapping associations that the brain itself uses, rather than rigid categories.”

So tags are words or short phrases that describe a person and make it easy to search, navigate, and discover people on Spock. You can add tags that show up immediately to anyone’s profile, including your own. You can also vote on the accuracy of tags.

Tags are listed on a user’s profile page. Several factors go into the size and placement of a user’s tags. The size of a user’s tag is determined by the score, which is the difference between the number of “yes” votes and the number of “no” votes. Tags with negative scores are not shown. The order in which the tags are shown is determined by the total number of “yes” and “no” votes, with the first tag shown having the most number of votes. In addition, tags which have had recent activity on them show up before older tags.

Adding Websites:

You can also add websites or vote on whether existing websites are relevant to the person’s profile.

Adding Pictures:

You can add pictures of people and vote existing pictures up and down based on once again, their relevancy.

Adding Related People:

You can add family, friends, and other related people to profiles on Spock. Just start typing in the name of a person that you are trying to add on the “Related People” page. Users then tell Spock how they are related to the profile you are adding to. You can also vote on whether the current relationships are accurate.

Adding Favorites:

Users can add profiles to their favorites area in order to make them easier to search. Just click the star next to the name to add that profile to your favorites. When you add people to your favorites, they can see your personally identifiable contact information.

Gotta Have A Contacts Section:

Spock users can automatically add contacts to their favorites list by uploading their address book. The address book contains support for Yahoo!Mail, Plaxo, Gmail, LinkedIn, Hotmail and AOL. Then you can search your favorites for and see profiles for people you already know. You can also add pictures, tags, websites, and other relevant information to their profiles.

Every Social Website Needs A Contacts Area

Final Thoughts:

Spock is a search engine that allows people to become socially involved. Jumping on the Web 2.0 bandwagon, users are what make up the relevancy of the content on Spock. However, there is always a chance that handing the power over to the users could someday backfire as a host of malicious users go around the Spock web site voting at will, seemingly making the data inaccurate.

Aside from the ability to search for people and the information tied to that person there is nothing to extraordinary about this service. To be honest, Spock presents information to me like a lite version of Wikipedia. Many of the features remind me of ClaimID which allows users to claim websites and their identity on the Interweb. Although I am not sure how far Spock will go even with venture capital funding, the bottom line is that people love feeling as if they are contributing to something, some sort of noble cause. This feeling of contribution may be Spock’s saving grace.

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