Here’s an experiment. Please go to today’s New York Times (May 24) and read the dense, full page “Ask” ad on its search technology. It was written for about sixty people. It is for the Mensa- smart with inside references to the “Fields Medal” and “Hermann Mudgett” and sprays hoity language and formula’s that will curl your hair. That said, there is some wonderful writing here as well, e.g., “To search effectively in these circumstances, you’d have to don some serious math goggles and take a look at the big picture.”
For the sixty people in the target, here’s the essence of the story (the algorithm): “For each query, and index G of Web pages is found. For each page p, you associate a non-negative authority weight a(p) and a non-negative authory weight h(p). This will lead you to the rather obvious conclusion that when p points to lots of pages with big a values, it should get a big h (inverse weighted popularity). And when p is pointed to by lots of pages with big h values, it should get a big a value (weighted popularity.)” I’ll stop here, but the explanation goes on.
So here’s the test. Will this ad work? Will sixty people — who I’m guessing will really, really like and, more importantly, understand this ad — begin to use Ask as their search engine? In spite of its rather populist name? And will their viral power set Ask off on an upward trajectory? (My bet is yes.)