Yesterday Google launched SearchWiki, a search feature that lets users customize search results by moving, deleting, adding and commenting on search results. The search algorithm will now have access to a set of aggregated human data. As I've written about before, the Google search algorithm will benefit from having a human feedback mechanism.
Google SearchWiki turns users into a free Mechanical Turk.
Not familiar with Amazon's Mechanical Turk? Here's a relevant excerpt from Wikipedia:
The Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is one of the suite of Amazon Web Services, a crowdsourcing marketplace that enables computer programs to co-ordinate the use of human intelligence to perform tasks which computers are unable to do.
Now, clearly the search algorithm is able to produce search results. However, the algorithm still isn't very smart. SearchWiki lets the algorithm learn as humans move, delete and add results for specific search queries.
While Google clearly states that your specific changes will not be seen by others, it seems impossible to think that Google won't use that information to influence search results over time. Not convinced? SEO by the Sea reviews a recent Google patent that points to Google's continuing goal of leveraging more data and behavior into search results.
Google has been experimenting with something like this for some time and finally seems ready for prime time. This also means the flirtation with Digg is likely done for good unless abuse by SEO practitioners overwhelms the signal.
How do SEO gurus react to SearchWiki?
If you employ a short term chase the algorithm type of SEO you're seeing a threat and an opportunity. The threat is that the human feedback mechanism could help to curb over-optimization and subtle gaming. However, it also provides an opportunity to create a SearchWiki army that could coordinate changes to specific search results. The worst case scenario is that people are paid to delete, add or move certain results for specific searches.
I'm not saying SearchWiki is a bad thing. But make no mistake, Google is using it as a free way to make their core product better.