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Getting to Alpha

I want a smaller web.

As I’ve been building Jawaya I’ve come to the realization that the ever-expanding web increases the daily noise that interferes with our lives. I’m not just talking about bots and content farms like Demand Media–it’s the noise caused by irrelevant but decent quality information.

The question is, relevant to whom?

To me. To you. I read a lot about education, tech, politics, and food systems. Within each of those categories, there are hundreds (or thousands) of subcategories–that’s a lot of content to sift through. So when I search for something, say “digital learning in middle schools“, I get a wide range of results and have to sift through them, or narrow my search.

But I’m not great at narrowing. Or maybe I just have the patience for it. I’ll try a number of iterations of the terms, but it doesn’t matter because I have this nagging feeling that the good stuff is on Page 3.

Or Page 30.

I use search to discover–to find things that will help me learn something. So much attention is paid to the latest and greatest that a lot of valuable and relatively timeless information gets buried and obscured, regardless of its quality or relevance. And while I like the news, I’m not searching for news in most cases. Twitter brings me a lot of news I might not typically come across myself, so my twitter friends serve as curators of the latest and greatest.

Yet that’s not enough; to me that’s like drinking a specialty drink from the firehose, and when I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough. I don’t go there to discover. It’s more like a stream of information I can receive than a delivery system of things I’m seeking. I’ll search there from time to time, but the results are more about what’s happening now, rather than what i’m specifically seeking. It’s not a search engine.

Google does a great job at some things. If I’m going somewhere, Google Maps is perfect. I use that as my local business directory–try finding a local business using Google Search vs Google Maps, and you’ll see what I mean.

But like a lot of people actively complaining about search, I find Google’s results to be confounding because of the search engine optimization gaming of results. It doesn’t deliver the best quality content, it delivers the pages best targeted to Google’s search algorithms.

I’m building Jawaya to help you (and me) get the best possible results, and I think that means delivering a smaller web. Smaller, but tastier. Like French food vs Chili’s.

I like Blekko and DuckDuckGo–both have introduced helpful approaches that cut down the noise in the results. I’ve been reading a bunch of posts by the DDG founder–he’s a really smart guy with better chops than I, and I’m hoping we get to partner some time.

We’re taking a different approach, which I’ll start talking about soon. We’re wrapping the alpha release (taking longer than planned, as usual), which is an ugly but functional stab at the vision. As we bring on capital and more team members, we’ll improve the look and feel and implement the full vision.

‘Stealth’ startups have a reason to stay under wraps–we’re paranoid that someone will take a good idea and run with it. But I think it’s time to get the conversation going and get people talking about the approach, because ultimately we want the best possible solution to the search problem, and that can’t happen in a vacuum.

So tomorrow I’m showing Jawaya to an audience for the second time, this time to the Philly tech meetup. I’m nervous as hell because, well, we’ve worked hard and know we have a long way to go. But I’m confident we’ll inspire a few people to consider joining the team to help build the vision.

This is always a tough period for a startup–lack of capital, lack of team, a stack of specs and ideas to work through, and the very real possibility the industry will arrive where we are before we get out of the gate. I’m really excited to start talking about it, to get feedback, to build a team of fun, smart, driven people who love solving big problems and helping people.

Game on–we’re digging in.

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