Just a hunch I had about the new search engine Hunch

Please note, this blog post was written by Claire Stokoe before leaving the company.

With all the twittering centring on Microsoft’s ‘bing’ you may have missed sight of a new search kid on the block, that kid is ‘Hunch’.

If you search for the meaning of ‘hunch’ in Google, other than a ‘stooped posture’ you learn that it is ‘an intuitive feeling or a premonition’ and this is definitely what the creators of a new search engine had in mind when they designed ‘hunch.com’.

So what is Hunch? Well firstly it is the brain child of Caterina Fake co-founder of Flickr and has been compared to ‘bing’ in that it is predominately ‘a decision engine’. BUT, when testing out the two engines it is instantly evident that Hunch is a whole new ball game.

Firstly you don’t use Hunch as a search engine in the first instance; it’s not a place you go to find that image of a pig wearing a batman outfit or a Wikipedia result on Waffle Irons, these results evolve out of the engines understanding of you, as a person, so a little patience is required.

Hunch is a bit like your brains frontal lobe, it uses a number of well chosen questions to determine what it is that you need, instead of bombarding you with loads irrelevant information and hope that something sticks.

When you first visit Hunch, it tries to get to know you, don’t be scared (unless you’re a vegan – this makes sense later in post) – just answer the questions about what lettuce you prefer by clicking on the salad pictures and this will give Hunch the fuel to answer ‘some’ of your  future questions:

(These are my answers stored in my Hunch account)

If you have answered the questions, you’re good to go folks!

A search on Hunch

For example:

I decided I wanted to find a good “image resource”

So hunch asks me “what image search engine should I use?”

I am then presented with a question, it asks me to give it a ‘hunch’ about what I might be after. It is trying to work out if it’s something I have in mind or just a random image I am after.

I answer that I “don’t want to search for a similar image”. Hunch then tries to determine what I need by a process of elimination, it asks me ‘how I want to have these results presented to me, what I need these images for, is their a particular style of image I am looking for and do I wish to buy something. I answer no to most of these results.

Based on my answers, Hunch decides that the best engines for me is Flickr, oSkope, BeholdTM and I also hands me a wild card that it has guessed I might like in – Morgue File, a resource I have never heard of and which looks pretty cool. As you can see you are asked you tell Hunch if this is a good result or not, I thought this was so clicked ‘yes’, Hunch will then show this result to others like me based on the similarity of our answers.

You can also choose to see all of the results as shown, nice idea.

OK, so then I asked a fellow ‘Leapfrogger’ Andrew “what question do you want to ask?”

Andrew and I both then challenged Hunch to “find cheap holidays”

We were then presented with a series of around 9 questions which for most web users gets a little tedious after the first 3; Andrew was off for a cup of coffee after the 4th question. The results were nice and spot on to what Andrew had in mind, so that was good, but I made a suggestion about the length of the questioning process to Hunch (let’s see what happens there).

Where Hunch FAILS

I asked a question about Vegan food which is a general topic on Google and I wondered if Hunch might have some funky recipe sites for me, it didn’t. What it did is lead me to a fatal flaw with this community search engine – “it’s utterly biased results”. If our results are being presented by other community members, who is checking that what they are saying is accurate or sincere?

Being insulted by my search engine reminds me of a Chinese restaurant I used to go to in Soho where the service was so bad it was part of the entertainment.

Google doesn’t judge me on my search choices so why should Hunch? And if Hunch wish to be taken seriously as a search engine, then the results need to be monitored so they are objective. Results should be based on facts, not simply personal opinion?

I then changed a few of my answers about the same topic and was presented with a load of misinformation about going vegan and telling people not to bother with veganism due to their being much more deserving things to be concerned about. Hummmm.

Ok, I’m slightly calmer now but I would be scared to search for any political advice or information about minorities, just in case I am roped into joining the BNP or told that “its Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”. Ok, point made.

My overall feelings about Hunch are still not set in stone for or against, although it has allowed me to work through a range of emotions which in therapy would have cost money. So let’s end on some positive stuff about the new engine.

Your Hunch account

Hunch is a community and therefore does allow you join up and earn credits for teaching other users, answering questions, pointing out errors and posing questions (that are then voted on by other members), nice idea. As you can see for getting a tad angry about the ‘Vegan’ results and all the questions it asked me I earned a Banjo, a glass of water and some pants, which I admit, makes me a little bit happier. Within your account you can see the searches you have made and the results you said you liked.

You can also view you contributions or indeed RANTS and can save favourite results and watch particular topics – neat!

The community is obviously what drives Hunch so keeping them happy is imperative to its survival, it does allow you to ask Hunch to change results and vote against some questions etc.

You can follow people in the community as shown

You can view the activity feed for the entire community

Tell Hunch more about you and invite friends by email

The Hunch community

What is nice about the community is a space called the workshop; this is where new questions like this one shown are presented to the community for their input.

The community then votes these topics up and down based on whether they are suitable or if they feel they need more work. When a topic gets enough votes it is then passed over as a question in the search section and can be found by searchers.

You can also add results to existing results pages by simply choosing it from the drop down of the results page.

So, should you use Hunch?

Well, at the moment even basic searches for artists like Francis Bacon will still get you questions like “how do you like your Bacon cooked?”, so maybe given a few months to a year and some serious moderating of results would help. Even if that means getting more Wikipedia results in there would at least justify the amount of questions asked in the run up to your results.

One thing I did discover though is that I am ‘intrinsically male’, which explains quite a lot.

“Thanks Hunch”.

Anyway, to round-up –  if you fancy finding some cool products or rich media sites, or just fancy being insulted on your morality try Hunch today!

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