Cuil not so Cool

Following up on the experience of others (here, here, and here), I’ve run some test searches of my own on the hot new Cuil search engine. The results were not cool. I performed three different kinds of searchs: information-seeking, navigational, and vanity. More after the fold.

Information-Seeking

My son has an ear infection, so I decided to see how Cuil might help me with treatment, so I searched for treat toddler ear infection. While the results bar said there were 100,322 results, Cuil decided to only show me 2. The first was for “Eddy Ear Sprinkles,” some kind of herbal remedy promoted by the Manataka American Indian Council. The second link was for a short article about ear infections, written by a purported “professional broadcaster.” Obviously, neither of these are satisfying to a concerned parent.

Google, on the other hand, provides links to much more helpful (and trustworthy, IMO) links to such sites as BabyCenter, the pediatrics section of About.com, and iVillage.

Navigational

My second test of Cuil was for a navigational search, where one is just looking for a particular website. I tried a search for “Wisconsin State Bar Association,” using quotes since I wanted to be specific about the site I was trying to find. The results were similarly less than ideal.

The first was a link to the Internet Archive’s record of an address delivered to the Wisconsin State Bar Association in 1915 about “Lincoln and the Convention of 1860.” Interesting, but not at all what I was looking for.

The second link was to a page on the website for the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, a personal injury firm that appears to specialize in asbestos claims. Luckily, they happen to provide links to all the state bar associations, so I was able to clickthrough there and get to where I was going. Lucky Cuil.

(FWIW, removing the quotes doesn’t help things.)

As one might expect, Google’s first result was the site I was searching for.

Vanity Search

My final test was the (necessary) vanity search for michael zimmer. Here the results were promising, but the presentation (screenshot) was utterly confusing.

The first result is this blog, but the image Cuil grabbed was of one of the random badges I have under the “Campaigns” section. I’ll chalk that up to just poor automated Web crawling.

The second result is someone else’s LinkedIn profile placeholder, with a photo I presume includes that person (one wonders, however, where that image came from, as I don’t recall LinkeIn allowing photos).

The third result is also for this blog (the biography page, to be specific), but the image provided is the title graphic for a special issue of First Monday I co-edited about 18 months ago. Not sure why this was deemed representative of my biography, especially since it isn’t linked to from my bio page. (Also, the summary is of a previous version of my bio, so I’m not sure how often they’re indexing pages).

The fourth and fifth links are to Yale Daily News articles written by a Michael Zimmer (not me). But corresponding images are of the Seton Hall Law professor and of a montage of Farrand Field from a presentation hosted on my website, neither of which have anything to do with the links provided.

The next two results are similar: links and text regarding someone else, but images of me giving a presentation at the Forum on Quaero at the Jan van Eyck Acadamie in Maastricht. (I think the images are from a Flickr stream, but I can’t seem to find them.)

In all, these results reveal Cuil has much work to do in order to win over users from the big 3 search providers.

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