Spock, the secretive people search engine getting ready to launch in two months, showed another demo to VentureBeat last week.
It has shown improvements from last year, when we first got a look. The company also just announced the “Spock challenge,” a competition that rewards $50,000 to the team that best identifies individuals referred to in a set of 100,000 documents selected by Spock. This is designed to help Spock find new ways to distinguish between say, Michael Jackson the singer, and Michael Jackson, the football player. This entity resolution problem is proving to be one of the toughest challenges for Spock.
Spock, you’ll recall from our early look, is a venture-backed Menlo Park, Calif. company that is combing the Web to find information about people, and categorizing that information onto a profile page for each individual. People search is becoming more important, as we’ve noted.
When Tim O’Reilly, organizer of the Web 2.0 Expo, was asked by Wired about what new, interesting technologies are emerging from this year’s Web 2.0 Expo, he mentions Spock.
If you search for “george bush” at Spock, for example, you’ll get a list of George Bush profiles, sorted by relevance. George W Bush is on top. See screen-shot below. Users tag can him with any word, from “president,” to even “drunken driver;” he has 118 tags, our arrow points out. Spock hopes to make tags a useful discovery tool. If you click on the “governor of texas” tag, for example, you’ll get a ranking of governors from Texas. If you click on the “drunken driver” tag, you’ll get other famous drunk drivers (Mel Gibson is on the top).
Moreover, if you click on the Bush entry, Spock takes you to a more detailed profile page (see image below). There, you’ll get more data, such as a fuller list of profiles about him, and resources like political humor about him and audio recordings (see screenshot).
Next, if Bush happens to be a “friend” of yours, your page shows an icon indicating that — and you’ll get more options, such as the ability to email him. Spock wants to integrate with services like LinkedIn, so you’ll also be able see when your contacts say, change their bio at LinkedIn; and with Facebook, so you can see feed updates about your friends there too. In other words, Spock wants to be the go-to place for all your people needs. You’ll also be able to get updates on the recent tags people have given profiles you care about. Like Google, Spock is shutting out porn images.
[Update: See Spock’s job listings at VentureBeat’s job board. They include a senior crawler architect, a server architect, an information retrieval engineer and a back-end rails developer.]