Gawk.it - making conversations searchable.

I’m the cub master for my kids school cub scout group, an assistant coach for one son’s baseball team, and an assistant coach for the other son’s track & field team. So this past weekend I was busy with a camping trip for the scouts Sat. night, a baseball game Sunday, and a track meet Sunday (the typical fun filled weekend for me these days).

Anyway - because of my schedule, I couldn’t make it to the Techcrunch hackathon this past weekend. But just because I couldn’t physically be there doesn’t mean that I wanted to miss out on the fun…

So I took a few hours this past weekend (mostly at night after the kids were sleeping) and threw together my own little hack which is now live and available to experience at - gawk.it

Since I don’t get the chance to get up on stage and introduce gawk.it to the world (like I did a few years back for appsigot) – I’ll just give the quick pitch here instead:

What gawk.it is today

Gawk.it started as a tiny experiment.

I wanted to see what would happen if I built a dead-simple way to search the content of avc.com that included both the blog posts AND the Disqus comments.

I wondered what kind of information is really in this data set? Would it be something that I actually used? If so, how often would I actually use it? What other ideas and projects might it spawn? Is there a larger idea that it might lead to?

I didn’t know, but I figured why not hack something quick together and try to find out? So that’s what I did.

Right now your gawk.it experience should provide a simple, yet powerful, way to search the blog posts and comments found on avc.com and cdixon.org (after I got this stuff working for avc, the first thing I wanted to do was expand the data set [and what better source than my currently 2nd favorite blog?].  Expanding the data set also helped me to streamline the process so I could continue to expand the data set down the road [i.e. I’ll be releasing features soon to allow others to add their blogs to the master index]).

Admittedly, only offering up search across these two blogs (and their comments) is a bit limiting at the moment…but the good news, these two blogs actually represent an extremely diverse and active group that generates lots of interesting discussions every single day. So I think even with this limited first version, you’ll find some interesting content and conversations when you gawk.it.

All that being said, I’m happy to say, the gawk.it you see today is really just the starting point (turns out the answers to the initial questions I listed above are VERY interesting and flush with opportunity).

So here’s a little bit on my thinking on what gawk.it will be in the near future.

Ever learn something from listening in on someone else’s conversation?

Bringing that ability into an online tool is the core idea behind gawk.it.

If you take a look around the internet today, you’ll notice that there are actually billions of conversations happening.

Some of these conversations have sat idle for years, just waiting for a random person to come along and breath new life into them. Some are brand new with a frenzy of action being added every second.

If you want to get involved in any of these conversations, or just mine them for the amazing history/knowledge the best ones contain, how do you find them?

Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo are great search engines (and there are others too) but they treat every set of data the same way.

They’re not focused on conversations, or getting you into the right conversations, they’re really just focused on getting you to quality web content and facts (sometimes this content turns out to be conversational, but the chances of that are random at best).

Add to that fact that many of today’s most popular commenting systems (like Disqus) are implemented via Javascript and most popular search engines don’t actually index data loaded via Javascript (yet)…and you quickly realize that today’s “search” just doesn’t work for finding or getting involved in good conversations.

gawk.it is going to fix this problem.

…or at least that’s where I’m heading with the project at the moment.

So why not jump over to gawk.it and give it a try? (and don’t forget to give it a go on your mobile web browser as well!)

Then let me know what you think and what ideas you’ve got in the comments below!

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This is the personal blog of Kevin Marshall (a.k.a Falicon) where he often digs into side projects he's working on for digdownlabs.com and other random thoughts he's got on his mind.

Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.

If you have comments, thoughts, or want to respond to something you see here I would encourage you to respond via a post on your own blog (and then let me know about the link via one of the routes mentioned above).