Huckabuck Homemade Treats

June 21, 2006

Topics: Reviews.

Huckabuck
1. A homemade frozen treat consisting of a paper cup filled with a sweet liquid, such as Kool-Aid. Native to New Orleans.
2. A meta-search engine drawing results from Google, Yahoo and MSN amongst others and featuring a unique "search tuner" feature to adjust your results. Also Native to New Orleans.

It should come as little surprise that I’m not intending to write about the frozen treat. Despite the fact that it’s looking like a hot, muggy day and I certainly wouldn’t mind one – writing about frozen treats won’t bring them into my hands. The meta-search engine, on the other hand, I can easily take a look at, without needing to travel to New Orleans.

Huckabuck’s Technology Offering

Huckabuck.com is one of the rising crowd of new metasearch engines. They’re big selling point is the use of an equalizer-like search tuner, allowing the user to define their preferred blend of results. Not happy with your search? Perhaps you wanted a pinch more Technorati in the mix. I’ve mentioned before that I think user-customizable search tools are an important new development in search. This is probably one of the more user-friendly examples of this kind of technology I’ve seen.

I’ve reviewed attempts at customizable search before – I was highly critical of MSN’s Search Macros and not incredibly thrilled with the anemic offering from Mojeek. Both great ideas, but neither particularly well implemented. Huckabuck, on the other hand, seems to have a very nice, clean implementation. Unobtrusive when not activated, yet very easy to understand and use when you choose.

The implementation is in AJAX, with all the fancy graphical interactions available to that technology. However, appearance is not what I’m reviewing; I’m interested in results and usability. Here’s the tuner itself:

Huckabuck Search Tuner

The use should be pretty clear from the outset. A set of sliders, to disable or adjust the use of these six data sources for the metasearch. Also, above those sliders, arrows to navigate between a variety of presets emphasizing technology (Digg), social search (del.icio.us), research (Google), shopping (MSN), or blog search (Technorati). Each preset places an emphasis on a different engine. Interestingly enough, no present places any emphasis on Yahoo – perhaps Yahoo is lacking in any kind of specialty?

As an aside, this isn’t necessarily a negative – Yahoo may simply provide the best results for a generalist search. Although, with the growing importance of contextual search and vertical search, this is a dubious positive.

Continuing to the right side of the selection panel, we have the ability to change theme (not interested), an autocompletion option (intriguing), a virtual keyboard (curious), and the ability to change the number of results per page (very nice). Some of these are useful, some are window-dressing, but they are all very clearly conveyed – and that’s what matters to me.

I played with the autocomplete feature a little – it’s a lot like Google’s Suggest. A neat time saver for common searches. If you’re looking for something a bit more off the beaten path, it doesn’t have much to offer, of course. The virtual keyboard was also a little intriguing. I’m not sure this is really a worthwhile addition – perhaps, in combination with autocomplete, it could be somewhat handy. However, to me the primary purpose of a virtual keyboard should be as an aide for mobility impaired users. This particular implementation will certainly be usable by that population – as long as they browse with JavaScript activated. The AJAX implementation of the tool does mean that, from an accessibility perspective, it may not be perfect.

In fact, without JavaScript, none of these tools will function at all. Still, there are some advantages to browsing without JavaScript – the advertising won’t function as well.

What about the search results?

Well, there’s not much to say there – Huckabuck isn’t using their own algorithm, so the results are rather at the mercy of the engine they’re drawing data from. However, the customization available using the search tuner gives them an edge – if you don’t like their results, it’s very easy to change. I do wonder, however, whether it might not have been more user friendly to use their presets concepts as their slider categories. As it stands, you adjust the importance of a data source in the results – what if, instead, you adjusted the importance of, for example, commercial data in your search and the interface adjusted MSN’s importance in the background? Many users may not be aware of what engine would be best to adjust for their results – but would probably be more quickly able to identify what type of data they were more interested in. Huckabuck’s slider presets provide this data, but the sliders themselves are a more obvious tool than the selector for the presets.

Other thoughts about Huckabuck

I like the fact that the owners of Huckabuck, Chris Schultz and Blake Killian, are deeply involved with the New Orleans community. They are sponsors of BrainJams New Orleans, which is doing a lot of work to help rebuild New Orleans businesses.
I also love the fact that they donate a portion of their search profits to charity. For a startup, this is a exceptionally wonderful choice. Currently, the beneficiaries of Huckabuck’s Social Mission are Tipitina’s Foundation, working to rebuild New Orlean’s music culture, and the Backbeat Foundation, also supporting musicians in New Orleans. As a musician myself, I certainly find their goals uplifting.

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4 Comments to “Huckabuck Homemade Treats”

  1. No problem! I became aware of your site back in March or so, and once I started looking into it more deeply I really liked it.

    I’m glad you appreciate the comments!

  2. Wow! I have to say the most in-depth post to date, and we really appreciate it. We take all feedback into consideration to make Huckabuck better, but you can be sure we are paying particular attention to your comments. Thanks again for the shout out! Blake

  3. I’d be interested to know that, as well – there wasn’t a lot of information in that kind of detail in their available online information.

    Thanks!

  4. Nice review, and interesting find. I performed a couple of queries, and it was nice to be able to jump around from one service to another.

    I’d really like to see a little more about how they are integrating their queries together. Might have to do some research on that, and see what comes up.