Goby: The Search Engine for Getting Out of Your Chair

Goby Search Engine

Now, I’ve got admit, when I heard about Goby–the search engine designed to match your interests with current events in your area, or any area for that matter–I quirked a bit of an eyebrow. What’s this now? Do we really need another search engine, let alone one that tries to fill a rather specific niche? Granted, I’ve been frustrated in the past looking for local events, and found most of our regional newspaper sites to be severely lacking. But a whole search engine for the sole purpose? Not sure I buy it.

Goby functions by providing three separate fields for your search: What, Where, and When. You can provide as much or as little information as you like, including narrowing down your search, adding a radius to your location, and ordering your results by distance, date, and name. It also appears to have Facebook integration and returns image-rich results when possible.

I tried two different approaches while tinkering with Goby. The first was a broad search: “readings” in my local area. I’m a writer, and this is something I figured was relevant to my interests. Yes, the search gave me a great deal of suggestions, and let me narrow them down to specific groups (i.e. selecting events listed under “books and literature” rather than “restaurants” or general “art events”). However, I found it very odd that there was nothing listed in Chapel Hill, NC, which has a very lively writers’ community and a large university. While the search certainly trumped a similar approach to Google, which was inundated with featured search results and ads, it wasn’t particularly accurate.

My second approach was for a specific event I knew was happening–a reading by Jeff VanderMeer occurring at Chapel Hill Comics in December. I figured this was a fairly obvious kind of search. First, I thought I’d just narrow it down by putting in a date range along with the “reading” keyword and location. However, nothing showed up, and the dates the search returned were not relevant to my search (still showing events in October/November when I specifically asked for a few days in December). And, in spite of my search for the event, there were no results matching the event to speak of. Then I went more specific: I used the keyword “VanderMeer” and the location and date. Still, nothing. The only time I was able to get any indication of Jeff’s tour (which includes 27 events) was a search for his last name only, giving me seven results total (of which only 5 pertained to his tour). A quick Google search gave me far more accurate results.

While I like the idea of Goby, it’s got a long way to go before becoming a resource for me. Though it’s relatively decent for broad searches, it really didn’t do the trick for me when it came to specifics. As the Wall Street Journal concludes:

If you get lucky with Goby, you’ll find activities that let you do as its name says: Go, be and enjoy your surrounding area. But the site’s results need to be much more accurate for me to start relying on it full time.

In an age of information and high-speed searches, I think Goby certainly has a lot to make up for if they want to compete. While their idea is genuinely a good one, they’ll need to up the ante significantly to get my vote of confidence.

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