Kosmix’s RightHealth.com vs. the Dyson Vacuum Cleaner

Try searching for Ulcerative colitis at Kosmix’s righthealth.com

Before listing any information resources, there’s first advertisements. Immediately after the advertisements: Wikipedia!

So EVERYTHING “above the fold” on many screens is commercial or completely irresponsible to recommend to consumers.

But wait- there’s more!

After some fairly harmless images returned by the search, at the top of the “Best of Health” section, the first search result is for a commercial site selling homeopathic “medicine” for UC!

Of course, after the advertisements, Wikipedia and junk-science medicine, they finally get to MEDLINE Plus.

I appreciate the refinement and exploration tools Righthealth.com offers and I’d love to see them applied to quality content- but with loads of advertisements and links to health information that isn’t trustworthy, RightHealth.com goes well past “not useful” and straight on into “potentially harmful.” It is hard enough for the layperson to find high-quality health information online without this sort of site making it actually harder. Really, it is appallingly bad.

The first commenter to explain the title of this post wins a genuine no-prize.

7 thoughts on “Kosmix’s RightHealth.com vs. the Dyson Vacuum Cleaner

  1. David,

    Thank you for your detailed feedback on RightHealth’s user experience. My name is Saumil Mehta; I’m a product manager at Kosmix RightHealth. We do agree with you regarding many of the points you make. We try out different UI treatments from time to time, and some ideas don’t work as well as others. We try to be proactive and learn quickly from our mistakes. For example, please visit http://www.righthealth.com/Health/ulcerative_colitis/m-1-s? and you’ll see the number of ads on top cut down to two, ensuring that more algorithmic content appears above the fold.

    That leads us to the second point. At Kosmix all our pages are created algorithmically, by scanning through millions of web pages, images, and other content. We do not make editorial judgements to promote or favor certain results over others. Algorithms are not perfect, and can sometimes make mistakes; we are continually tuning ours and you should expect to see the problematic result you mentioned go away. The advantage of being algorithmic is that we can provide relevant results even for obscure topics.

    We are working on several additional features and improvements that we believe will enhance the value of our service. Perhaps we could schedule a time to give you a sneak preview of what’s coming?

  2. Hi Saumil-

    Very glad to hear that you’re reducing the number of advertisements. It would also be helpful to visually make clear separations between content and advertisements so that users can’t confuse the two.

    The algorithmic construction of pages is NOT an excuse for including information from terrible sources. In order to be a responsible provide of healthcare information you MUST make at least SOME editorial judgments. These would include making smart choices about what sites the algorithm will allow to be included in search results.

    For instance, sites that are only selling a product should not be included. Sites that are selling snake oil (e.g. homeopathy) should not be included. The algorithm should sort the results to place the most reliable and authoritative consumer healthcare information (coming from the NIH, Web MD, The Mayo Clinic, etc.) at the very top of the results.

    A young friend of mine was recently diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. I found myself frustrated and angry at the thought of how difficult she would find it to get useful, reliable information from this RightHealth search. Saumil, I worry that the people building vertical health information search tools fail to realize that health information is not like other kinds of information and cannot be treated the same way.

    Again, I LOVE Kosmix’s faceted browsing and think it has wonderful potential. I’d enjoy seeing previews of new features.

    However, the page you link to is still topped with advertisements, then Wikipedia, then homeopathy. I won’t be recommending RightHealth to anyone while these problems exist.