Mahalo’s Anti-Plagiarism Tool

Mahalo describes itself as the world’s first human-powered search engine. It is an attempt to eliminate search engine spam by having humans write and maintain the top search results.

It is a bold initiative and, to help achieve that goal, Mahalo has created a simple javascript bookmarklet to look for plagiarized or duplicate content. The idea is that, by helping its human editors detect unoriginal content, they can better filter out unwanted sites from their results pages.

However, the tool they created is not just available to editors at the Mahalo site, but to anyone that might find use for it. But even though it’s not a powerful enough tool to warrant relying on it solely, there is enough is more than enough to make it a useful addition for any plagiarism-fighter’s toolbox.

How it Works

The idea behind the Mahalo tool is very simple. You add a bookmarklet, which is really a snippet of JavaScript code, to your browser’s bookmark bar. You then visit a site that you want to check for plagiarism, either for being plagiarized or for being a plagiarism, select a small block of text and then click the bookmarklet. You will be whisked away to a Google search result for the text you just selected.

The results are returned instantly and with Google’s typical reliability. Though the results will only be as good as the text that is selected, it is still the fastest way I know of to search the largest and most complete collection of Web sites available.

The idea is very simple and all the bookmarklet really does is save the steps of copying the text into your search box and adding the quotes. However, even though it only saves a few seconds per search, people who want to quickly use Google to check large volumes of work will likely find the bookmarklet useful.

Sadly enough, that might be a larger audience than anyone thinks.

Who It’s For

Very likely, this tool will find a place for blog editors and others responsible for posting the works of others on their sites. Though a tool such as iPlagiarismCheck (Note: See this article about iPlagiarismCheck before registering.) would be much better for more a thorough analysis of the content, this can provide an initial on a submission or a way to do checks in between more thorough inspections.

Also, bloggers might find this tool useful to do spot checks of their own works. Since creating Google Alerts is prohibitive time-wise for blog entries, Mahalo’s bookmarklet can be used to randomly inspect works and check for scraping/spam blogging whenever you have a free moment. Since it is present in your browser, there is even a reminder to perform such checks from time to time.

Finally, it can also be used by people who are investigating allegations of plagiarism. It would make it very easy, for example, a forum owner to check all of the works posted by a suspicious user. It could also help Webmasters check the other works of a plagiarist to see who or what else they might have ripped off.

In short, there’s a wide variety of people who may be interested in this rather simple bookmarklet. It certainly is not a major step forward in fighting plagiarism, but every improvement is a welcome one.

Conclusions

Personally, I don’t really see Mahalo’s tool replacing anything else out there. It really is nothing more than a shortcut to a Google search.

That being said, any short cut that doesn’t harm the end results is a shortcut worth taking. This definitely meets that criteria.

In the end, there is no reason not to install the bookmarklet in your browser, unless your bookmarks bar is already overflowing, so it makes sense to go ahead and grab it, even if it is only to play with it.

If nothing else, this tool shows that Mahalo is taking a serious look at these issues and is taking steps to keep their site filled with original content. The fact that others may derive some usefulness from their tool is just icing on the cake.

Hat Tip: Thanks to Andy Beard for tipping me off to this tool.

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