An Imperfect World

The poet Robert Burns once wrote: “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft agley.” Which, translated from the Scottish, means “stuff happens.” This is especially true on the Web.

Take Productopia. Productopia is a recently launched Web site ( that, in the words of CEO Roger Neal, wants to be the “one-stop shopping site for consumers on the Web.” The idea behind the San Francisco-based business is that what people are looking for as they click through cyberspace is guidance. Working on the assumption that people use the Internet more to research than to buy, Productopia offers reviews and recommendations on a wide range of consumer items. Of course, because this is the Internet, after one reads the review of, say, watches, one can click a button that will tell you where to go to buy.

It may also direct you to other places, which is where things can go agley. Productopia has an “Even More: Search the Web” button that sends the surfer hunting for a product to the Excite search engine. And, as Neal says, “We wish the world of search were better than it is.”

In a recent search for a watch, Excite listed four sites where they could be bought. Site number five was called LovePark, and they were not selling watches. A few clicks through LovePark brought a visitor to a photo gallery of smiling Korean “stars” with whom the visitor was urged to correspond. In Korean.

“There’s still some work to do,” says Neal when apprised of this detour on the World Weird Web. “Searching for ‘women’s jeans’, that’s also dicey.”

Neal believes that Productopia’s value lies in the quality of the analysis and advice it provides, not in its ability to guide visitors to retail sites. He points out that the Web search button has the “lowest click [number] on the [Productopia] page.”

Good news for Productopia; bad news for LovePark.