How Mahalo Works

Mahalo Guides

Just a few of the Mahalo guides
Just a few of the Mahalo guides
Screenshot by HowStuffWorks

There are two types of Mahalo contributors: full time Guides (FTGs) and part time Guides (PTGs). Full time guides are Mahalo employees and are similar to a newspaper's staff of writers. Part time guides are more like freelancers. To become a part time guide, potential contributors must join the Mahalo community and send in the application found on Once the user is approved, he or she can work on creating search result pages (SeRPs).

Mahalo's culture thrives on a strong communication network among employees and contributors. Mahalo uses e-mail and a message board to bolster the exchange of ideas and also encourages guides to download an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) program and an instant messaging program to facilitate live conversations.

Full time guides peer-review one another's work. An FTG submits SeRPs to other FTGs and an editorial staff. They also serve as editors for PTG submissions and have the authority to reject a PTG submission, sending it back to the PTG for changes and corrections. Full time guides are the only guides who can create stubs -- search return pages that only have a few links, rather than a full SeRP with multiple sections.

There are several tiers in the part time guides hierarchy:

  • New part time guides are those who have recently applied to create SeRPs, or guides who have only created a few SeRPs. Mahalo allows new PTGs to work on only one SeRP at a time. Full time guides decide when a new PTG can move on to becoming a full PTG. There's no standard benchmark; FTGs consider new PTGs on a case-by-case basis.
  • Part time guides can work on up to five SeRPs at once. They concentrate on creating SeRPs, sometimes specializing in a particular subject. Especially skilled PTGs can move up to the next level.
  • PTG plus guides demonstrate a real knack for creating helpful, interesting SeRPs. A PTG plus can work on up to 10 SeRPs at once.
  • Mentor PTGs are dedicated to creating high quality SeRPs and really know the Mahalo system inside and out. Mentor PTGs provide guidance to less experienced PTGs and may work on up to 20 SeRPs at one time. Mahalo mentors have to be available online to other PTGs. As of November 1, 2007, Mahalo pays mentor PTGs $10 for every SeRP they quality-check.

Mahalo pays part time guides based on the number of SeRPs accepted, by check or through PayPal.

Mahalo pays employees by check or through PayPal.

Mahalo gets the money to pay guides from investors. The site has secured enough funding to operate for up to five years. Mahalo's long-term business plan is to generate revenue by selling advertising space on SeRPs [source: Associated Press].

In the next section, we'll examine the Mahalo Greenhouse, where guides build search results.