Before Summly and Trimit — There was Insightlopedia

The story of how Google and Yahoo crushed this Berkeley student's dreams 3 years ago, but are now adoring a 17 year old from Australia who is doing the exact same thing.

This is the story about a 19 Year Old prodigy from U.C. Berkeley that was squelched by Google because he wanted to test the limits of search engine results and come up with a smarter and automated question answering system that was quick to the point. Google crushed this Berkeley Student's dreams, and is now promoting someone else that is doing the same exact thing.

The news has been buzzing about a 17-year old from Australia who has made a name for himself for combining snippets of search results into simple answers for people. Before Nick D’Aloisio created Trimit and Summly, a precocious 19 year old named Peter Nguyen was coming up with ways to change the face of search results forever in his dorm room. While on a missionary trip to China later that year, he had created a search engine algorithm called, “Insightlopedia,” which is now defunct due to a Google ban.

“The engine started out as a way for people to ask questions and receive answers immediately. I wrote algorithms by hand that scraped google and yahoo results, contextually generating a page that had the most relevant answers to a question. They were short, sweet, and simple. My friends still ask me about it today..

“It was clean, and it was very useful for people. It wasn’t just a search engine in a search engine– it was ME choosing what was best for users. It highlighted the most important parts of any page or question, and these pages also included the most relevant Youtube/Vimeo videos that pertained to it. Many people were looking for Pokemon Black Edition at that time.

“I also scraped all the world’s top answer-question websites and came up with a list of questions to input into my system. There were about 750,000 questions that people regularly asked every day, and I have all the metrics to prove it. Every question that was answered by Insightlopedia was cached for others to use as well, and the keywords were noted on the very page.

“It was an SEO juggernaut. These pages included the best answers for every question imaginable, and answered every question thoroughly and thoughtfully. Strangely enough, it was made from search result snippets from Yahoo Search Results, which at the time were actually better than Google Search Results.”

17-Year-Old Summly Founder Nick D’Aloisio’s Immodest Goal: Change The Way You Read News

“So the code-savvy teen developed Trimit, an app that summarized articles into 140-character tweets. The app got the attention of Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka Shing, who invested $300,000 into Nick’s idea, which was ultimately refined in Summly. The Summly app first launched in December 2011.“

My Name is Peter Nguyen, and I did this– 3 years before D’Aloisio. I created Insightlopedia in 2010. I did it better, smarter, faster, and I had over 500 thousand articles indexed by Google. Google didn’t even know it was Yahoo’s search results until someone complained that my search results were ranking higher than their original article.

Something needs to be done about this insightlopedia dot com site. It’s total spam, and Google is punishing me and my websites for having links on THEIR website. Links I didn’t even put there! They’re just copying and pasting my URLs onto their sites! And when I use Google to search for one of my articles, the article isn’t listed, but insightlopedia’s link to my article is!

This is ridiculous. I’m flabbergasted. Is Google going to address this problem? We work damn hard on our content. I pay my contributors a lot of money to DO their research, to spend time WORKING on quality web writing, to learn how to write for people and to help them. I send them to seminars and put them through more school to get their language skills and web development skills up to par. And how are we rewarded for developing some of the best content on the web? We’re framed by a spam site whose only existence is predicated by the fact that they have Google ads instead of real content. I’m livid..

Insightlopedia was created for Peter and his friends. He took everyone’s input and criticism to heart, and sought to make a sincere and smart system that could answer questions immediately in the best way possible. Google erased that dream from the Internet archives. Now, Google, Ashton Kutcher, Yahoo, and Li Ka Shing are investing in a 17 year old that is doing the EXACT same things Peter was doing while on a missionary trip to China.

“I was helping people, but Google wasn’t helping me. I gave up my life to quit college and help create transparency in Chinese NGOs. The system today has over 300 organizations using it, and over 1000 projects completed.”

“I had over 500,000 pages indexed by Google, all of them a hybrid of Google, Youtube, and Yahoo search results. They answered every question immediately, and if it wasn’t in the database, the question was added to it. I MADE Trimit before Trimit was even made. I was penalized for it by Google, though, and I will never let them live that down.

“Google banned me for doing what Summly and Trimit do today —but 3 years ago. I had something huge, and I was making GOOD MONEY from it. Summly and Trimit also steal content from search engines and articles, framing it as their own. I learned that other people spend their hard earned money and time to generate unique and useful content. I then came to the realization that I had to stop, and Google made that even more apparent.

Insightlopedia was banned by Google’s search results on Peter’s birthday on February 24th, 2011. 2 years later, Trimit and Summly are doing the exact same things, but they are being praised by the very same companies that gave Nguyen a hard time.

"It made my birthday much less fun.."

“At the end of the day, I had an awesome time being the guy that no one knew about– but you probably used Insightlopedia at one point or another. It had that type of impact on all of Google’s search engine results.”

He is currently enrolled in the Masters of Information Systems program at Berkeley. Last semester, Nguyen created a system called TorB for one of his classes. It aggregates news content and displays it very similarly to Summly. What’s amazing is that he wrote all the code in 3 nights. He also won the Berkeley PLAY Conference's Hackathon with his award-winning LynxL Transit Engine.

In his spare time, Nguyen invents gadgets for disabled persons and gives them away for free. He created CrossBounding earlier this year, which aims to democratize Health and Fitness Training. He is a serial entrepreneur in need of investors and funding.

“Leading fitness classes is not just for Physical Trainers– everyone has the potential to help others. In everything I do, I want to give back to the people who helped me get there. I just wish people noticed me back then.. when I was truly doing revolutionary things. It’s sad that it took 3 years for people to realize the genius of it.”

Before Summly and Trimit– There was Insightlopedia.

Your thoughts?


You can reach Peter Nguyen for contact at ptt.nguyen [at] berkeley [dot] edu

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

lakeluke March 26, 2013 at 01:51 PM
So why not relaunch it, and try again. Prove that your solution is better than there's. there are always many ways to circumvent roadblocks-you have to be persistent.
Peter Nguyen March 26, 2013 at 04:03 PM
Thank you, luke! I would love to, but I spent over 2 years on the project, and I tried to relaunch under a different name. Google changed their search algorithms because of me, and today, they are helping make this kid look like a saint!
Hamada Agha March 27, 2013 at 02:28 AM
Peter, I have been there before. Would you believe if I told you I had the tablet idea before ipad and I approached Sony at the time because I thought they were the leaders in electronic gadgets with walkman players at the time. Even they did not believe in it, so maybe Sony was not ready for it. Again maybe Google did not see that? As for Summly, I think it is not something new. Oodle.com has been doing same thing by sourcing ads from the best free advertising sites for more than 12 years now. Instead of news, it seeks ads from all free advertising sites so one can go to one place and search other places besides craigslist solely for instance. Isn't this summly doing same thing with news, of forgive me, 140 letters now? Peter, never give up, just remember Thomas Edison, he tried to build the light bulb with 1000 trials, if he gave up, who knows when we would have had our first light bulb. Cheers and good luck.
Peter Nguyen March 27, 2013 at 03:55 AM
Thank you so much! I won't give up!
andy March 27, 2013 at 05:43 AM
Peter, why do you have to rely on Google? I understand that you can provide the most relevant answers on Google. But if the engine is so good, I'd turn to type my question into Insightopedia instead. You just have to build a userbase, and your story is really good regardless. I'm really interested in your project, I hope to see it one day.
Peter Nguyen March 27, 2013 at 05:59 AM
Thanks, Andy! Maybe I can resurrect it one day. I just wish more people would know about it.
John March 30, 2013 at 08:01 PM
many people have similar ideas at the same time, if edison didn't invent the light blub, someone else would've (an many were working on the light bulb at the same time). I see invention more as a discovery more than anything else.
John March 30, 2013 at 08:02 PM
many people have similar ideas at the same time, if edison didn't invent the light blub, someone else would've (and many people were working on the light bulb at the same time). I see invention as a discovery more than anything else. And it goes to ever executes successfully, not necessarily first.
Peter Nguyen April 01, 2013 at 01:35 AM
You're right! I believe any success has to be a perfect storm, and I've learned so much from my failures and successes in the past. At least the project was profitable while it was running. I just always wonder how many people I would be able to help with 27.8 million dollars.
Brendan Berney April 03, 2013 at 01:58 PM
Hi Peter, I know exactly how you feel because what Summly does is a small part of what my company does. www.dexterintel.com. We perform searches and (amongst other things) and produce variable length summaries of the combined results. In 2009 I produced a prototype called FAQ ME that would produce single screen summaries of searches in order to answer questions on a small screen. It did work but got no attention. It is just luck really. The guy also has serious connections via his parents. Summarisation has quite a long history in NLP and lots of other people have done this to varying degrees. There are also other companies doing this (TLDR for example) - imagine how they must feel.
Peter Nguyen April 03, 2013 at 03:10 PM
We should meet up and grab some lunch some time! I'd be really interested in talking about some ideas I have that are simple to implement but can catch on quite quickly if the right marketing/executing team is behind me! Best, -Peter.
Peter Nguyen April 07, 2013 at 04:12 PM
Can you help me get my business off the ground? I'm in need of investors now for something I've been working on for months: I've been working 18 hours a day for the past 4 months, and I've helped tons of people around the world lose weight and get fit without pain. I've created a web community, exercise programs, and a new paradigm for home fitness. I am over 48k in debt though, and I really need help. Can you please help me spread the word? http://www.gofundme.com/bounding-shoes http://crossbounding.com Best, -Peter.
Peter Nguyen April 07, 2013 at 04:13 PM
Hi Hamada, I really need your help! Would you be able to help people know about my http://gofundme.com/bounding-shoes campaign? Thank you! -Peter.
Bernhard Sombekke April 11, 2013 at 01:48 PM
Peter, was wondering how you implemented your algorithm, did it capture/rip/crawl the internet for data, taking information/articles from websites like NYT, Life, Guardian... I thought perhaps the reason Summly is successful is because he officially works with these companies. Good luck with what your doing... Bernhard
Peter Nguyen April 11, 2013 at 02:44 PM
I did not work with the companies. I crawled and scraped the information, finding relevance in contextual keywords that were set forth by the search. I was only taking Google/Yahoo Search Results and mashing them up with results from RSS feeds from various news sources and coming up with a comprehensive page. It was simple, and I know Summly is extremely simple. They do not understand that HTML5 with supplant all those iOS apps VERY VERY SOON, so they should be watching their backs. As for Summly, it's now discontinued for my very same concerns 3 years ago. This kid's got connections. I'm onto better ventures now. I made about 100k with Insightlopedia in 2 years; Used it on a down payment for my parents home, and I was broke again right after. It was worth it, though! I then became technical director of Transparent Fish Labs in Palo Alto, and created systems for financial transparency in NGOs. You should check out my new http://crossbounding.com project. It's got the potential to help a lot of people!
Bernhard Sombekke April 11, 2013 at 03:07 PM
Hmm Are you sure its that simple. The SRI/Summly team probably put a lot of work into the algorithm which summarises longs texts into short pieces. Extracting information without losing the essentials is tough, even for the human mind, let alone a computer... Could you reflect on how you think Insightlopedia was close to Summly's solution... you collect information, but if I understand correctly you did not summarise or filter. Why you didn't resolve the issues with Google by working together with the content providers on a more formal basis...
Bernhard Sombekke April 11, 2013 at 03:09 PM
*Why didn't you resolve... [correction]
Peter Nguyen April 11, 2013 at 03:22 PM
I did summarize and filter it, number 1. It was the top answers pulled from the search engine results, digested and filtered down. I'm pretty sure it's simple. Most things are simple, but people make them sound complicated. I know I worked hard and got results, and ultimately created an algorithm change on Google's end. I don't regret any bit of it. I couldn't work with them because I was young and didn't understand the system. I made money, but I didn't know there were all these legalities I know after completing my degree in Media Studies and getting into the Masters of Information Management Systems program at Cal. I just didn't know at the time, and I decided to pursue other things.


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