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THE WORLD OF GOOGLE
This article is from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Answers

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Text_of_the_GNU_Free_Documentation_License 

Google Answers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

Google Answers was an Internet search and research service offered for a fee by Google, "answer brokering". It was launched by Google in April 2002, and went out of Beta in May 2003. In late November 2006, Google reported that it planned to permanently shut down the service. As of November 30, 2006, new questions may no longer be asked, but existing questions may continue to be answered until December 30, 2006[1].

General

After the failure of the Google Questions and Answers service from August 2001, Google launched a new service called Google Answers in April 2002. It is an extension to the conventional search-- rather than doing the search themselves, users pay someone else to do the search. Customers ask questions, offer a price for an answer, and Researchers, who are called Google Answers Researchers or GARs, answer them. Researchers are not Google employees, but contractors that were required to complete an application process to be approved to answer for the site. They are limited in number (according to Google, there are more than 500 Researchers; in practice, there are fewer active Researchers). The application process tested their research and communication abilities.

Prices for questions range from $2 to $200; after a question is answered, Google keeps 25% of the payment, with the answering Researcher receiving the rest. In addition to the Researcher’s fees, a client who is satisfied with the answer may also leave a tip of up to $100.

If a question has not been answered, the client will not pay the question's price. However, in addition to the question's price, determined by the client, Google also charges a non-refundable $0.50 listing fee. Naturally, the higher the fee and the simpler the question, the more likely it is to be answered. Once a question is answered, it remains available for anyone to browse and comment on for free.

Each question page has three parts:

  • The client's question, on which the Researcher can respond with a request for clarification if any part of a question is unclear
  • The answer, which will remain empty if the question has not yet been answered. Only a Researcher can post an answer. Any Researcher can answer any question, although askers can specifically request a certain Researcher in the title or body of their question. After the answer is posted, the client may communicate with the Researcher to ask for clarification of the answer; the client can also rate the answer on a one- to five-star system and may tip the Researcher for a job well done.
  • The comment section, where any registered user, Researchers and non-Researchers alike, can comment on the question. Some questions are "answered" in comments before a Researcher can answer. Naturally, this section, too, could be left empty, if no comments have been posted.

Researchers with low ratings can be fired, a policy which encourages eloquence and accuracy. Also, Google states that people who comment may be selected to become Researchers, therefore inspiring high quality comments. In practice, however, no new Researchers have been hired since the original process in 2002. The service came out of beta in May 2003 and currently receives more than 100 question postings per day. For a Researcher, a question is answered by logging into a special researchers page and then "locking" a question they want to answer. This act of "locking" claims the question for that researcher. Questions worth less than $100 can be locked for up to four hours, and questions worth more than $100 may be locked up to eight hours at a time in order to be properly answered. A Researcher may only lock one question at a time.

On November 29, 2006 Google announced the closure of the service on the 30th December 2006 stating that "... the Answers community's limited size and other product considerations made it more effective for us to focus our efforts on other ways to help our users find information."[citation needed]

Constraints

Google Answers’ policy prohibits the Researchers from answering questions about the following subjects:

  • questions whose answers would promote illegal activities (for example, how to make a bomb)
  • copyright infringements and violations
  • Breach of privacy (for example, private phone numbers, email addresses, etc.)
  • Homework assignments
  • Questions about Google Answers itself, or about Google policies and mechanisms (PageRank, for example).
  • Google Answers prohibits its Researchers from answering with links to adult oriented sites.

Criticism

Librarians

Some librarians have criticised Google Answers as a service selling services that are part of the tasks of public librarians (in the United States). The most vocal of these critics has been former Google Answers Researcher Jessamyn West, whose contract has been terminated after violating the site’s terms of service [2], [3]. Other librarians have claimed that the service provides useful help, in parallel, and not instead of, reference librarians[4].

Google Answers as encouraging plagiarism

Some of Google Answers' critics have claimed that the service encourages plagiarism. The official Google Answers policy is to remove questions that are seen as school assignments. However, some journalists have expressed their concern that sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between a “legitimate” question and a homework assignment, especially in regards to sciences and programming. Google Answers’ public structure, or the fact that all answers will be later publicly available, prevents much plagiarism.

Unconventional usages

Except for the conventional usage — asking questions and getting answers that are appropriate to the price offered — several unique unconventional usages have been developed. Despite its professionalism, Google Answers has also developed its own unique cyberculture.

One of the popular non-conventional usages is to ask — usually but not always within the realm of the $2-$5 price range — nonsense questions. One of the most popular questions of this genre is in fact one of the most frequently asked questions on Google Answers — “What is the meaning of life?” [5]. Others questions request jokes or Chuck Norris "facts". Google Answers Researchers are not always keen to answer such questions.

Because the comment section is open for any registered user, it is sometimes abused by spammers, attempting to promote a site’s PageRank by mentioning their sites. Google Answers's team removes such spam.

Similarly to those posting nonsense questions, some users present their Google Answers version of trolling, by posting political statements in order to provoke a discussion, rather than get an answer.

Research about Google Answers

Google Answers has inspired studies on several aspects of the service.

  • Benjamin Edelman of Harvard University checked the Earnings and Ratings at Google Answers (pdf)
  • D Bainbridge, SJ Cunningham, JS Downie, “How People Describe Their Music Information Needs: A Grounded Theory Analysis Of Music Queries” (pdf)
  • SJ Cunningham, D Bainbridge, M Masoodian, “How people describe their image information needs: a grounded theory analysis of visual arts queries” Digital Libraries, 2004. Proceedings of the 2004 Joint ACM/IEEE Conference, June 2004
  • Tobias Regner, “Why Voluntary Contributions? Google Answers” CMPO Working Paper Series No. 05/115 [6]
  • Anne R. Kenney, Nancy Y. McGovern, Ida T. Martinez, Lance J. Heidig, “Google Meets eBay: What Academic Librarians Can Learn from Alternative Information Providers” D-Lib Magazine, June 2003, Volume 9 Number 6 [7]
  • Sheizaf Rafaeli, Daphne R. Raban, Gilad Ravid "Social and Economic Incentives in Google Answers", [8] (pdf)

Famous users

The usage of Google Answers is generally pseudonymous (through usernames). However, in few cases, users have revealed their alleged "true" identity.

  • In 2004, a user claiming to be Martin Lindstrom sought assistance in research, that later actually appeared in Lindstrom's book about sensual marketing.
  • Model/actress Amber Smith also sought help from Google Answers regarding her website.
  • Upon a user asking personal questions about his life on Google Answers, economist Paul Krugman answered the $100 question on his website [9].

Closing of the service

On December, 1, 2006, Google has officially closed its Google Answers service. When the user clicks on the home page of the service, the page alerts the user that the service has been retired. No new questions are being accepted as of November 30, 2006, but existing questions can be answered up until December 31, 2006. All previously asked and answered questions are still available for anyone to view. [10]

Google's website does not release any information about Google's cancellation. However, one possible reason is that the Google Answers service never generated very much traffic for Google, and did not have the same effect that Yahoo Answers had. Other possible factors contributing to the retirement of the service include fewer people using the Google Answers service, the fact that it was no longer linked from Google's home page, and the fact that Google did not notify people when their question had been answered and thus resulted in user non-satisfaction. Some experts have suggested that in light of its shortcomings, it would be better for the Google Answers service to be shut down, rather than to remain in a languishing state. [11]

The closure of Google Answers has caused some controversy, and some have even formed an online petition to persuade Google into keeping the service. The proponents of this petition believe that Google Answers has been a very valuable service, allowing its customers to find the answers to difficult questions, and allowing some of its researchers to use income earned through the service as their primary source of income. As of December 1, the day the service closed down, the petition has had over 420 signatures. [12]

Alternatives to Google Answers

  • Wikipedia:Reference desk
  • Guru.com
  • Yahoo! Answers

External links

  • Google Answers
  • "Web-Owls" Blog by former Google Answers Researchers, which includes GAR links, Bios & Contact info.
  • "Google Answers Alumni Association" -- discussion group for former Google Answers Researchers and Customers.
  • Google Guide – Google Answers
  • David Sarokin, "An Insider's View of Google Answers"
  • Cynthia Lystad, "Internet Travels of a Google Answers Researcher"
  • The Best of Google Answers
  • Jessamyn West. "Information for Sale: My Experience With Google Answers", Searcher, Vol. 10, No. 9. October 2002, retrieved November 21, 2006.
  • Jessamyn West. "Google Answers Back Or How to Become an Ex-"Google Answers" Researcher", Searcher, Vol. 11, No. 1. January 2003, retrieved November 21, 2006.

Regarding its cancellation

  • Petition to Keep Google Answers Alive!
  • Web-Owls: RIP Google Answers
  • YouTube video: "Save Google Answers"
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Answers"