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Amazon Launches Answers Service Beta 66

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the more-you-know dept.
Fennec writes "Amazon.com has launched a beta of a new service called Askville, yet another online answers service, flavored with "Experience Points, Levels, and Quest Coins." These coins will supposedly become useful some day on another Amazon service that's not actually open yet, Questville. If this virtual currency becomes useful, could Askville fill a place between strictly volunteer systems and pay-for-answer services like the now-defunct Google Answers? Or is it destined to fail in the already-saturated online Q&A market?"
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Amazon Launches Answers Service Beta

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  • Has anyone actually used one of these services for a real inquiry?
    • by Dunbal (464142) on Friday February 23, 2007 @07:30AM (#18120664)
      Has anyone actually used one of these services for a real inquiry?


      YES

            That will be $15.95 please.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by UbuntuDupe (970646)
        More like:

        YES

        That will be $0 please.

        *one week later*

        "Hey, why the fuck did Amazon just bill my credit card $15.95?"
    • by Psycosys (886125) on Friday February 23, 2007 @07:40AM (#18120716)
      Why bother with one of these services when I can just Ask Slashdot for free?
      • by mrvan (973822)
        Ask Slashdot! The only place that moderates obvious irony as 'insightful'!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by tinkertim (918832) *

        Why bother with one of these services when I can just Ask Slashdot for free?


        I suppose you're free to chose. Which would you like flogged more, your ass or your AMEX?
      • I paid $5!
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by FooAtWFU (699187)
        You can actually ask a question on Amazon's service for free, as well. Amazon is the group "paying" for the answers. I suppose they hope to gain from it by people recommending books and other things they sell (they have a field where you can recommend Amazon products along with the answers).
      • Agreed, especially because on Slashdot you can ask a legal question and get advice from non-lawyers.

        Try doing that with Askville!

    • by laejoh (648921)

      As I already know the answer (42) but am not sure about the question...



      NO
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by aplusjimages (939458)
      I've used Yahoo! Answers quite a bit. Unfortunately its become more of an area to bash other peoples politics, religion, or sexual orientation, but every once in a while you'll get some serious questions and some serious answers.
    • by jfengel (409917)
      Yeah, actually. I wanted to know the proper names of the tragedy/comedy masks. It seemed that they should have a proper Greek name.

      It turns out that they don't, and that's why no amount of Googling found an answer. Sometimes you just have to ask an expert. It was worth five bucks to me.
      • Or do you want me to shell out US$ 2.5 to you? I will, if it's easy... but I must say it would be very cheap of you (especially considering that your answer will be googlable if you post it here, and you will save the next guy US$ 5).
        • by jfengel (409917)
          That's the thing: they don't have a name. They're just "comedy/tragedy masks".

          Ironically, I did google my own answer at one point. I asked the question and put up twenty bucks (not five; I mis-remembered), but never received any notification that there was an answer. I forgot entirely about it until a few months later when I tried to answer the question, and my own question came up on Google.

          Anyway, here's my query:

          http://www.answers.google.com/answers/threadview?i d=348285 [google.com]
    • Before it closed down, I used google answers all the time. Sometimes my questions went unanswered. Sometimes I got excellent answers. The most useful answers I got involved math and science. I needed to create a recommendations engine for products and didn't know where to go to find out how to do it. So, I asked at google answers and got enough information to actually be able to implement it. (and it has long worked quite well) I ended up paying $30 plus a $20 tip, but it was well worth it.

      When google answe
  • by Yoozer (1055188) on Friday February 23, 2007 @07:34AM (#18120682) Homepage
    This sounds more like a game than an actual useful search engine.

    On the other hand, having services like this and virtual cash in several games, maybe it's time to propose some kind of uniform standard instead of getting a huge selection of virtual currency (which will happen anyway because lots of different standards for the same are fun). Exchange Quest Coins against Warcraft Gold so you can finally buy that weapon, sell off your character and use the profit to buy Wii points so you can get more virtual console games, in the meantime paying a percentage to whatever virtual bank pops up in Second Life or so. Just great.
    • Not so simple (Score:1, Interesting)

      by mattcasters (67972)
      You would have to force the authors/admins of the different virtual worlds to not distribute unlimted amounts of the virtual currencies.
      Otherwise like, in the real world, this would lead to enormous devaluations in other worlds.

      Suppose you did want to buy that weapon and all of a sudden there is this other game where you can get at the required funds very easily.
      It would seriously take out all the fun out of the games don't you think?

      In short, if you're going with a single currency, there would have to be a
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tomhudson (43916)

        "You would have to force the authors/admins of the different virtual worlds to not distribute unlimted amounts of the virtual currencies. Otherwise like, in the real world, this would lead to enormous devaluations in other worlds."

        You mean like Lindon Dollars in The Ponzi Scam Otherwise Known As Second Life?

        • Currently, central banks are trusted not to inflate their currencies to nothing, without being forced. In fact, this trust is quite strong. The Chinese government has invested a significant amount of revenues in long-term, low-yield U.S. government bonds, even though inflation slightly higher than historical averages would completely screw them over.

          Unlike fiat currencies, however, Linden Dollars *are* redeemable on demand for certain goods, at least from what I remember when I played. Specifically, to t
  • by kraemate (1065878)
    What is the fundamental difference between this and Google's failed attempt? To me, Google answers seemed pretty neat but obviously out of place. What has amazon got that'll turn things around and fill the gap? Won't Amazon suffer from the fact that it is primarily an e-commerce website?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kevin_conaway (585204)

      What is the fundamental difference between this and Google's failed attempt? To me, Google answers seemed pretty neat but obviously out of place. What has amazon got that'll turn things around and fill the gap? Won't Amazon suffer from the fact that it is primarily an e-commerce website?

      I'd guess that they have something useful that you can spend your "points" on. Imagine if you were able to put these "coins" towards an Amazon gift certificate

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      In its favour, Amazon is already a repository of fairly trustworthy opinion. But I'm not sure how it thinks the virtual money scenario will help it succeed where Google failed.

      People expect to find the answer to their question for free on the internet, and this is in the main a not unrealistic expectation. The more savvy user will - when Googling draws a blank - post a question on a relevant forum, where - again, in the main - it will be answered. For free. Thus, this kind of operation is doomed, as it o
  • Exactly... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Psycosys (886125)
    How many Quest coins are you offering for an answer to this question?
  • by weinrich (414267) on Friday February 23, 2007 @07:44AM (#18120730)
    45 Quest points awarded for providing the Accepted Answer. Points go to Ogre_KLR, a level 5 Mage with +14 HP and a penchant for scrolls of invisibility.
  • Yahoo Answers has long preported to offer rewards for answering questions, but so far the only rewards I've seen are a bumper sticker and a keychain, and both are awarded to any idiot who answers more than a (very low) set number of questions. Basically, they want to generate free traffic and advertising revenue. I wouldn't use the service unless they were paying cash money, but then of course it would just go away, because as Google found out, not that many people are willing to put up cash for an answer.
    • by iknowcss (937215)
      People aren't willing to pay money for an answer over the internet. They know what they're looking for is there for free anyways, why should they pay more to have some geek tell them? I know the obvious answer is "it's a service you pay for", but that mentality doesn't seem to trickle down to the subset of Internet users that would actually benefit from this service.

      Online Q&A sites are inherently flawed in their design. Unless someone comes up with a more unique (possibly more human?) method, no one w
  • I believe that the real problem lies in the fact that it is in general quite difficult to quantify the value of information. There have been always two extremes in the whole information seeking approach: either it's free, or you have to pay tons of cash to some agency/consulting firm/ the guy on the street who knows all about the crooks as shown in the movies. People in general find it quite difficult to go for the middle ground in this case. They either expect it free, or are so desperate that they'll shel
  • Experience Points, Levels, and Quest Coins or other virtual status rewards make sense. If we learned anything from WoW, it is that such things motivate people to spend time, and even money. But it would be more beneficial to start to give virtual brownie points to editors of the wikipedia, whose help can aid millions, rather than this commercial venture where answers will probably be read by relatively few. On the wiki, a status-based editor rating system that does not grant effective privilege could solve
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by h2g2bob (948006)
      Wikipedia has its own reference desk [wikipedia.org] where you can ask questions. It's volunteer based and the quality of the answers varies greatly. The idea is to have virtual librarians pointing people to places which can answer more properly, but often the questions are simply answered.
  • In theory, I cannot flaw this decision. If the reply/feedback must be from a person who has purchased the book, then this would immediately rule out many variables. Even better would be if Amazon sent a free copy of the book (to persons whose profile indicates they are interested in the subject) with the proviso that they must provide feedback. There could be a checklist that people responding must follow, and if the response does not meet certain Performance Indicators, then the cost of the book will no lo
  • Bring back newsgroups, I tell ya!

    I remember t' day when you could ask a stupid question on a newsgroup and get at least 5 answers for free, and all you had to do was decide which 4 were wrong. Now you have to pay (virtually or not) for the privilege...

    plus ca change,....
    • by djh101010 (656795) *

      Bring back newsgroups, I tell ya!

      I remember t' day when you could ask a stupid question on a newsgroup and get at least 5 answers for free, and all you had to do was decide which 4 were wrong. Now you have to pay (virtually or not) for the privilege...

      So, usenet is dead now? I didn't see the posting saying so. Actually I subscribe to news.individual.net for 10 Euro a year, and they provide excellent speed, retention, and spam filtering. No binaries groups though.

  • by mattr (78516) <mattr.telebody@com> on Friday February 23, 2007 @09:22AM (#18121190) Homepage Journal
    FWIW there was a similar answers thing on The Source IIRC which was the forerunner of niftyserve etc. That failed too. Google or Amazon would do far better to leave answering to the experts and take a cut from introducing a consulting firm, prof or author who knows his/her stuff. Put it this way, if there is something you need to know and it is worth paying money for it, wouldn't you go to an expert? Nothing Amazon or Google say indicates they can do more than search the web like you (unless you want to know about online selling or computational linguistics maybe). If google indexes businesses and human resources the way it does websites they might have something though.
  • Amazon now have two question answering services? Because NowNow [nownow.com] is also by Amazon. Why would they start two such similar services?
  • So does anyone know what this Questville thing-ama-bobber is?

    Sounds like fun.
  • Semantic Web (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Catil (1063380)

    Or is it destined to fail in the already-saturated online Q&A market?

    It may be saturated, but there still isn't a clear market-leader and that doesn't suprise me. People have quickly learned to use the omniscient Google/Wikipedia combination to find answers and I don't think that any Q&A service could compete as there is simply no gap at the moment. For example, if you want to know who Mozart was, then you could perhaps ask any Q&A service and eventually get a short answer, but you probably want to know more about him and about the music he did and maybe about other

  • Answering a Question (Score:4, Informative)

    by hhawk (26580) on Friday February 23, 2007 @09:43AM (#18121338) Homepage Journal
    I just answered a question...

    How it worked:
    #1 I have an amazon account so I was able to log right it (I like that)
    #2 It was hard finding a question that I would actually answer since the high level questions are very broad and I was lookig for a question I really know and understand.
    #3 I answered the question
    #4 I was asked to LINK web pages, Amazon Merch or a video to my answer
    #5 I got a gold coin
    #6 I saw other answers to the same question

    (see my reply to this question where I will detail my thoughts about the service)
    • by hhawk (26580)
      So what did I think of the service..

      There were some very strange questions in there like "how much would you pay for a Quantum Computer." Some were very detailed like questions about some error condition during a driver installation..

      The real question is the value of the answers. I put in my answer and I was able to see what else had been suggested. The question I answered, asked about uploading video from a cell phone to a computer. I took a direct approach and suggested a data cable and then link in some
      • by hhawk (26580)
        I've been trying out the service all day.. I've posted a few questions and asked some as well.. I've voted on others people answers also...

        What does that all mean?

        * You get a "gold coin" for everything you do (ask, answer, vote, etc.)
        * They accept 5 answers for each question
        * Each person who answers, gets to vote on the other answers (letting your experience and ego get in the way of what others might say..)
        * Based on the voting and other input, you basically get qualified in some particular area of domain
  • What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
  • This reminds me of experts-exchange. http://www.experts-exchange.com/ [experts-exchange.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Cylix (55374)
      I'm a member of ee...

      I'm not exactly a fan of the service. The rewards are far far too low. If I spend 30 minutes or longer answer a particularly rough question I might get some points out of it. EE does have some good ones and some good answers.

      However, that reward is pretty much nothing compared to what they will get when someone needs to see those answers. I myself started because I /needed/ a question to be answered and search results were turning up nil. (It was apparently answered and the post was qui
      • I just pay the monthly fee to get unlimited points. I ask questions there all the time. Sometimes they're answered and sometimes not, but when they're answered they're often answered in a helpful way.

        Sometimes it's just easiest to ask someone when I'm stuck with something. I had problems setting up qmail. I could have gone to a forum and been told that I should read the manual. But, instead I went to EE and actually got a helpful answer.
  • Us UK dwellers are out of luck with this service.
    • Reminds me of Red vs Blue:
        I'm a pacifist
        Your a thing that babies suck on?
        No man, that's a pediphile
        I think he means pacifier
        Oh... I was thinking of something else
  • There's also questionville.com which is free (for now at least).
  • "where can I find professional blouses or button downs for large busted, small waisted women?" Bet on how many answers take the form of: "Please submit pics so I can properly answer your question" I call 283...

There is no distinction between any AI program and some existent game.

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