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Microsoft To Launch 'Question' Site 123

prostoalex writes "Microsoft will try to make the search process more social, Business Week reports, by creating a question-and-answer Web site. They certainly are entering a quite crowded niche." From the article: "It's one of the many ways that Web companies, including Yahoo and Google, are trying to set themselves apart with social search, a targeted pursuit of information that's influenced by the preferences of a person's peer group. Social search is a method whose time has come, Osmer says. Microsoft research shows that generic search engines can't answer 50% of queries asked, he says. The new tool, whose name he didn't disclose, will be 'one of the larger projects for us' this year, Osmer says."
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Microsoft To Launch 'Question' Site

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  • Name? (Score:5, Funny)

    by matt4077 ( 581118 ) on Saturday April 15, 2006 @08:51AM (#15135057) Homepage
    Hopefully not amateursexchange.com. Sounds like pain.
  • by mrowton ( 828923 ) on Saturday April 15, 2006 @08:56AM (#15135067) Homepage
    Has anyone ever used one of these answer services?

    Its probably more suited toward generic [google.com] questions than technical [google.com] questions.

    Seems like niche forums/mailing lists are where most of the action is. Not sure what search engines are trying to accomplish here.
    • I've been using http://www.answerbag.com/ [answerbag.com] since 2004 for my Q&A needs.
    • Not sure what search engines are trying to accomplish here.

      This database of PAQs (Previously Asked Questions) becomes a reliable knowledgebase that search engines can index to provide quality content as responses to searches, thus increasing relevance (and quality) of search results.

      As of now experts exchange has the largest database of such "questions". Somehow google answers just doesn't seem to be generating as much furore (neither is yahoo answers) compared to experts exchange.

      I'm guessing that
    • Dunno, but if I ask about a STOP 0x000008B, is it going to suggest switching to OSX, putting a strikethrough through it, and then tell me to buy a new Dell which comes with a proper license of XP Pro Most Expensive Edition?
    • In all fairness, setting up VPN connections with Cisco equipment is not a low-level thing. In fact, I don't think its taught until the professional level certifications. $5.00 for someone to sit down and go through that config, talk to the question asker for more information, test on their home lab (us serious cisco guys have home labs)...all for $5.00.

      For $5.00 I might check cisco.com for a whitepaper on how to do it.
  • Where to start? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Glowing Fish ( 155236 ) on Saturday April 15, 2006 @08:56AM (#15135069) Homepage
    There are so many questions to ask about this...my first response is that attempts to make information more friendly don't seem to have that great of a track record. Does anyone remember "Ask Jeeves"? Compare how its interface competed with the super-minimalist interface of google.

    Anyway, there is this one quote:
    Microsoft research shows that generic search engines can't answer 50% of queries asked, he says.

    What type of questions were they asking it? Were they factual questions, like "What is the Capital of Burundi?", or were they process oriented questions, such as "How can you make cookies that are not too hard, but are cooked all the way through?" The first question, if you type "capital Burundi" into google, you get an answer for. Trying to search for information on the second would be much harder, I imagine.
  • Peer group? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chemisor ( 97276 ) on Saturday April 15, 2006 @08:58AM (#15135073)
    > targeted pursuit of information that's influenced by the preferences of a person's peer group.

    Excuse me, but when I am looking for information, finding only what my peers think is good for me is the last thing I would want. Social conformity is the death of truth.
    • by Woldry ( 928749 )
      I think everyone should be a nonconformist!
    • But is truth the death of social conformity?
    • A lot of times, especially in work environments, knowing what your peers think is very important. Whenever we're talking about some kind of new project or device or program or whatever, the first thing I do is figure out what the standard, accepted way of doing things is. Most of the time, and especially in terms of technology, the approach of a majority of your peers is going to be the best-documented and -supported approach.

      Thinking outside the box is always nice, but it's important to know where the bo
    • Social conformity is the death of truth.

      Those who actually seek truth have known for a long time the one, immutable truth: Truth died in this country a long time ago. When Madison Avenue found that they could not sell truth at any price, the corporations decided truth had to die.

      Thus we have WMD, Enron, big tobacco, and Martha Stewart.

      And the idea that Microsoft would be even distantly involved with truth is ludicrous.
    • Social conformity is the death of truth.

      I might go one better, and suggest that *ANY* voting/popularity-based system can easily degenerate into mob rule. See also: democracy.

      But isn't this exactly what our beloved Google does? Isn't this exactly how a PR works?

      for example: I am *the* trusted source for cartoons (not really), because everybody links to my sig. That doesn't make my page *good* or *true*, simply *popular*.

  • Microsoft research shows that generic search engines can't answer 50% of queries asked, he says.
    In other words, every search engine answers queries for "free porn" just fine...? Sounds to me like everything's working properly!
  • You want answers? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mrowton ( 828923 )
    This [20q.net] has always been the best place to ask questions.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why do you suck so much?

    Anonymous Coward
    • The problem is Microsoft internal culture. They live from review to review which comes every June. Long term success of your project is irrelevant and orthogonal to this process - what matters is (in the order of importance):

      1. Short term "visibility" (MSFT term) before the review. If you're not visible, you won't be promoted, given a bonus, or recognized as someone who does the job. Doing a good job is not enough. In fact you don't even have to do a good job for as long as you're "visible".
      2. Not saying an
  • >Social search is a method whose time has come, Osmer says.

    Coming from Microsoft, this sounds like a threath to me, heehee...
  • by hackstraw ( 262471 ) * on Saturday April 15, 2006 @09:07AM (#15135100)

    I have the answer.


  • Here goes... Why doesn't Microsoft dedicate resources to finish Vista instead of doing things that are already being handled well by others.
  • Maybe shashdot should do this as well!

    We could call it "ask slashdot"!

    Once again we see the excellent innovations coming from micrisoft!

    So Taco what do you think?
  • by jlebrech ( 810586 )
    but will it have the linux HOWTOs.
    • That is a good point.. No matter how well designed the search engine is, i for one would not use it (putting aside my anti-ms bias) purely because you are asking questions through the services of a company who obviously has other interests... I realise i'm not explaining myself well, so an example: How must trust could you put in the answer to the question "What is the most secure operating system for my business?" when asking a company whose primary income is selling operating systems? (once again, i'm not
    • Linux HowTos? Microsoft?? I doubt it. They gave up the Linux, or actually the UNIX ship when they no longer are involved with Xenix. Remember SCO Xenix used to be "a Microsoft Company."

      You probably were joking, but there is an earlier connection between Microsoft and a Unix flavor, so I just wanted to throw that out there.. :-)
  • by padriec ( 926110 ) on Saturday April 15, 2006 @09:13AM (#15135108)
    Haven't librarians been doing this since time out of mind? I don't see what all the hoopla is about. Ask a librarian and you'll get good, timely, factual information and a lot of it. Ask one of these services and I shudder to think what you'll get.
  • Innovation (Score:2, Interesting)

    by munehiro ( 63206 )
    Not to be a Redmond basher (well... I am).... but are they going to produce something innovative sometimes?
    Because it seems that microsoft shut down the R&D department so long ago. Or maybe they never had one...
    Probably they have a C&P department... who knows?
    • Because it seems that microsoft shut down the R&D department so long ago.

      Well, it's more like everybody else (HP/Compaq, Bell Labs, etc.) shut down their research labs, while Microsoft has been expanding them in the last 10 years..
  • My first question will be when is ACS coming out? The release of this product is becoming synonymous with Duke Nukem Forever.
  • by expro ( 597113 ) on Saturday April 15, 2006 @09:18AM (#15135124)

    The filtering and social assumptions in searches seems to be the problem, not the answer.

    Under Google's leadership, real raw search capabilities have regressed, and we are supposed to be happy with Google interpreting a simple search in a way that supposedly makes most searchers happy (happy compared to what?).

    IMO, before further filters and dumbing-down are useful, you need a powerful basic search engine that allows you to ask advanced search questions.

    Of course, this sort of open capability of search engines might reduce Google's proprietary control of the searches.

    What if you could do a honest search that did not factor in the prior popularity of the site, but relied on other criteria, so that a new site with unique content might have a chance of getting found? What if you could make advanced characterizations of the sort of content you were looking for? What if any third party could make these characterizations for you so there could be competition in usage of the dominant search engines -- for example a better Froogle produced by just formulating advanced Google searches for users.

    • What if you could do a honest search that did not factor in the prior popularity of the site, but relied on other criteria, so that a new site with unique content might have a chance of getting found?

      Oh, you mean, so my search results would begin with nineteen pages of splogs? Bright idea. I wonder why no-one's thought of it before.
      • Which is why google is designed for idiots who do not know how to search for something better. But for non-idiots who want something better, you would get something better than what is offered now.
    • IMO, before further filters and dumbing-down are useful, you need a powerful basic search engine that allows you to ask advanced search questions. Of course, this sort of open capability of search engines might reduce Google's proprietary control of the searches.

      You are entitled to your opinions, but most people think Google's Pagerank [wikipedia.org] goes a long way to forfilling Google's mission, to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." The system does allow for "advanced se

      • by twitter ( 104583 )
        I forgot to link in this study [slashdot.org] which showed M$ manipulating their results to favor IIS. The silly games those people play.

      • You do realize that you can find "unpopular" and "undiscovered" sites on Google by starting on page 20 of the results, don't you? When you have 100,000 sites to work with, you can be sure that you have not heard of 99,990 of the results.

        Duh. The point is being able to get the site you want without having to manually search through the 20 pages of junk.

        That you would even make such a suggestion that this is how someone looking for something based on a non-popularity-contest criterion -- advanced searching

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 15, 2006 @09:26AM (#15135140)
    What's the last digit of pi, as best as can determined?

    M5 Unit...working
    • It is 3 if you write the digits in order of ascending significance.

      It is 1 (or 0 depending upon when you quit writing implied 0's) if you write it in base Pi. There are many other competent representations that have a last digit

      In base 10 descending order, it is foo.

      Or were you just asking to be rhetorical?

    • I'm glad you're willing to accept "As best as can be determined". We don't have the exact digit yet, but the latest work has narrowed down the last digit of pi to a fairly small set of digits. At this point, it's looking as though the last base-10 digit of pi is either 4, 6, or 2. However, analysis indicates that it could also be 9, 5, or 1. Finally, there's a chance that it could be 8, 3, 0, or 7. So we don't know exactly, but we're pretty sure it's one of those.

      What's that you say? Pi has no last di
    • 4 ;-)
  • I used to get answers for all my life-changing questions from it!
  • Is Steve Balmer really a monkey?
    • if this type of "social search" is anything new, it could be hot. take something like multiply or myspace, blend in the hardware and software geeks that hang out here, it could be hot.
  • by VxJasonxV ( 792809 ) on Saturday April 15, 2006 @09:35AM (#15135163)
    Experts Exchange is the most worthless tech site ever, for 1 reason:
    Their policy.

    I don't like seeing your results on my google searches, and teasing me with a question, and no answer.
    I don't want to register, I don't like 'hit and run' registering.
    I don't like you.

    So what I did instead... is signed up for a google account, and filtered your site out of all of my searches.

    And guess what I'm doing?
    I'm getting my answers elsewhere. For free. With no, god knows what privacy problem, registrations.

    Experts Exchange... eat me.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Instead of clicking "subscribe" just scroll down on the page and lo and behold there is the answer.
      • Indeed, their huge text "subscribe to read the answer" is a bit misleading, but I have found reasonable useful stuff in there for free after I found it the answer is actually there at the bottom to read for free. I guess I would just sod them just like the GP if they didn't show the answer, and would just move on to someplace useful. But what I think is the main plan is to remove the free answers at the moment that they have enough momentum to survive un paying subscribers. If that will ever happen of cours
    • I don't want to register, I don't like 'hit and run' registering.

      If you have an infreuqent question then don't register. If you're always asking questions, Googling for stuff it's worth the time it takes to register at EE.

      My $0.02
    • Has EE changed their format recently? When I've searched in the past, the replies were about a page below the question--I've never had a problem finding an answer. And I've never bothered joining.
    • Experts Exchange doesn't ask you to register all the time. They have some random nag wherein you are asked to register to view their answers only once in a while. Quite often their answers are available in the first go.

      Either ways, its a very good place to get questions answered; well worth the registration.
    • EE upsets me as well, for the same reasons you listed. If I see the question on EE, it's usually not more than a few more clicks until I can find the right answer on some message board and get it for free.

      And with EE, you never know if the "answer" is exactly what you're looking for or will even work right.

      My question though, how the heck did you tell Google never to include EE in your searches? I know the -site command, but how did you make that default?
      • If you are logged into your google account, you'll see "Remove Result" links. Click it, then more options, and you get the following choices:
        For this search, remove this page
        For all searches, remove this page
        For all searches, remove all pages from

        Just use the last, and POOF. No more nuisance from them.
    • Wait.. to avoid signing up for some crazy internet company's service, you signed up for another internet company's service?
  • I wonder if microsoft has finally met a market they cannot buy, strongarm, or sue themselves into. Seems they are worried about being left behind and trying to wedge themselves into the search engine market any way they can. Maybe they are just finding it harder to make people think they are the only game in town.
  • If a question doen't has answers(i assume they will get to answer alot).reformulate question into terms search engines understand.

    How do fish swim? google:fish swimming
    Or if you are confident it has real answers: Just :"How do fish swim"
    Though it filtersvaluable information too.
    • by Woldry ( 928749 ) on Saturday April 15, 2006 @10:20AM (#15135280) Journal
      I can see you've never worked a library reference desk. Sadly, half the time the person asking the question doesn't understand the terms they're using to ask. Rule number one in reference work is never to trust what the patron gives you.

      I've had people come in asking:

      Where are your car books? (they wanted a bio of Mario Andretti)

      "How do you burn stuff?" (they wanted info on pyrography)

      "What do you have on crafts?" (they wanted to know how to carve pumpkins)

      "I need a map of the world." (they wanted to plan a trip to Egypt ... and thought they could drive there)

      "Where is that ambulance book?" (they wanted the World Almanac)

      "What can you tell me about Greece?" (they wanted the price for a 1943 coin from there)

      Now, being a librarian, I can ask clarifying questions and figure out more precisely what they're looking for. Thus far, search engines have proved to be very very bad at doing this. If Microsoft's upcoming site proves to be better at it, more power to it. But all the hype about AI notwithstanding, computers have a very long way to go to be able to do it half so efficiently or perceptively as a human being.

      Putting the burden on the seeker to "reformulate the question" probably works well for most Slashdotters (given that they tend to show above average intelligence and articulation), but assumes far too much intelligence on the part of the average seeker.
      • Turn a question into description of data source you search,Categorize,remove ambiguous parts.

        Searching the answer to question "How to port between Foo and Bar with these libraries?"
        Becomes " +Porting + Foo +Bar " and the solution may not involve libraries at all.
        • Nope, still doesn't help. First of all, the "ambiguous" parts might be the only useful info in the patron's question. The person who asked for "How to burn stuff" used a very ambiguous term -- "burn" (flambes? CDs? refuse? butter for frosting? rubber? the midnight oil?). Yet that term was the only clue in the question as to the real nature of the answers the patron was seeking. (For that matter, there are no UNambiguous terms. Not one. So how does the computer figure out which ones to eliminate?)

          • Categorize all knowledge?
            1.Identify Knowledge Domain (The field)
            2.Indentify category of Question(The subject)
            3.Remove ambiguous data which can change
            for similar questions of this domain.
            4.Search for matching Data sources in the Category,With subject only.
            5.refine search by looking up it in the data source(*which is usually site dedicated to knowledge domain question asked).

            Of course searching a Book by its visual appearance or Pumpkin carving "craft" in
            google is useless.
            We need a way to search data By tags
  • Why did you release the 360 knowing it could heat a 10x12 room.
  • But I guess the problem with newsgroups is that their nntp protocol doesn't give make enough provision for advertising. Yes, that's one reason I like it.
  • yahoo's answer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by escay ( 923320 )
    Yahoo's answers [yahoo.com] service is very neat - large community, quick replies and decent indexing. it's, AFAIK, the model solution for social search where you can ask arbitrary questions with no efficient formatting and still get results (if not a definitive answer) - because, let's face it, software (search engines) hasn't evolved to the level of understanding that a human has.
  • by manastungare ( 596862 ) <.eman.eragnut. .ta. .sanam.> on Saturday April 15, 2006 @10:44AM (#15135357) Homepage
    It's 42. The hard part is knowing the question.
  • How can I configure so that it doesn't crash at inconvenient times, so that it doesn't need a dozen security updates every month, and so that it will work like marketing claims it will?

    Where can I find linux?

    Why does Vista look so much like OS X?

  • The new tool, whose name he didn't disclose, will be 'one of the larger projects for us' this year, Osmer says."

    Without Vista or Office being released this year, I suppose Vole had to release at least something. Unfortunately for Microsoft this is another prime example of follow the leader. I sincerely hope that Microsoft will start developing their own products instead of quereying Google Answers "What other products do you have the we should make?".

    The two things that appear to spur adoption in IT pro
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Saturday April 15, 2006 @11:08AM (#15135436) Homepage Journal
    It doesn't always work butI find that if you enter a plain english question as your google search, it often gives you better results than trying to think up the right keywords. I've tried it for questions as mundane as "Where can I find a breakfast burrito in boulder colorado?" to ones as esoteric as "Why does asparagus make my pee smell funny?" Sometimes you'll find out something suprising. Like it turns out there are a rather a lot of people who ask that second question.

    A lot of beginners have problems coming up with good search terms, so I usually tell someone just starting out that they should try entering a plain english question before they try to get too fancy with their searches.

  • ... in the MS Office help as reference, I would estimate the service will sucessfull answer 0% of my questions.

    The only way to find something there is via the keyword search. If it doesn't work on content where they have controll over the content, I can't imagine it working when they don't have controll over the content

  • The feature will let users direct questions to a specific universe, such as a group of friends, rather than to get automated lists of results from a generic search engine.

    Forums anyone?
  • questionville.com
  • I'm tired of all of the things meant to make searching the web easier- I would like something more effective. What I would love to see is a search engine that will allow me to search using a combination of regular expressions and something that perhaps resembles SQL.
    It seems to me that too many people focus on making things "easier" when we should be focusing on making them "better' and let the users learn how to use things properly instead of molly-coddling them.
    Microsoft seems to be the worst about t

The best book on programming for the layman is "Alice in Wonderland"; but that's because it's the best book on anything for the layman.