April 19th, 2007 Brian Herzog
Another session I attended during the day were Mary Ellen Bates' "30 Search Tips in 45 Minutes," and she wasn't kidding. Mainly she pointed out relatively unknown or underused search tools, and some of the 30 were:
- Q&A websites - you post a question on a website and real people volunteer answers (i.e.: answers.yahoo.com, qna.live.com, askville)
- Quick Answers - ask a search engine a question and it will give you an answer instead of search results (i.e.: Ask.com's Smart Answers, Google's OneBox, MSN's Instant Answers)
- search engines you can customize (Rollyo.com, Yahoo Search Builder, Google Coop)
- Kosmix.com - search engine with excellent topic clustering
- NationMaster.com - source for national statistics on world countries, with data from government sources
- Yahoo Mindset - search features a slider bar to weight results towards "shopping" or towards "research" [pretty neat]
- Ask.com's Maps - gives both driving and walking directions, taking paths, walkways and topography into account
- Academic web searches (Google Scholar, Live Academic)
- Search engine comparison (Dogpile.com's CompareSearchEngines -
- Google's searchmash - search all Google engines, and results from each are expandable on a single page
- OneLook.com's reverse dictionary - you type in a definition and it suggests words (i.e.- throwing someone out of a window
- answers.com - free search website that pulls in answers from many other web resources
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December 19th, 2006 Brian Herzog
This has already been mentioned, but Amazon.com is launching a service for answering reference questions, and calling it "Askville."
I was a beta tester for the service, and last week received an email saying the service is going live. In it, they gave this brief description:
Askville is a community based website where users can easily ask and answer questions, share their knowledge and meet others with similar interests. Additionally, you can earn experience points in various topics and Quest coins, Askville's virtual currency. Eventually, you will be able to your Quest coins on an upcoming site called Questville.com scheduled to launch in 2007.
As the LibrarianInBlack pointed out, Askville is incorporating social networking to answer questions - and from the few questions I posed to the service, the answers were of good quality and with quick turnaround. Having average lay netziens answering questions (rather than degreed librarians) means answers must still be considered within the context of the source, but the social critical mass approach has worked well for Wikipedia.
What I'm not sure about is the whole Questville.com coins thing. Askville allows you to earn coins by asking and answering questions, and also by rating given answers. I presume coins will be cashed in to buy stuff. Perhaps this is the component that Google Answers was missing - if Amazon can figure out a good business model for social reference, then I'm sure Google Answers will find a way back into the market, too.
In the meantime, there's always your local library and places like the Internet Public Library that still do this without gimmicky profit schemes.
For more on Askville, check their blog.
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