Are we ready for answers?

Written by: Nishant Kumar

On May 6th, 2007

At each stage of life, we use different resource for questions. Starting with parents (when we were kids), then teachers, then friend(s), Professor(s) and the list goes on. We seem to be broadening the answer set. As internet becomes more prevalent, a new group is being introduced which potentially provides a forum to tap into the collective wisdom of the whole world. These are the new “QnA sites on web”. 

The services essentially work on two principles: 

1. Do not reinvent the wheel: Which translates to “If you have a question, somebody has already answered it or has the answer and waiting to be asked” 

2. Give back to the community: which translates to “If you have an answer, somebody is searching for it with a question” 

These services try to facilitate these exchanges. 

  

What do the users gain? 

1. Increased productivity: More often than not, the questions are just means to an end. It might be something technical which you need answer to move forward, or it is a nagging question which is eating up brain cycles (which can be otherwise used more productively) or it might be on lines of “how do i do this…” which has the potential to save a lot of time. 

2. Community aspect: It fulfills the need of being able to help others while deriving the usefulness of collective wisdom of the masses. 

3. Perspectives: For more subjective questions, it provides you with multiple perspectives. Some may be similar to yours; some may show you a completely different side. 

4. Ego boosters: Most of the sites have some kind of *contribute and get recognized* incentives, which are a way to satiate the *ego demand*. 

  

What do company gain? More answers you provide, more traffic you get, more eye balls, more exposure and more opportunities to monetize it (in today’s world – read ads) 

 

Current players in Indian Market: 

1. http://in.answers.yahoo.com/ 

2. http://indiahowto.com/ 

3. http://sawaal.ibibo.com/ 

4. http://qna.rediff.com/ 

  

How do these stack up? (What are my evaluation criteria?) 

1. UI of the site: Eye candy factor, usability etc. 

2. Content: Number of questions and their answers. 

3. Search Capability: It is easy to ask new questions, but can I easily find a question close to mine? 

4. Repeat Factor: Is the service compelling enough to come back once the question is answered. 

5. How active is the community? 

 

First Impression:

 First Impression

 

Notes:
1.     This is just the first impression (more detailed explanation and review in later post)
2.     iBiBo is a site in Alpha stage
3.     IndiaHowTo seems to be following more of the *Wikepedia* model rather than the traditional Q&A model. The ‘How do I do…” articles are well written and useful. The messaging about “is it Q&A site or not” is unclear
 

Let us know what you think of this growing trend of QnA sites and how do you think they are contributing to the collective wisdom of the web.

 

Sphere: Related Content

Entry Filed under: ibibo sawaal,india howto,QnA,rediff answers,yahoo answers

14 Responses

  1. 1. Vivek Garg said on May 6th, 2007 at 3:42 am

    I think more questions would mean more answers and this would create a network effect to keep and attract more users to the site. Based on this, rediff answers seems to be winning it right now. (assuming that the quality of the response is uniformly distributed)

  2. 2. Sashikanth D said on May 6th, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    I find that sites like these don’t really use the wealth of the net to answer questions, but really on their user base (which is almost negligible in comparison to the *entire* net).
    Yes, these sites help when we are looking for common questions. For that case, isn’t a well constructed query in google going to give a much better set of results ?
    Most answers I find are on blogs / FAQ / HOWTO sites that focus on the domain in question. How do these sites leverage the already existing answers on the web, and not make the users re-answer the same questions ? Aren’t these sites re-inventing the wheels themselves ?

  3. 3. Sashikanth D said on May 6th, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    At the same time i do agree that these sites give a more human feel to information search. I’m just skeptical of people compiling an exhaustive list of answers.

  4. 4. vslog said on May 7th, 2007 at 8:03 am

    I agree with Sashikanth. The pure Q&A model doesn’t seem scalable. Yahoo has always been excellent at traffic generation and terrible at monetization, so in my mind – there has been no successful implementation yet. I persoanlly prefer the ‘ask’ model of natural language interpretation. I hope they (or some) could use the vast amount of content being generated at these QnA sites and improve their natural language processing algorithms. To me that’s the one sustainable, monetizable and scalable way to improve search.

  5. 5. Jeremy Goodrich said on May 7th, 2007 at 10:50 pm

    Hi there-

    You didn’t include FunAdvice India: http://www.funadvice.co.in/ which, incidentally, is a more accurately “Indian” website than Yahoo Answers (their domain should be yahoo.co.in instead).

    Sure, we have about 500 members from India on the site, but the nice thing for FunAdvice users (like Yahoo Answers) is the replies & questions go into a global pool, which speeds replies and improves the experience for everybody.

  6. 6. Vivek Garg said on May 8th, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    Community approach of providing answers is not new and it has been quite successful. Consider wikipedia. When it started – it must have sounded like QnA sites. It collected community wisdom to queries. I believe QnA is trying to do the same thing but for specific questions instead of articles. And approaches like this will thrive till we have a search engine that can understand your question and form the most relevant answer on the fly- Not to forget the most authoritative answer around. Atleast, today this is not the case. check out search wikia that sits somewhere btn QnA and a search engine.
    http://search.wikia.com/wiki/Search_Wikia

    And a very good coverage of why such solutions are being considered at
    http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/114/features-why-is-this-man-smiling.html

  7. 7. Nishant Kumar said on May 8th, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    I agree (to a certain extent), that pure Q&A model is not scalable if we restrict it to ads as they are being shown today. I think ads as more of starting block.I see couple of things happening:

    1. In short term, we can expect the ads to be the driving factor. They need to become more and more contextual (think gmail ads) which would bump up the click through.

    2. In long term, I completely agree with vslog that more monetization need to stem from the huge amount of user generated data sitting with the Q&A company.

  8. 8. India Counts said on May 20th, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    Hi Friend…..

    We have just released an Indian Blogs Directory. We plan to develop the largest online Indian Bloggers Community. So please go ahead and include your blog into our directory. You can link to us or write about us on your blog. Not mandatory for submission though.

    You can submit your blog here:
    http://indiacounts.com/

    Regards
    India Counts

  9. 9. Vivek Krishna said on May 21st, 2007 at 8:27 am

    It would be interesting to discuss why Google closed down its answers service.
    As a user, one was assured of high quality answers. Despite that the service doesnt seem to have been worthy of the search giant’s attention and resources..Strange

  10. 10. Vivek Garg said on May 25th, 2007 at 1:16 am

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Answers

    I think the model was different than the one we are discussing here. Also, I am always amazed when its assumed that Google shutting a service means it was not worthy. I think there were shortcomings with the service itself and Google killed the project because they did not succeed after trying for years.

  11. 11. Vivek Krishna said on May 25th, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    The fundamental model is still the same.Someone asks a question on any topic and others jump in to answer.Services differ in the kind of incentives they offer to users to answer the question.Some offer monetary while others offer a community based karma system.

    I think google answers had a strong incentive scheme.It resulted in some really good quality responses. Alas according to Google there were too few users using ‘answers’ to continue the service. May be they felt it competed with search.
    As of now the kind of information that I expect to get from an answer service can be obtained by doing a web search(more or less).

    These new QnA websites must offer something more than offering simplistic answers so that users come back when they need help. They should tap the knowledge of experts in the field and provide them strong incentives to
    provide quality answers (may be build a reputation system as a measure of expertise on a topic) then some quality answers would show up.

    Also I doubt if generic QnA services will work. Each website must specialize in a specific area. The point is this..When a user needs expert advise on a particular topic he/she must be able to find the portal on the website more useful and compelling than a web search. Generic websites somehow fail to convey this message.

    Thinking about closure of google answers may lead to better models of answers.

  12. 12. vivek garg said on May 29th, 2007 at 3:45 am

    I think there is a market for both. Not everyone needs an expert. At times you want your stupid/social question answered or may be you are curious about something. These QnA sites come to the rescue to such questions.

  13. 13. Sushil said on June 13th, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    hey Guys,

    No updates since long time? Keep posting new articles,

    -Sushil

  14. 14. Sudeepto chatterjee said on July 22nd, 2007 at 11:44 pm

    Sir,
    I was trying to get the numbers of Q and A for the different qna sites, but could not since the Q were repeated on Rediff and Ibibo every few pages. So, I am curious to know how you have arrived at the numbers that you have.

    Also, I am not sure if content volume is an exact criterion for rating a site. A quick look at any of these sites shows that most of the content is junk. So, what can one do with such a huge volume of junk – I cannot see how it can be useful.
    Rather, a good assessment criterion would have been content volume versus quality content. This I believe is a more scientific indicator of how the different sites rate.
    Again regarding your criterion:”.. is it compelling enough to come back”
    needs to be qualified. Compelling in what sense – quality of answers (they all fail), ease of using the system (they all pass), trust worthiness of the answer-afterall, except for the philistine who has plenty of time and just asks for the sake of asking, most of us when we ask, do so as we are looking for an answer – they all fail except for Indiahowto which is again a bit limited in range of topics.
    Plus, a quick look reveals to me atleast a few other good but non-fashionable that are in this field and provide much better service.
    A small piece of advice, if you don’t mind: To be taken seriously, you need to write well. To write well, good research is invaluable.
    Thank you,
    Sudeepto

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