Wednesday, 28th July 2010
And Another: Facebook Launches Their Q&A Service to 1% of User Base
At the beginning of June, we posted about Facebook beginning to test a Q&A service, discussed several issues that it brought up, and shared some history with a look at several other Q&A services, many no longer available including the much talked about but no longer available, Google Answers.
Since then we've had the launch of Quora and just the other day the relaunch if you like of Ask.com with a focus on answering questions (in many cases directly on a results page) plus the release of a new Q&A service (beta).
But wait, that's not it for this week.
Word from Facebook (the company with 500 million active users) that the beta test that came online in June is expanding (but it continue to only be available for some users).
From the Facebook Blog:
Millions of people ask their friends questions on Facebook every day. What new music should I listen to? Where's the best sushi place in town? How do I learn to play the piano?
Today we're introducing Facebook Questions, a beta product that lets you pose questions like these to the Facebook community. With this new application, you can get a broader set of answers and learn valuable information from people knowledgeable on a range of topics.
Since we like to develop products carefully over time with your help, Facebook Questions is available to a limited number of people right now***, and we'll be developing it rapidly based on their feedback. We're aiming to bring this product to all of you as quickly as we can.
Facebook Questions helps you tap into the collective knowledge of the more than 500 million people on Facebook. For example, if you're vacationing in Costa Rica and want to know the best places to surf, you can use Facebook Questions to get answers from nearby surfing enthusiasts. Because questions will also appear to your friends and their friends, you'll receive answers that are more personalized to you.
The Next Web reports that about, "1% of its userbase, or 5 million people" will know have access to the Facebook Q&A service.
The NextWeb also points out:
All questions are searchable, meaning that Facebook, starting now, is building a giant repository of information that people want and need. Will there be significant chaff? Of course, and poorly spelled chaff at that, but over the next months Facebook is going to answer tens of millions of questions, disrupting large swaths of the internet. The numbers that are to be considered with this service make it important from day one, which is today."
Note: Ask claimed the other night that they have 500 million answer pairs in their database.
One point that's not made by Facebook or in the NextWeb article is that there are many types of questions. Asking for the best place to surf, a great place to eat, or the best place in New York City to workout is one type of query and Facebook, Vark, Quora, (place name of service here), might do a great job!
However, what about other types of questions like those where the person asking the question wants background and resources to explore on their own or a factual information. Both of these types of queries most likely want current information from a reliable source that can be quoted. We wonder when a student receives an answer posed on Facebook, if the teacher grading the report will be happy with the student citing in the bibliography, "latefordinner88" or "wellreadinSeattle101" as the source? (-: If it's not a student, with the reach that Facebook has plan on hearing stories about executives and the media giving outdates stats or other info because the went to Facebook and that was their research process.
It would be interesting over the course of a month or quarter to see how many answers include the phrases, "check with your library" or "give the library a call" or "ask a librarian."
If this is happening, it's sad but understandable that the person with the query didn't contact the library in the first place even if it is 3am on Sunday or Christmas Day.
Where is OCLC in all of this? In just a few days (if not less) Facebook's Q&A service will get more attention than QuestionPoint and the underlying services it powers have ever received. Why? What can (if anything) OCLC do to get the word out about the professionally powered Q&A services they offer or is it too late? For a typical user, where is the value in using QuestionPoint (that's assuming they know about it) vs. just getting something "good enough" from Facebook or one of many other services not even taking into account that the type of question they're asking would be best asked elsewhere?
Finally, a few variations on the questions we asked about Ask.com the other day.
1) Who is going to be responsible for keeping the database of asked and answered questions updated with the latest info? Will there be any human editorial intervention whatsoever?
2) How will Facebook handle answers that are plain wrong either posted unknowingly or on purpose?
3) How will question or answer spam be handled? Will it be looked for? In other words, what's stopping someone or a group of people for constantly suggesting products and services that might not be relevant or for the most part commercials?
4) Does quality (currency, accuracy, underlying source) of the answer count? Along with personal recommendation what other sources will those answering questions be using. How many will result from the person going to Wikipedia or Google, typing in 3.5 words and that becoming the answer?
Disclosure: As we do whenever we mention Ask.com:
Gary (who put this post together) used to work at Ask. He has not been an employee at Ask for about 2.5 years.