Exploiting human intelligence: Windows Live QnA

This week we saw the beta of Windows Live QnA emerge. This is just another variation on the growing trend of research/search services that use people to generate answers rather than a search engine. The free QnA service allows anyone to submit a question and everyone else has 4 days to submit an answer. Each answer is voted on and the ‘best’ answer is the one with the most votes. A person gains a life long ‘reputation’ (a number of points) for signing up, voting, voting for the best answer, answering and supplying the best answer.

In contrast Google Answers is a paid service with a minimum cost of US$2.50 per answer. This way you receive a comprehensive, high-quality answer. It will be interesting to see the contrast with QnA. Another paid service is Mechanical Turk from Amazon. Here the emphasis is on tasks that humans perform better than machines, such as picture content recognition, rather than answers to simple questions. In a similar vein, CastingWords provides a paid transcription service for audio podcasts. All these paid services have created a valuable income source for experts and university students.

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About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

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