This is a guest post by Squealer from Squealing Rat.
Getting answers to your questions is becoming an increasingly popular service to offer on the internet. Now there are several services that are different takes on this concept.
(David’s note: there are a couple of services here that are currently in an invite-only beta. We’ve gotten a few invites for each one to give to you, our wonderful readers. See the end of this post for how to score an invite – make sure to stay tuned, we’ll let you know when they go public!)
Yahoo Answers has been around for what seems like forever. And the site does seem a little dated. But this popular service, becoming increasingly less popular, still manages to get the job done. Site questions still manage to work their way up to the first page of a Google search result, regardless of content.
The site gives you the ability to compose a question, then release it to an audience based on topic. The question/answer system is based on points. You gain points by answering questions, even more points by getting chosen as the best answer to the question, and lose points every time you ask a question. You gain a point every time you visit the site, one per day. The site does limit how many questions you can ask, and how many you can answer. Yahoo Answers is good, but in this day and age, I prefer to move to a Web 2.0-style site.
Aardvark manages, very successfully, not to be a website at all. The concept of AIM bots have been around for awhile, serving little purpose other than to tell the latest movie show times or what not. Aardvark manages to be an addicting and purposeful AIM bot.
The service is based solely in your chat client; i.e. AIM, Google Chat, etc. You can “chat” with the bot, giving typed commands for what you want to do. For example, you can type “try” to try a question, or type your question in the chat window. Now when you sign up for the service it asks what topics you are comfortable answering, anywhere from the very specific, OfficeJet Printers to Internet.
When you type your question it recognizes the topic, by searching your question for keywords, then looks for other people that have signed up for that topic and connects them. Aardvark is currently an invitation only service, but by searching Twitter for “vark.com”, you can find people with invitations.
Hunch is the newest of these services. The website was created by the founder of Flickr.com, one of the most popular photo sharing sites on the Web, and takes a very different look at questions and answers. Hunch works on the basis of user trained questions.
Think of it as a create-your-own-adventure for questions. For example, you could find this question: “Where should I go on vacation?” The site would then ask you questions about your preferences, then spit out a result. The site, like Aardvark, is currently an invitation only service, but by searching Twitter for hunch, you can also find people with invitations.
Twitter is not designed for question and answer but for life feeds. Basically, you are given 140 character to say what you are doing and people can subscribe to this feed of updates. Yes, I know, right now it probably doesn’t make sense to you, but do a little Googling and you will find that Twitter is an enormously popular service that people like Barack Obama, Britany Spears, David Pogue, and Al Gore are on.
Furthermore, you really don’t need to know all of this to get simple Q & A. As previously mentioned, the Twitter Search is very helpful for finding invites to new services. But what it is also good for is answer finding. You can search for “great restaurant, sf” and find hundreds of great restaurants.
In conclusion, if you have a question, check out some of these services.
There are lots of great applications out there, and these are some of the best. But the easiest way, and final way, is to just Google it. I know I will…
David: Two of these services, Aardvark and Hunch, are still technically invite-only. I’ve got 10 invites for Aardvark (they play hard-to-get with beta invites), and 3 for Hunch, though I don’t think you’ll need it – just enter your email and check it, my invite came pretty fast. If you want an invite to either, drop a comment below and make sure to use a real email address. After 24 hours, I’ll randomly give out the invites. Make sure to specify which site you want the invite for!