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Askville

Features: Launched December 8, 2006, by Amazon.com, Askville is the newest Q&A site and one of the most intriguing. Among its unusual features: to keep people from cribbing from other people’s answers just for points, answers remain invisible to everyone but the questioner for seven days, at which point the question is closed to new answers. Askville tries to ensure that every legitimate question receives at least one good answer during this seven-day period; if answers aren’t forthcoming from members, Askville posts the question at Amazon Mechanical Turk, which pays participants nominal amounts for help with tasks that computers can’t do (see “Pennies for Web Jobs,” March 6, 2006). The site also offers several widgets that help answerers embed multimedia content in their answers, including videos from Google and YouTube, maps from Google Maps, and (of course) product listings from Amazon.

Finally, Askville uses an entertaining point system seemingly drawn from the medieval-adventure-game genre. By answering a question, a member earns (and potentially loses) “experience points” that elevate him or her to higher and higher levels. That’s similar to AnswerBag’s system–except that the higher the level a member attains, the more bonus points he or she can earn for each answer. There is also a parallel system that awards members with “quest coins” whenever they log on to the site, ask or answer, vote on a question, use a widget in an answer, or give an answer that the questioner rates “Best,” “Great,” “Good,” or “Okay.” Eventually, according to Askville, quest coins will be redeemable for rewards at a website called Questville.com, set to open sometime in 2007. Points: 3

Is there any truth to the five-second rule? I was not able to find an answer to this question in Askville’s archive, possibly because the site is so new. But more disappointingly, searching the archive was extremely tedious: the site seems to be set up for browsing by topic or tag. Askville needs a decent search engine. Points: 0.

Why did the Mormons settle in Utah? Askville members provided four answers to this question. Two were lame, amounting to “Joseph Smith and/or Brigham Young told them to stop there.” The other two were more informative, explaining that the small band of settlers was looking for a place where they could be free from religious persecution. One answer cited a quote from Brigham Young: “If there is a place on this earth that nobody else wants, that’s the place I am hunting for.” Points: 2

What is the best way to make a grilled cheese sandwich? I got four answers at Askville. Three provided just the basics: butter two pieces of bread, put a piece of cheese in between, grill in a frying pan. I was really looking for interesting variations. One person pasted in a couple of cool recipes from a site called grilledcheese-contest.com. Clever–I never would have found that site on my own–but not very original. Points: 1

Total points: 6

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Tagged: Communications

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