Sunday, July 1, 2007

Google Answers to return as Google Knowledge Search?

Is Google getting ready to take another run at a question and answer site? Google has launched a new site in Russia called, Google Knowledge Search. Is it just a matter of time before they take another shot at the U.S. market?

With Yahoo having 96% of the market share in this area whatever Google launches had better be good. Last year they closed down their failed Google Answers site when it didn't manage to grab any real attention. I speculated at the time that Google failed because they fundamentally misunderstood the dynamics of social networking, and what motivates people to contribute to these efforts:

Here‘s my free advice for today, before you try one of these expensive experiments you need to read Yochai Benkler's book, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom.

The new site uses a system of points as both an incentive and a disincentive. It is based on assigning points for participating. 3form explains:

Action Points
Registration +100
Visit +5
Posting a question -Bonus
Posting an answer +2
Posting an evaluation +1

They also award points for visiting the site, providing an answer that receives high ratings, and on and on. It's complex.

Personally, I don't think this is going to work. They failed when they tried to pay people to answer questions, and assigning points is the same dynamic. It's obvious that someone at Google needs to do some reading on intrinsic versus extrinsic motivators. Money, Lindens, gold stars, points...they're all irrelevant.

It's also a bit unclear on how the labeling works. Their own wording says the labels are automatically applied, but they do ask you to enter labels. I'm not sure if these are being used to match already assigned labels in search, or whether these are actually being used in a folksonomic way? If Google is adopting a folksonomic strategy that really would be quite interesting. I'm thinking this sort of social networking approach is just not found in Google's DNA. If tagging is part of the mix this truly is big news.

It'll be interesting to see where Google goes with this. Will they take another run at Yahoo! Answers? I like the interface and the basic approach. Remove the points, respect people's real motivations for contributing, really use a tagging system, and it's quite possible they'll have a winner.

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