Monday, October 4, 2010

Look-up and how-to questions answered via informational crowdsourcing?

What's on your mind? A question? Well, you can send it to your facebook friends and wait for answers. Or, you may transform your question into a “What's happening?” twitter tweet and wait for replying Twitterers. Before doing so, you probably want to use Google, Wikipedia or any of your other bookmarked Web wizards to get—at least—an idea of what the answer might be.

No success? What about informational crowdsourcing? A crowdsourcing service connects you with real and yet virtual human beings, who will hopefully answer your questions [1]: Yahoo answers and work this way. There will be no guarantee that an answer is correct. Do your own backcheck!

The critical point is the type of your question. To answer a look-up question is mostly a matter of finding the appropriate dictionary, encyclopedia, library or accessible database. Some person sitting in that adequately stuffed knowledge center or at a fittingly linked electronic device should be your friend in the crowd (whom you might never go to lunch with).

A how-to question makes a different story. There usually is no instant answer. For domain-specific question you need to find the right crowd. For example, if the nature of your questions lies embedded within a field of science, you could try ResearchGATE: There you'll find a “What's on your mind?” form as well and, in addition, a multitude of specialist groups to join, to follow and to consult.

Also, think of how to formulate your question and make it obvious whether you expect a yes or no, a multiple-choice-like answer or a concise narrative.

Finally, there are still those question that only you can answer yourself—always password-free.

[1] David Pogue:
Question TimeTo find the best answers, digital services are turning to actual humans. Scientific American October 2010, Volume 302, Number 4, page 38.

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