Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Y! Answers: On-demand MicroBlogging

Welcome Wall Street Journal readers! Lee Gomes wrote up a nice Q&A with me today about the new "bubble". Lee was gracious enough to include mentions of my dog Rashi and this blog, elatable. Thanks Lee!

Y! Answers
I've been thinking (and talking) about Yahoo! Answers a lot recently. A huge congrats to Yumio, Lesley, Bob B, Tom C, Ofer, Tomi, Eckart and the gang at Y! Answers for the tremendous growth that the product has enjoyed - truly remarkable. As a (very interested!) bystander I'm blown away and grateful for what you all have achieved.

I recently mentioned how traditional web search is generally retrospective or forensic, but Answers lets one search for knowledge which does not yet exist. Cool stuff, still blows my mind.

That model is really from the perspective of the asker, and speaks to the "pull" that invokes the knowledge. There's another way to think about Answers from the perspective of the answerer... The "push" of knowledge from the answerers head into the world.

Blogging has been heralded as the poster child for "user-generated content" or "amateur publishing" or whatever buzzword you may prefer. And at a technical and procedural level this is certainly true. The process of becoming "a blogger" has never been easier.

The hard part (now that the barriers to entry have melted away) is having something worthwhile to say. That really hasn't gotten any easier. Moreover as a newly minted "blogger" there's an expectation that you'll have a consistent, steady stream of interesting postings for your readers to enjoy. Nothing sadder than a dead blog or inactive blog.

But what of the more casual "blogger?" Someone who has only the occasional gem of wisdom to share? Someone who may not want to carry the baggage associated with owning and maintaining a blog per se?

Another way to think about Answers is that it's a system by which would-be "bloggers" can pick off areas of expertise and easily "post" what they know. You can think of each answer as a micro blog post... But instead of shooting it into the ether(net) on your blog, leaning back and waiting for readers to visit (either by the compelling title of the post, the blogger's reputation, etc.) Yahoo! Answers delivers a ready-made audience. In fact each "post" is in direct response to demand. Each question is a little appeal to the world that says "I'd be interested in knowing about..." and each answer is a little release of knowledge that may in another context been a more speculative blog post.

I'm obviously not suggesting that Yahoo! Answers replaces blogging, or that the two are ultimately equivalent. It's just interesting and useful to recognize answering as publishing, and examine the somewhat fuzzy line between the two endeavors...