Google is closing down a great experiment called Google Answers in which Google acted as a broker for research assistance. If you’ve not seen it, you posted a question and offered a fee, and if someone wanted to they responded – for 75% of the fee with Google taking the rest.
It was never very big, and I guess didn’t make much money, but I would have thought it would have cost little to run. We used it a few times for research assistance for Lateral Economics, never with great results, but it was useful to have there. They got a few pennies from us for doing introductory bibliographies prior to lit searches and for answering the odd question.
I guess it was costly managing the flow of information to try to prevent people breaking rules (or using it to help with research into making bombs!). In any event Google wasn’t too forthcoming as to why it was closing it down. Wikipedia mentions various criticisms like the aid it provided to plagiarisers. Perhaps Google felt it wasn’t worth the bother. On at least one occasion Google Answers dramatically lowered the cost of private detective work.
One Google question went like this and offered the answerer $100 for the beginnings of an answer, with generous tips and the project developed.
I would like to acquire as much information as possible about the personal and professional life of Paul Krugman, the Princeton economics professor who writes a column for the New York Times. For example, it is publicly known that he was a paid consultant to Enron — what other consulting, advisory or employment arragements has he had with other companies or organizations? What is known about his family — who were his parents, other relatives; is he married, children? What is his lifestyle like — what is is compensation at the New York Times (salary, options, bonus, whatever) and at Princeton (salary, retirement, whatever). How about royalties from books, speaking engagements, and so on? What kind of house does he live in? What kind of car does he drive? Is anything known about his personal life (hobbies, sports, sexual orientation, etc)? How about his career — he’s taught at quite a few colleges, why has he moved around so much? Were there any problems? I will pay $100 for this as a starting point, and if satisfied, will tip generously and may ask follow-up questions for which I will pay also (but don’t play Scheherezade on me, now).
Follow this link to see how Paul Krugman answered the questions and claimed the $100!