Amazon launches answers site

Askville LogoToday I received an invite to join a new community at Amazon called Askville:

You’re Invited!

As a valued Amazon customer, you’ve been specially picked to get an early look at a new website called Askville where you can ask any question on any topic and get real answers from real people. It’s new, and best of all, it’s free!

This site will compete with Yahoo! Answers and Microsoft Q&A in the free question-answering space except that it might be able to leverage the Amazon community of experts. For those that have not been following this area, these systems enable knowledge creation by allowing users ask questions that are then answered by other users in exchange for reputation within the system. The first success in this space was a startup in Korea named Naver that took control of the search market share in a very short period of time.

Amazon’s system is similar to all of its American counterparts, with its large fonts and friendly messaging (“ask.. answer.. meet.. play”), except for a few subtle distinctions:

  • Users are rewarded for asking questions as well as answering them
  • Questions are limited to 5 answers total
  • Best answers are chosen by the group of question asker and answerers, where the asker gets one more vote than the answerers

Probably the most significant change is the flow of the question/answering exchange. In Yahoo! Answers, and elsewhere, answers are shown publicly as they are received; in Askville, answers are hidden to the public until 5 answers have been received. Any discussion or clarification can happen in a public message board attached to the question. After 5 answers have been collected, the group of asker and answerers vote and the whole thing is made public.

Askville rewards users with “coins,” a virtual currency that will be redeemable in another community named Questville slated for release in early 2007.

The system has given me 25 invitations for other accounts. If you’re interested in trying out the system, shoot me an email.

Update: I apologize, but all of my invitations have been distributed! It seems like the invitations are spreading though, so look for one on a weblog near you…

27 thoughts on “Amazon launches answers site

  1. Amazon has a community of experts? Who knew!

    I would like Amazon to stop trying to be the Next Big Thing by competing with Amazon and Yahoo, and return to trying to be the Next Big Thing by creating an excellent online store.

  2. I’m just not sold on the collective intelligence argument yet…anyone else not buying it? Call me old school, but I prefer that real experts to answer my questions. I mean the idea is cool but I’m apprehensive.

    I’ve pretty much tried all the Q&A services out there and my favorite so far is AskMeNow.

    Has anyone else tried it or am I the only one?

  3. Does it have to look so ugly? That whole “play” thing seems so forced and awkward. Amazon is not a playful company. And why bother complicating things with “coins” and links to other unlaunched sites? And the process of asking a question is so cumbersome, with all those prompts to add video and stuff.

    Yahoo Answers has got millions of questions and answers since it launched. It’s got “points” but those are not the focus of the thing. Plus it’s *actually* fun to use. And Yahoo actually has a reason for doing Answers: to collect information that could be later applied to their other properties like Local or Auto or whatever. Amazon doesn’t have any reason to collect all this information other than to do it, so there’s no vision or purpose behind it. Buncha engineers doing it because they can, or because Bezos got it in his head.

  4. I think it’s completely relevant. AskMetafilter provides some of the best answers on the web, and this fact isn’t really contestable. Also a similar effect has occurred at a larger scale in Asia, Korea and Taiwan specifically. Whether or not it actually scales here in America and elsewhere is another question.

  5. I agree, AskMetaFilter is an amazing community. I guess the $5 registration fee, while low, serves as an effective barrier increasing the signal to noise ratio in a positive way.

    I’d love to hear what you folks think of what we did at Yedda (

    One of our early design decisions was NOT to implement a points system or rewarding people just for answering a question, as it was clear to us that this would result in low value for the people who ask questions. We believe that there are plenty of other incentives for people to share their knowledge. So far it seems to be working pretty well.

    Once you sign up to Yedda (hmm… free of course), you’d find that you can ask as many questions as you need to, and answer any question to which you feel you can contribute.
    But instead of hunting down questions, you will probably find it easier to have the Yedda Active Distribution invite you directly to the questions that fall within your areas of knowledge and interests.

    It’s interesting to note that Amazon added to Askville automatic tag suggestions for questions – a capability originally pioneered by Yedda.

    So, between Yahoo Answers, Amazon Askville, Microsoft QnA, AskMetaFilter and Yedda, I think that there is a good chance you will find an answer to any question you might have 🙂

  6. Ask Meta is indeed a great example of this at work. It’s also an example of a user community that is relatively high brow, self-policing, and altruistic. I wonder if it plays well in the world at large. Another model is the one developing over at – it’s powered by a network of experts who are designated as such by the editor of the site. Anyone can answer a question and all answers are posted, but expert answers are marked as such. Nothing terribly automated, but the answers are powerful and in many cases authoritative (full disclosure: I am affiliated with ITsecurity).

  7. When I worked at Yahoo, I learned a lot about how search works. One of the things that launched while I was there was Yahoo Answers, initally, the name was going to be something else.

    Amazon has to get some credit for their name, Askville – at least it’s better than MSN QnA (yuck).

    Oh, and did I mention I help manage, which has been around since March, 2003 – longer than Yedda (cough) whole stole some of the features off our site 🙂

  8. Wonderful post was very happy reading the really important information for me thanks, I thought the man in the future. I will surely recommend this article with your friends, family and friends. You are really great so allowing good articles.

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