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I want to know nownow!

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I’m really starting to dig Amazon’s new mobile answer service, nownow.com. The concept is to allow mobile users to get answers to questions without having to search the web. They just e-mail nownow from their cell phone (SMS support coming soon), and the questioun is researched by Mechanical Turk workers. Up to 3 answers for each question sent and the user has the option to rate the answers in order to encourage quality over time.

I was a bit skeptical at first. The service is free during the invitaiton-only beta, but the yet-to-be-announced pricing could be as high as $0.25 per question. I can see how something simple like “What’s the phone number of Piecora’s pizza in Seattle?” would probably net accurate responses, but couldn’t see myself paying to receive 3 e-mails with the same number. What I didn’t expect, was the quality of answers for more detailed questions. For example, when I first heard about the lenghtening of daylight savings time in the US, I was at lunch. I sent in a question and within 15 minutes or so had 3 detailed and comprehensive answers on my cell phone.

Workers are paid $0.02-$0.03 per answer. That’s it. I was wondering why they would do such good research for so little, so I sent in a question and asked*. While anyone who goes to Mechanical Turk can answer a question, I get the sense that there’s a sort of community of people who work these on a regular basis. They mentioned the sense of helpfulness, knowing they are providing information that an individual needs (as opposed to something that will be aggregated, etc). There’s also a pool of bonus money that’s distributed each week to the workers with the most “great” answer votes. Unfortunatley, not everyone bothers to vote (one worker estimated about 1/3 vote). It’s as simple as replying to the email you receive with “great”, “like”, or “lame”. I’m going to bet a reminder to vote gets built into the system soon.


Written by oban89

February 20, 2007 at 21:47

Posted in Amazon, Cool Tech, NowNow