Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I received an e-mail from the folks at Amazon.com today and they invited me to participate in the beta of their new service, Askville. Naturally I was intrigued so I gave it a once over.
The main site lays out everything for you and tells you exactly what this site is about right away. You ask a question and wait for other users to respond to your question. Sure you could ask questions about the universe or ask the importance of life, but it seems to me that the site is more geared for shopping purposes (as if the fact that it is a service of Amazon did not give that fact away already). You can tell by the varying questions that are listed on the front page you can tell that this site will be eclectic in opinions and experts.
The process is simple. You do need to sign up for an account (your existing Amazon account will suffice and save you time). I signed in using my Amazon account information. Once you are signed in, start typing in your question in the text box and away you go. Once submitting your question you will be taken to a screen where you can add details to your inquiry and even assign it topics. For example, I asked about finding an affordable set of golf clubs. I then added more information to the information box such as I am a beginner, have only been out a handful of times but plan on going out in the future. I also noted that I would prefer not to use an auction site such as ebay, but have not ruled it out. I also added that I would prefer new, but slightly used could work as well. After that you are given the option of assigning topics for your question. This feature can be helpful because then you can break down all of the questions by other users by category. Perhaps you have the same question that is out there. Instead of asking yourself you may find somebody else has already received an answer that can help you out as well. I highly encourage people to look before asking, although I'm sure that will not happen on a large scale. Nothing irritates me more than finding the same question in a forum because people do not look before they speak, thus in Internet etiquette, or "netiquette", world, makes them look foolish. When you are finished, click on "Ask Your Question" and your question is added to the forum. All you have to do now is wait for people to answer your question.
As mentioned this is a beta service. The official service will be called Questville.com, which is slated to debut later this year. Essentially it will be the same service from what I gather except it will offer items that can be redeemed with Questcoins and "other cool things", as the FAQ says. The Questcoins are used as motivation for users to use Askville in a mature matter. You earn these coins in a number of ways. You receive one coin every time you ask or answer a question. Users asking questions also get to grade the responses they receive. A "Great answer" receives ten coins, and the "best answer" gets an extra five coins. However, in a move that will motivate users to leave useful feedback and not just pollute the forums with lackluster responses just to boost coin totals, "weak" and "awful" answers will lose five coins and ten coins respectively. You also get five points just for logging in (limit of once per day). There are a couple other little ways to receive points as well.
In addition to Questcoins, there are experience points. Experience points are used to grade the individual users and their knowledge in varying topics. This is another reason why I suggest adding topics to your questions, and you will see why in a minute. Let's use an example for this. Going back to my golf club question, I assigned the topics of "sports", "golf" and "golf clubs". Let us assume that "GolferJay" (this is a made up name just so you know) chimes in with a terrific answer that helps me out. I will then vote "GolferJay" as my "best answer" and he will receive 15 experience points in the topics of "sports", "golf" and "golf clubs". This will help other users out because now somebody else asking a question in any of those topics will recognize that "GolferJay" has some knowledge on those topics. The experience points work the same way as the questcoins in the negative way as well, which helps pick out the Internet hitchhikers leaving their trash along the super highways. Also, once a user reaches a certain number of experience points, they will be rewarded with questcoins, depending on their level.
The Questcoins will not be able to be redeemed anywhere but Questville.com when it debuts, so Askville is encouraging users to get going and Amazon clearly hopes they can build a following in the beta stage and have them transfer right over to the Questville service. There are more areas to still explore on Askville right now for me, but I plan on giving it a run and see how it works out. I love the idea of the user-to-user format. It is almost as if Askville is mixing the MySpace philosophy with ebay, or I suppose Amazon's service would be more appropriate. In any event, if you try out the site, let me know what you think of it in the comments section.