Sunday, June 27, 2010

Questions uplevel the web

A new internet trend has popped up – asking questions to friends and strangers. Questions are a light-weight means of bringing structure and context to social interaction.

Many people start off with a low level of engagement (e.g.; what is the best pizza place in your neighborhood?). Things can start scaling up (e.g.; how much does it cost for a family to live in London on average?) and become quite detailed (e.g.; can a publisher see the average CPC or eCPM of a particular ad or advertiser on AdSense?). More importantly, more complex thoughts, opinion, philosophy, and value systems are being elicited (e.g.; what is a good real-world example of the "prisoner's dilemma" in recent history?).

The question-asking trend began with Hunch asking users questions to draw a taste profile map for users. The current generation of the concept features sites like Quora and formspring where users ask each other questions. Users have profiles and friending/following capability, with their questions and answer activity appearing in a status feed. It is like a friend network with topic precision.

Metrics would be interesting, such as the level of semantic complexity of questions, the number of repeated questions (an indicator of what is on the collective mind), and the ratio of asked to answered questions.

Question networks could be the real start of the semantic web, the natural automated approach (akin to Google’s automated machine learning) for creating the next higher level of information density.

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