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Idea: Ask Gneeves

By eries in Culture
Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 09:52:58 PM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)
/etc

Here's an idea for an open-source web project similar to the Open Directory Project. The idea would be to provide search functionality similar to that offered by "Ask Jeeves" - users input english-language questions and then get back a list of potential resources that they could use to find the answer.


The problems with Ask Jeeves are two-fold:

  1. They only have a few paid editors who try and compile the list of questions and answers
  2. They in general only provide a single link to a question that they already know the answer to. Big companies provide big money to make sure that their resource is listed first/exclusively and these big sites are not always the best sources of information. For instance the questions "Where can I buy an Ethernet cable" should take you to a site like Pricewatch and not (necessarily) to CompUSA in order to get the best deal.

The OSS community can solve this problem easily. We allow anyone who wants to to submit question-and-answer pairs, and then we allow end-users to vote (or should we call it moderate?) on which answers are best suited to each question. Thus, the system grows as a result of its users activity, and is not really subject to editorial control. Even less editorial control that Slashdot, believe it or not.

So, here's my question. I am currently too busy with other projects (although one of them has a lot of related code that could be resued) to really spearhead and maintain this project. I have, however, put together a prototype that people can look at, and I bought a domain name to host it: gneeves.org. Anyone out there interested in working on it? Anyone think it's even a good idea? Is someone already doing this? I think that pretty soon we could have an open-source product that would be useful to 90% of the clueless users out there.

Yes, this is another in my series of past posts to other forums in an attempt to generate some discussion. If people like this stuff, I may get involved in doing some other writing for K5...

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Display: Sort:
Idea: Ask Gneeves | 21 comments (21 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Recommendation: Try this over on Sh... (none / 0) (#1)
by rusty on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 07:10:49 PM EST

rusty voted 1 on this story.

Recommendation: Try this over on ShouldExist as well.

____
Not the real rusty

An interesting idea. Personally, I ... (4.00 / 1) (#6)
by Zagadka on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 07:17:10 PM EST

Zagadka voted 1 on this story.

An interesting idea. Personally, I think AskJeeves sucks, but a more open system where users can contribute and moderate could potentially be more useful, if you can get it to achieve a critical mass. One thing that could help, especially before you've reached that "critical mass", is to have it able to do queries on other search engines (like Google) if it can't find a good answer.

Who is going to pay for the ad's? A... (none / 0) (#9)
by l4m3 on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 07:17:24 PM EST

l4m3 voted -1 on this story.

Who is going to pay for the ad's? Ask jeeves main source of income is B2B with people like Dell and such, the website is just an ad much like the commercials, they make their money on selling answers (such as your ethernet example) and providing their parser to companies to use on tech support db's. This idea seems like its target is the people who know enough to post the answers. if everyonewho goes there is posting questions and answers than what good will it provide?

choose a better name/domain name. ... (none / 0) (#2)
by Fish on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 07:18:01 PM EST

Fish voted 1 on this story.

choose a better name/domain name.

if only i knew how to do nifty perl... (none / 0) (#8)
by thelaw on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 07:19:25 PM EST

thelaw voted 1 on this story.

if only i knew how to do nifty perl code....

sounds ok to me.... (none / 0) (#5)
by Raymond on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 07:50:03 PM EST

Raymond voted 1 on this story.

sounds ok to me.
----- Someone you trust is one of us...

I tried Ask Jeeves quite a while ba... (none / 0) (#11)
by Sneakums on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 08:02:10 PM EST

Sneakums voted 0 on this story.

I tried Ask Jeeves quite a while back. I got the impression that the answers were generated by some kind of free-text engine, rather than being human-written. The results were always spectacularly poor for any search I tried.

Re: I tried Ask Jeeves quite a while ba... (none / 0) (#16)
by fluffy grue on Tue Jun 20, 2000 at 01:34:52 AM EST

From what I can tell, there's a mixture of both going on. When you enter a question, it both searches within sets of human-answer-mined questions (for exmaple, search on "Is Tinky Winky gay?" and it'll respond with "Is xxx gay?" where xxx is a dropdown box containing 'tinky winky', 'leonardo dicaprio', and a few other celebrities of questional sexual preference) and will also perform a MetaCrawler-type search on other search engines in an attempt to do free-text searching. I don't believe that AJ itself actually spiders pages.

Of course, I haven't used it for a while (it was a novel concept back when I first heard about it with NPD's consumer survey, long before they had an official launch), so it could have gotten smarter. Somehow, I doubt it, though. Like, a lot of the questions seem to be very specific... "What's my IQ?" points you to iqtest.com, and again, the "Is tinky-winky gay?" points you to a very silly animated .gif, which, last I checked, plaintext search engines couldn't spider. ;)
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: I tried Ask Jeeves quite a while ba... (none / 0) (#19)
by Sneakums on Tue Jun 20, 2000 at 06:24:21 PM EST

> "Is tinky-winky gay?" points you to a very silly
> animated .gif, which, last I checked, plaintext search
> engines couldn't spider.

But the link to the image was probably text, and don't forget the alt text...

[ Parent ]
Sounds like a good idea to me!... (none / 0) (#13)
by robwicks on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 08:21:05 PM EST

robwicks voted 1 on this story.

Sounds like a good idea to me!
"Logic . . . merely enables one to be wrong with authority" Doctor Who

"Gneeves, how can Linux put Microso... (2.00 / 1) (#4)
by fluffy grue on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 08:56:15 PM EST

fluffy grue voted 1 on this story.

"Gneeves, how can Linux put Microsoft out of business?" answer

"Gneeves, how can I make millions of dollars on my homepage?" answer

"Gneeves, does this dress make me look fat?" answer
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

Re: "Gneeves, how can Linux put Microso... (none / 0) (#15)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 11:59:11 PM EST

Very funny!

[ Parent ]
I like the idea, but is there a bet... (1.00 / 1) (#10)
by madams on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 09:05:56 PM EST

madams voted 1 on this story.

I like the idea, but is there a better name than Gneeves?

--
Mark Adams
"But pay no attention to anonymous charges, for they are a bad precedent and are not worthy of our age." - Trajan's reply to Pliny the Younger, 112 A.D.

Ask Jeeves is basically crap so any... (1.00 / 1) (#12)
by dr_lha on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 09:26:31 PM EST

dr_lha voted 1 on this story.

Ask Jeeves is basically crap so any open way of improving it would definitelly be a step in the right direction.

Real time q-and-a arbitration -- th... (1.00 / 1) (#3)
by Demona on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 09:42:35 PM EST

Demona voted 1 on this story.

Real time q-and-a arbitration -- throw a question in the queue, real-time or email discussion with the person who answers so as to explain the why, not just the how?

Interesting idea. However, open so... (2.00 / 1) (#7)
by jetpack on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 09:45:39 PM EST

jetpack voted 1 on this story.

Interesting idea. However, open source has nothing to do with it. I advocate free software as much as anyone (well, maybe not as much as RMS :) but honestly, is it really necessary to mention "OSS" in any situation to stir up the masses? I mean, c'mon, functionality doesn't necessarily imply open source.

P.S. ... and yes, I know the difference between open source and free software, thank you very much :)
--
/* The beatings will continue until morale improves */

Re: Interesting idea. However, open so... (none / 0) (#14)
by eries on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 09:56:53 PM EST

Maybe this wasn't really clear in the posting, but a key part of the idea would be to release the actual code the software, as a check against editorial or commerical control being exerted by the site maintainers. Plus, users could help contribute to the natural language search, etc.
Promoting open-source OO code reuse on the web: the Enzyme open-source project
[ Parent ]
Nice idea but... (none / 0) (#17)
by kellyrc on Tue Jun 20, 2000 at 02:03:12 AM EST

I think it's a great idea, and if such a thing existed I would surely use it. But the real trick is going to be finding someone who has the time to create/maintain it. I suppose there's no reason that you couldn't advertise on the site and use the money to compensate people for their time.
I just asked Jeeves "What is Gneeves?" but all it gave me was a picture of this rock .

Everything2 - like search capability (none / 0) (#18)
by TheLocust on Tue Jun 20, 2000 at 10:53:34 AM EST

Ooooh.. This idea has been rumbling through my brain for years! I think some serious A&D would have to go on, though. I don't think the "editors" are necessarily a bad idea. The problem is having just a couple, that are easily bought. Now, if we had a submission engine, or something of that sort, where anyone with an account could add a "link" or a "suggestion", then i think a powerful search engine could arise.

In researching multilingual systems, and the translation engines that run them, i realized that the only way to run a truly GOOD system is to have it learn. And by learn, i mean have suggestions/rules applied to it. And in the very same way, we could build a search engine powered by the users.

And i think it could work. I'd be glad to offer what time i could.
.......o- thelocust -o.........
ignorant people speak of people
average people speak of events
great people speak of ideas

Good idea (none / 0) (#20)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jun 20, 2000 at 07:19:03 PM EST

This would be great, but building a web search engine / index has got to be pretty tough. Ideas:

* Try to mix discussions and recommendations with site categories, with anyone able to contribute. This will be tricky as you want it to be persistent but not grow into huge volumes of text to wade through. Maybe something like Everything?

* Scanning text questions is probably a bad idea. Witness how awful Ask Jeeves is compared to other search engines. I've done some work on AI and cognition and would love to work on the problem, but it's a biggie.

* Ditch the name "Gneeves". Had to be said.


the algorithm is patented (none / 0) (#21)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jun 21, 2000 at 01:01:52 PM EST

Sorry for pouring cold water on the idea, but it turns out that the ask question in free form for search concept is patented by, guess who, ask jeeves!
So if u start 'ask gneeves' u will probably land up in deep doo doo with those guys.


Idea: Ask Gneeves | 21 comments (21 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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