New Q&A Dataset Available

Some researchers (from Singapore!) recently requested access to the data from our Facts or Friends paper.  I went ahead and bundled up a dataset that’s suitable for distribution.  If anyone out there is interested in checking out this small-ish dataset (~1100 codings across ~500 questions from 3 Q&A sites) just send me an email.  I’d be happy to share.

Voting Systems Research

I just saw a piece over at Stack overflow’s blog, called Vote Fraud and You – Blog – Stack Overflow.  Stack overflow is a Q&A site geared towards programming.  I think it’s a high-quality site, with many wiki-like features.  It’s designed more for the creation of archival quality information than for ephemeral Q&A (see Yahoo Answers).

This post reminds me that voting systems are still poorly understood, and a rich research area.  For example, the article discusses the development of technology that automatically detects “revenge voting patterns”.  Very cool.  However, I’m sad that most of this work appears to be happing (for the time being) in industry, where it’s harder for the rest of us to learn from these innovations.

Researchers: let’s see more work on voting systems!  If I build a points system into my community site, how should it work?

Q&A Still Overlooked

For some reason, Q&A sites are mostly overlooked by analysts and journalists. One recent exception was an article from Slate, comparing Yahoo! Answers (unfavorably) with Wikipedia. A good read, if you’re interested in Q&A, social search, or mass collaboration web sites.

This morning, though, while catching up on my Technology Review RSS feed, I saw some analysis of Microsoft’s move to acquire Yahoo! A quoted analyst observes that this acquisition isn’t just about search, but also about Yahoo’s social properties, some of which are best in class. The interesting fact is that the two properties cited are Flickr and del.icio.us. Yes, important sites. I use both of them. What about Yahoo! Answers? Check this out:

Yahoo! Answers gets about as much traffic as Flickr, and about an order of magnitude more traffic than delicious. Also, note that while Flickr is a leader in the field (although Photobucket, Smugmug, Google’s Picasa, and Kodak’s offerings are strong competitors), Yahoo! Answers blows the rest of the Q&A field away in terms of activity. There is no other Q&A site in the US that comes close.

So, the search engine corporations know about the importance of Q&A sites. But the press and technology analysts still do not, apparently. (Nor do most researchers…that’s a different story)

I will speculate that the reason for ignoring Q&A sites to date has to do with the demographics of their users. While Flickr and Delicious are founded on relatively tech-saavy, relatively geeky users (i.e. the same demographic as technology writers), Q&A sites are often frequented by high-schoolers, stay-at-home moms, and other demographics that are typically ignored by the technology press.

What do you think? What are other reasons for ignoring Q&A sites?

Max