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Thursday, May 3, 2007
Google Answers no longer answering
I didn't realize until just now that the research-for-hire service Google Answers is no longer an active project. According to a post yesterday by Jessamyn West of the excellent and venerable blog Librarian.net, if you were a GA user (and are also very nerdy) you might be interested in finding out which GA researchers answered the most queries.
I'll miss Google Answers! I used the service three times, with only one glitch. The first time was in the name of journalism; see my November 2002 short item (from Ideas), below. I queried GA a second time because I couldn't think of the title of a terrific book that I'd read as a child; the brilliant GA researcher Pinkfreud (2d busiest of them all, with 2354 answers) sniffed out the answer for me: "The Astonishing Adventures of Patrick The Mouse," by Katja Beskow.
Then there was the third time. On Dec. 18, 2003, I submitted a query to Google Answers about the long-gone Old Mr. Boston distillery in Boston. I'd found absolutely nothing online about it, so I gave GA a month to turn something up. Before the month was over, though, I got the answers through the Boston Globe's library, instead, and published my Old Mr. Boston item in Ideas. Not long after than, a Google Answers researcher (410 answers, total) replied to my query with... yes, my own item. Once I'd explained the mix-up, we both got a laugh out of it.
I was pleased to learn, from Jessamyn West's blog, that 37 former GA researchers now work for the paid answers service Uclue.
Here's that Ideas item about Google Answers:
The cook, she's name was Rosie / She cam' from Mo'real / and was a chambermaid on a lumber barge / in the Grand Lachine Canal," sings Rob Rexler, protagonist of Saul Bellow's 1995 story "By the St. Lawrence." He abruptly falls silent, and Bellow explains why: "Rexler had more than once thought of opening an office to help baffled people who could remember only one stanza of a ballad or song. For a twenty-five dollar fee you would provide the full text."
Recent developments at the Internet search-engine company Google indicate that it was probably wise of Rexler to keep his day job. Last week saw the launch of Google Answers, a service which matches up baffled people with Google's freelance cadre of "carefully screened Researchers." When Ideas submitted Rexler's query on Oct. 31, Researcher "Pinkfreud" turned up the full text of the dialect-poem-turned-folksong "The Wreck of the Julie Plante" within the hour.
The tune was put to wax in 1923 by Jimmy Rice, we learned - although Bellow may have had Nelson Eddy's radio version in mind. Total price: two dollars, plus a 50-cent service charge.