Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Thing #34-Is this our Competition-Online Answer Sites

As I read the assignment from Nebraska Learns 2.0 and began exploring the wide variety of online answer sites, I began to ponder...Do people ask questions on these sites to find out the answers or do they ask the questions simply for the interaction with other computer users?    Are people spending so much time online that they search for yet another thing to do to fill their time?  Do they rely on the answers given and accept them as fact?  Do they really want an answer or just an opinion?  My mind came up with more questions than answers.  I answered a question about when zip codes were first used and one about  the number of representatives Montana had in the House.  I didn't register on the site initially and went back to try and find my answer, by now not remembering for sure which site I had looked at.  As I explored zip code questions, I found a similar question with an answer that would have taken pages to print.  That brought up another question-do people want short concise answers or long extended answers?  I personally don't feel any motivation to answer questions and "earn points" for my answers. 

Many of the questions asked could easily be answered with a quick call to the library because as librarians, if we do an Internet search to answer the question, we know sites that we can trust for correct answers.  Would I want to answer a question about appropriate gifts for a mother-in-law?  No.  I generally won't give opinions, which is what is being solicited in this case. 

I can see why people might use the online answer sites.  Questions can be asked at any time of the day and you can check back for an answer at your leisure if you don't need the answer immediately.  I'm sure some people don't think of libraries as answer places although we do get  an interesting array of questions come our way in-between simple queries for phone numbers and addresses.  I'm glad to see librarians "invading" the sites and submitting answers although I didn't participate in the Slam the Boards.  Librarians do have their own answer sites.  While researching a patron question regarding California law, I found www.AskNow.org which allows you to ask a question of a librarian, if you live in California.  I found a few sites specifically for asking law librarians. 

This was an interesting exercise.  I was truly amazed at all of the sites available and the variety of questions asked.

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