Google tried to get into the Reference game and pretty much failed. Their approach was to let users submit a question along with a price, $1, $20, $100—whatever amount they were willing to pay. And an expert would then respond and collect the money.
Yahoo is using a different approach—opening it up the users. Instead of money or goodwill, people are awarded points for their actions. Users can gain levels which I guess are a badge of pride—you also gain more access to the service.
“As you attain higher levels, you’ll also be able to contribute more to Yahoo! Answers – you can ask, answer, vote and rate more frequently.”
I am a level 1 which means I can ask up to 5 questions per day. I can also only answer 20 other people’s questions per day. As you ascend levels you have greater power, for example, the top level (7) can ask/answer unlimited questions. There are also stars, rating, and voting. They’ve essentially turned reference into a social game.
What’s really interesting is that every question you ask costs you 5 points. That’s right, asking questions is a negative action. How’s that for customer service?
Yahoo Answers point scale.
IMDB (Internet Movie Database) has a very active message board system—basically people talk about actors and movies—it’s very conversational. They have installed a time quota for postings to ensure that people aren’t just spamming or write quick/short answers. So every time you post you have to wait 60 seconds before you can post again.
They also state that by participating “over time, you will also gain access to additional features on the site.”
It’s interesting, in a very Web 2.0 kind of way, how users are rewarded for their participation with greater access to the product/website. You give everyone equal rights to the core and then those who use the service most frequently (and properly) gain VIP status or bonus material.
(Oh and I’m definitely not top 20—I should be around number 40 or thereabouts. There are so many more influential librarian blogs than this one, but thanks for noticing OEDb. And thanks to you for reading and linking.)