My latest interview was with Justin Osmer of Microsoft. Our discussion focused on the Live QnA product. Microsoft has taken a very interesting approach to the QnA product.
They are treating it as an enhancement to search, rather than a destination site (which appears to be Yahoo!’s approach). Justin observed that there are queries that a purely algorithmic search engine can never answer, such as “where is a great Italian place in Seattle?” However, other people can give you their opinions on that, and you can get a real answer.
Another interesting idea we discussed was the possibility that Microsoft may begin to integrate access to such answers into the core of Live Search. This is consistent with Microsoft’s approach of treating this functionality as an enhancement to core search. One key to making this work is the system for rating the quality of the answers, where the person who asked the original question gets a highly weighted vote in picking the best answer.
I look at this as another demonstration of the social web in action. Questions get answered very quickly once you ask them, and there are obviously lots of people who actively scan open questions looking to provide answers. While you get points for such activity, the points are not redeemable, so they act primarily as a badge of honor. I should point out though that Microsoft may make the points redeemable in the future, but clearly this is what is not driving the activity of the people answering the questions.