Metadata Web 2.0

Pay-for-answers : AQA and paid research

AQA (Any Questions Answered)offers a pretty unique service where uses can text (SMS) a question to a group of researchers. How it works is detailed in an interview with its founder Colly Myers in The Register by web realist/skeptic Andrew Orlowski. Colly Myers offers his views on the future of general web searching (falling away as it succumbs to data entropy), Wikipedia, and virtual sweatshops.

AQA served its 3 millionth answer recently, notching up the last million in four months. The previous million took seven months, and the first million took 19 months, which gives some indication of its growth ramp.

AQA’s owner IssueBits has been profitable since last October, says Myers, and he thinks the market is young and there’s plenty of opportunity to grow. AQA doesn’t have the field to itself – 82ask also caters to the curious texter – but it is in pole position.
Myers seems particularly proud of the infrastructure: AQA uses around 500 researchers to answer double the volume of queries it did before (the actual composition of the research staff varies, as they drop in and out of work)..

If AQA is correct and the value of Google and other general search tools drops markedly as users move to silo-searches (as the article describes teenagers are doing within MySpace) and entropy sets in, then there is a returning role for specialist research done by professional researchers in libraries and museums. And it is a role that if AQA indicates anything, is willingly paid for if the price is low enough and the requests broken down into simply separate questions.

2 replies on “Pay-for-answers : AQA and paid research”


Thanks for this. At the Australian War Memorial we’ve already moved pretty well down this path in offering a free, reliable online enquiry service that we call ReQuest. You can find it here

It is a bit like an ‘ask a librarian’ service and while we don’t undertake to complete school or research projects for everyone, we do provide short reliable answers and advice. What’s more, users can search a growing knowledge base that offers edited responses previously provided to questions that may be asked again. It isn’t a chat service and we don’t usually don’t reply immediately, but users can check back on the progress of their request easily. We do respond everyday. Using this very easy to use interface, people can also register as a client of our Reading Room services, request copies of our records, alerts us to their forthcoming visits (in order to pre-order records), and seek advice about researching family history, medals and awards.

Hi Seb,

This is all very well and good if you’re in the UK, but there are Australian SMS answer services which exist – like our service 199QUERY ( We’ve been running for about a year now, and whilst we haven’t quite got to the 3million question mark we’re well on our way there! We can answer any question about any topic, or for fun you can send in your name and we’ll find out everything we can about you. Cost of the service is $2.50, full terms at

I thought you would be interested in knowing about an Australian SMS answer service.

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