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.