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answers.google.com

Currently in beta from the search engine Google, Google Answers lets you pose any question to which, for a fee, you will receive a detailed answer complete with web links that go into more depth.

Google Answers is not an entirely original concept, largely copying as it does the idea behind the now defunct Answers.com. It may be useful for users who miss the old site, so hopefully Google can make the idea work for them when it failed the other company.

Structured as a forum, users can post answers to each other's questions for free, and anyone can browse previous questions along with their answers. If you want to ask a new question, enter the question, enter a topic for it, a category, and finally, what price you are willing to pay. This should be between $4 and $100, depending, says Google, on difficulty and urgency. Seventy-five per cent of this figure will go directly to the Google Researcher who answers it, with the rest, plus a $0.50 listing fee, going to Google. If no answer is forthcoming, or you choose to withdraw your question before it is answered, you just pay the 50 cents.

Some questions are from people who need the information for their businesses, and will offer relatively substantial amounts, and questioners range from ones like this, to the person who offered $4 to know the air-speed velocity of an unladen African swallow. The researcher came up with an answer, but said his web source didn't note their air-speed velocity with coconuts tied to them.

The Google Researcher who chooses to answer a question will 'lock' it from his colleagues for a period of time while he uses the internet and other resources to help him come up with an answer. Sometimes, the researcher may post a request for clarification before he answers. The answer is usually at least a page long, and will include a number of relevant URLs. As the user who posed the question, if you aren't happy, you can request clarification from the researcher who should submit an additional answer. If you still don't like the answer, you can give the researcher a low rating in a system slightly akin to the one used by eBay, or indeed Everything2. If you want a refund, however, you must apply to Google, giving them an explanation. The question, answer, and refund request will be posted on the site, and the refund, they say, will be granted if the request is a reasonable one.

Possibly of particular interest to E2 users, it is possible to become a Researcher by applying online, and although you will be paid in dollars, Researchers can be resident anywhere. The application process consists of an essay of the "I want to be a researcher because…" type, for which you will be judged in particular on your writing style as it might be applied to your question answering. You then have to submit answers to three sample questions. If you are accepted as a researcher, it is up to you to browse the questions and find ones you are able to answer. They may be ones in a field in which you have particular expertise, but you may answer all kinds of questions. Google Answers editors spot check answers submitted, and also monitor Researchers' ratings (the ones given by users), and if you aren't up to scratch, they may fire you as a researcher. If you apply, make sure your application is a good one – you're allowed two tries.

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