Net Jeopardy, Anyone?

What if someone were to create a new kind of search engine where all you had to do is type in questions in "plain English" and it would then give you the answers it already had which came closest to your query?

Such as "How can I find the "best Web sites?" or "What is the difference between a sinus infection and the common cold?"

This is the premise behind the Internet guide AskJeeves.

[In the case of the "best" Web sites question, AskJeeves responded with a site about the "most popular" Web sites, a site about "cool" Web sites, and a site telling how to judge how "good" a given Web site is.]

Like Yahoo!, AskJeeves has human editors.

Unlike a search engine or a directory (such as Yahoo!), the AskJeeves staff researched ahead of time good answers to questions people might ask. Even so, AskJeeves does not know everything. (I've gotten some garbage responses.) But he always includes links at the bottom of his responses to major search engines such as AltaVista, Excite, Lycos, Webcrawler, and Yahoo!, etc. where he has run your search and produced some hits. (If no results were found, what you get is a random collection of interesting links.)

AskJeeves, like the Internet guide About.com, displays its "answer" sites with AskJeeves at the top of the screen. In other words, if you didn't know better, you would assume that you had never left the AskJeeves site at all.

Unlike About.com, AskJeeves is very civilized about this. Click on "remove frames" at the top of the screen and PRESTO, you can see the site's actual URL. (You can also just click on "bookmark" to bookmark the site without ever removing the frames to see the real URL.)

AskJeeves' success depends upon how well its research staff has anticipated potential users' questions. As a working reference librarian (with over 20 years' experience), I have a fairly good idea what questions (on the whole) can be expected at a public library reference desk.

The AskJeeves staff either consulted reference librarians like me or just thought about questions they themselves might want answers to. Of course the AskJeeves staff would not have been able to anticipate EVERY question that users might possibly ask, but I can see how they could have prepared to handle most questions.

Have you a question today?

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Last Modified: 11/23/99