A Compliment, Of Sorts

Looks like Yahoo! just launched a new service, Yahoo! Answers.

Yahoo! Answers is a place where people ask each other questions on any topic, and get answers by sharing facts, opinions, and personal experiences.

This is actually pretty funny. Back in 1998-99 when the dot.com boom was in full swing, I had an idea for a service that would connect people with questions to people with answers – in other words, this exact thing. (But mine was more sophisticated in that it would allow people to attach micropayments to their questions — i.e. “I’ll pay you $1 to answer this.” Yahoo! Answers looks like it just depends on volunteers.)

I told the idea to my employer at the time and we proceeded to spend a year hacking away on and off at developing it. In the end it never went anywhere, mostly because we were a consulting company and there was no commitment to take hours away from client service to dedicate to this fledgling product. So nobody ever had dedicated time to work on it consistently — which means it was effectively dead in the water. (A lesson that I was too young to have learned before the experience.)

Because I described the service as “Usenet meets Ebay”, we ended up internally referring to it as “JBay” — with the J short for Jason, of course, because I was the one harping away on it all the time.

So now it’s nearly seven years later, I never made a penny off JBay, and I’m sure that God will have Yahoo make a freaking mint off the concept, just to piss me off. Oh well. I suppose I should just be happy to see one of my ideas getting traction somewhere.

Yeah right! Screw that, I want the money.



December 9, 2005
2:38 pm

so – what about epinions.com? You ever check that out??

Jason Lefkowitz

December 9, 2005
2:42 pm

I have seen epinions.com. Unfortunately I have never found a _useful_ bit of information there, just mostly random rants.
A better attempt is Google Answers [1], which is a couple of years old now and incorporates some of the micro-payment stuff I was thinking about. Adding money to the mix means it typically provides decent quality info. However it’s not a completely open system; they haven’t accepted applications to be a question-answerer for some time now, so there’s no way to get in on the other end. GOOG doesn’t promote the service much, either, so it doesn’t seem like something they place much value on.
[1] http://answers.google.com/answers/


December 9, 2005
5:52 pm

so, I found info on a tent on epinions. But that’s all… hahaha.


December 18, 2005
6:51 pm

Heck – that’s nothing. I remember my roomate in our sophomore year talk about his idea for how a company could make money online as a distributor of songs and make the traditional album obsolete. Now THAT was vision! 🙂