Type of Engine: Question and answer.
If this engine were a drink it would be…a shot of Jagermeister. Your first time it’s a bit scary, but fascinating nonetheless, and you don’t really know what the heck it is. But have a drink and you’ll enjoy it for novelty's sake as well as alcoholic (informational) content.
To put it simply, Wondir is a collection of questions and answers. There are several search related services, as in non-traditional engines, that I keep reading about on blogs and elsewhere. One of them is Wondir, so I decided it’s time to check them out.
On Wondir, anyone can ask and anyone can answer questions. It’s a community-based model that connects those who know with those who want to know. Google Answers is a similar service, and there were several others in the past including LookSmart Live. But all parts of Wondir are free to everyone and their revenue comes from Google AdWords. (For those of you not familiar with this free way of getting answers to questions, there is also an institution in your town called the public library that is free and you can – for the most part – trust the answers you get there. Or try accessing librarians remotely at AskNow. Check it out, it's a fantastic service.) Wondir also distributes its question and answer box to vertical, specialty sites. I like that idea because if you go to ichef.com you’ll see what looks like an ichef question and answer box. However, when you ask a question it takes you right to Wondir. This is a good way for Wondir’s positive strengths to be accessed by people who otherwise wouldn’t go to the Wondir.com site.
Warning, prediction ahead:
As an aside, I predict several things that we think of as different are all going to merge: email, RSS, online bookmarking tools, article databases, web directories, and search engines. The line is already blurring, but consider a technology that is neutral in that it doesn’t care where information comes from so long as it’s relevant. So, like RSS but broader, I can subscribe to the content I want while remaining source neutral. But let’s get crazy and add email into the equation. Right now email is delivered and sorted by sender, date, subject, and a few other flags. But why not deliver and sort it by content so that all emails, blog posts, newly indexed articles, and so forth are filtered by topic. Within a couple years people (or at least this person) will not be using Outlook or web-based email the way we think of it now; I’ll be using some kind of reader that aggregates search results, news feeds, email, and who knows what else into one uber-reader. Think of federated search, but with the added advantage that instead of searching in the past on content that has been crawled, indexed, and stored, we'll be fed in real-time with relevant content from newly published sources like blogs, news, and email.
Back on topic….
UI & Features
Wondir is confusing at first. Not confusing like What is outside the universe? (think about it!), but confusing in that it takes you a few moments to orient yourself. However, you can’t go wrong these days by using the big rectangular “search” box in the middle. I put search in quotes because really it’s an Ask box in this case. But just like a search, you enter your question and then things start happening.
UI & Features
The whole system is very transparent, everything is public, which is probably why it’s confusing at first since there’s so much to see. For instance, the Wondir Question Ticker lets you see what other users are asking and the Question Board shows a chronological list of questions. You can also sort by answered questions or unanswered questions. You can jump to a different day or go to a subject category to see questions by high-level subject such as Games, Travel, Mature Content, etc.
Just like RSS feeds, you can subscribe to be notified when a word or a phrase appears in a question or answer. You can also get answers by IM. Both of those require registration, but you can stay unregistered and click back to the date you entered your question and see if it’s been answered yet or not. Registering really makes a difference though, and any serious users of Wondir should register right away to take advantage of features. Otherwise you’ll be clicking through long lists of questions trying to find ones you’ve asked to see if anyone has answered them yet.
(Query in this case meaning questions.)
I asked, How do you tie a necktie?
I got the response: Your question will be placed in Home Improvement unless you select a different category for it.
I decided my question was really more of a “How-To” and moved it to that category.
But Wondir also returns results from news articles, search engines, and news groups. For search engines, there were five results. Three were relevant from AlltheWeb, and two were not relevant from About. That’s good relevance, but for now I’m testing Wondir’s question and answer service so won’t linger on web results. It turned out someone had asked a similar question to mine already, so there were already answers. Here’s one of them: there is more than one way, why not try, tie rack.com. Well, that seems a reasonable answer, doesn’t it? Unfortunately your intrepid investigator, never willing to stop in my quest to find the truth, was unable to find a site called tie rack.com. There’s a tie-rack.co.uk, but it’s not helpful. Too bad.
I tried a second question: who is the strongest
There are many useful and legitimate questions. I saw ones about child custody issues, recipes, pregnancy, etc. But it probably comes as no surprise that there are also many nonsensical and silly questions. Here’s a sampling, just for fun:
Question: what can i do about my puppy who just ate 5 snicker chocolate bars????
Answer: report your self to the animal patrol f*#!%r
Answer: …You're a dumb and unfit dog carer, I'm afraid.
Question: my best friend and i really like each other but we're taking things slow but he likes another girl and she also likes him. we want to be together but alot of people are in our way. what should i do?
Question: What is 1 plus 1?
Answer: Your I.Q.
And so forth….
The interface is confusing at first, but if you spend a bit of time on Wondir it becomes easier to get around. I like the transparency of the service in that every communication is public, but I’d like to see Wondir make navigation a bit easier. There should be easier ways to view the questions and answers that have already been posted. You can get tricky with things like subscribing to terms, but sometimes you just want to cruise around and look for questions and answers about something without subscribing to it. How about a plain old search box for searching all questions and answers?
To me Wondir is a representational example of the Internet in general: it’s communal, meaning you can be connected to people with similar interests, as well as people who have no authority or business answering questions; it’s got a lot of great content, but it’s also got a lot of crap, and sorting through it is the hardest part; and it's interesting at first, but the real issue is figuring out how useful it is to you.
For now, Wondir is a novelty item to me, but in the future maybe I’ll incorporate their content into my RSS feeds so I can be notified when topics I’m interested are asked about. But I would like to add that there were tons of questions coming in, and tons of answers too, so it seems that there are people who really find this service valuable. Even if it's not valuable to you, it is worth playing around with.