Amazon’s Askville is Human-Powered AdWords

The latest company to catch on to the fact that computer games provide compelling feedback mechanisms is Amazon.com, which recently launched its Askville service, where users earn virtual currency for answering other users’ questions. A lot of attention has been paid to the accompanying Questville, which, according to the Askville FAQ (at Experience Points, Levels and Quest Coins, question #7) is described as “a new website” where “you will be able to use your Quest Coins to participate in exciting new adventures and other cool things!” Most everyone takes this to be a virtual world, although I’m not sure where that idea originated. Regardless, what’s more interesting to me is the fact that Amazon is leveraging game mechanics to expand into another new area of service, i.e., what’s essentially a human-powered knowledge search. Askville rewards answerers with Quest Coins that will be useful in Questville. Of course, you get extra coins for embedding Amazon widgets in your answers. What’s really going on here is a kind of human-powered advertising program akin to AdWords, but with only one advertisers, so that people embed Amazon ads in what are essentially search results, rather than using an algorithm. The question is whether Questville will be a compelling enough experience to keep real experts coming back to answer questions in Askville and earn more Questville coins. And is it actually a virtual world? Interestingly, RCE Universe‘s Nate Randall asked Askville the question, What is Questville?, but the entry has received only four answers so far, and it doesn’t seem they’ll be available to view for another day or so. Stay tuned.

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