Reflecting a bit on the numbers in my previous post and in the other posts about the number, locations, and answering rate of Google Answers Researchers, I’ve decided I should try to dispel what may be a common misperception.
When you read Google’s description of “More than 500 carefully screened Researchers…” and then learn that we hail from hundreds of locations in dozens of different countries, you may get a sense that we are 500 separate entities working in isolation – that from our kitchens, offices, upstairs bedrooms, libraries and cafes, all we focus on is grabbing the next question.
But no, Google Answers is not a melee of hundreds of researchers all scrapping for questions and trying to grab locks and post quick answers before other researchers can get them. We are a relatively small group of dedicated Researchers who work steadily (and sometimes collaboratively) through the list of unanswered questions providing timely and (most importantly) accurate substantiated answers.
Yes there are hundreds of Researchers, but the core group of active Researchers has changed little over the years. Many of the names on my list of those who have recently answered questions are Researchers who have been actively answering since the service began in 2002. Sure, some have fallen off the bottom of the list and a few have come out of hibernation and have joined us along the way, but all-in-all we are the same people.
Despite our physical remoteness, Google Answers Researchers frequently work together. We have at least one forum and one Google Group where we can meet. The forum I belong to (provided by one of the researchers) has 75 members – again shaking down to 25 or 30 active participants. Here we discuss and critique answers, debate ethical questions, get advice on dealing with difficult clients, and ask for assistance on answers.
At any given time we might be arguing the ethics of providing a customer with information on how to commit suicide, finding a few more references for a colleague who feels his answer is a bit short, asking if someone in Germany could please make a quick local phone call to confirm a fact, or alerting a Researcher that a customer is requesting her. Mindful that the customer is more important than the almighty dollar, we willingly hand off full or partial answers when our lives take us unexpectedly from our work.
Google Answers Researchers are perfectionists. For many of us, a 3-star (and for some, even a 4-star) Answer is unacceptable. A rejection is devastating. When an answer gets rejected or rated one- or two-stars, the Researcher often brings it to the attention of the group. Together we dissect it and try to determine if the problem was the customer, the Researcher, a misunderstanding, or simply a rating mistake. If it was the Researcher, we say so. Yes, we’re friends, but when it comes to our work, the customer comes first.
Google Answers Researchers go far beyond just answering questions. We may be independent contractors, but most of us care as much about Google Answers as the Google employees do. We put a great deal of thought and effort into improving our own service to the customers and improving Google Answers overall.
In our forum we maintain a large resource center with links to helpful sites, databases, and tools. In addition to what Google supplies to us, we have put together our own training guidelines, Researcher FAQ’s, and Beginning Researcher guide. We have brainstormed and submitted to the Google Answers Editors an extensive list of suggestions for improvements and changes to the service. We have taken part in an “Owlet” program set up by the editors to apprentice new Researchers.
Google Answers Researchers serve as front-line watch dogs for the Google Answers Editors, alerting them to inappropriate questions, comments, and answers. We also monitor the media and the web for references to Google Answers, correcting misconceptions and errors as they arise. We’ve corrected our Wikipedia entry in several different languages, have thanked reporters and researchers for delivering balanced articles, have debated with critics and skeptics, and have carefully watched as competitors rise and inevitably fall.
In short, while we may be “More than 500 carefully screened Researchers”, Google Answers Researchers are committed to Google Answers as a whole, not just to our own paychecks, star ratings, or personal fame on the website. We are wholly dedicated to keeping Google Answers the highest quality answer service on the net.
Thanks for listening,