QINANs: The Untouchables

At any given moment, there are hundreds of unlocked, unanswered questions at Google Answers awaiting a researcher's attention, including, typically, about 25 questions priced at $200, and even more in the $100-200 range.  The unanswered questions have a combined list price of, easily, $10,000 or more.

At the same time, there are dozens of researchers scanning what I call the QINAN list — Questions In Need of An Answer.   Each researcher is hungry for their next lock, and hoping that, this month at least, they'll earn something approaching minimum wage.

So why aren't the researchers locking the QINAN's, and socking away those thousands?

This has been one the major surprises to me about Google Answers…the sheer number of questions that, while doubtless posted in good faith, are virtually unanswerable.

I've picked out one or two in several price categories to give you a bit of a feel for what I mean.


Q:non linear optimisation $200


This one is asking a highly technical question involving the solution to a mathematics problem in C++ programming.  It's the type of thing you either know, or not.  There's no searching for a solution for this one.


Q: Names of engineers in Palm Springs  $200.00

This asker wants the names of ALL designers and engineers and CADD operators and a few others who work for any civil engineering firm in several California cities.

Ha, ha.

Actually, it's hard to articulate WHY this question is unanswerable, but it is.  First off, we can't promise ALL of anything, as there's always the probablility that we've missed one or two.  But the main problem is that firm-by-firm employee directories just don't exist, and no amount of skillful research on our parts can bring them into existence.


Q: Investment accounts that allow debit card access? Sub accounts?   $150.00

This one's interesting, because it probably is answerable with the right amount of clarification and effort.  But I would have to charge the asker $150 just to read through and make sense out of the convoluted question about specialized features of investment accounts.  Then I'd have to start calling around for information about such accounts (which is generally a lost cause, because the firms don't want to give out a lot of information to me, until I give them the details about my finances, etc, and they feel they have me on the hook as a potential customer). 

Then, I'd have to start a long round of Clarifications with the asker (which may never be seen, given the problems with the notification system) asking if such-and-such a bank sounds like the right one…and so on, and so on.  It really would take thousands of dollars worth of effort, and at the end of it all, there's a good likelihood that there simply isn't a firm out there that offers the type of specialized accounts that are needed. 

And the asker has made clear that an answer of 'it can't be done' just ain't gonna cut it.


Q: Retail Sales United States and Western Europe   $120.00

Wants to know every major retailer in the US selling SuperMax razors.  And their sales!  And their profit margins! 

And then do the same thing for all of Western Europe.

I'm out of breath, just thinking about it.


Q: USDA Schedule C position?  $100.00

This one broke my heart a bit, because I have some pretty deep background knowledge on this topic, and I would have like to have helped here.  But the back and forth only made it clear that the asker didn't want what this researcher had to offer, and seemed to want some sort of magic that, I suspect, no one can provide. 


Q: I am looking for scientific research papers that state GHB is safe   $100.00

GHB is a dangerous and illegal drug, and this asker wanted proof that it's 100% safe. Sorry….


and lastly there's:


Q: attorney lied about healthcare How do I get legal redress.  $5.00

At least it isn't all caps!  But the question is unclear — it's amazing how many like this are posted — and the process needed to better understand what's being asked here hardly seems worth the effort, particularly for a legal mess that we would be unlikely to help untangle. 


These are by no means the worst of the bunch, or even particularly representative of the unanswerable questions at Google Answers.  Just a look at a not atypical bunch of QINANs from yours truly,

pafalafaga David Sarokin

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