Feb
03
2009

What were the strangest questions asked at Google Answers?

From the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle (photo by carulmare - CC-BY)

From the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle (photo by carulmare - CC-BY)

Google Answers, the now-defunct Q&A service operated by Google from 2002 to 2006, attracted its share of eccentrics and has the questions to show for it.

One Luke Smith proposed to his sweetheart by posting a question asking whether she would marry him. I fear the two-star rating means that the response was “no”.

Some people just liked to exercise the system, to see what would happen. Probonopublico paid $2 to ask for over a thousand comments to be posted, and hailstorm paid $2 for anyone willing to post an answer (anything!) in return for a guaranteed one-star rating. Another customer guaranteed five stars. Myoarin wanted the answerer to be the researcher who posted closest to the exact hour.

A question could be posted to make a voluntary payment to a researcher who had helped out on another question, but was not the one who had posted the answer. These “dummy” questions and answers were sometimes quite cryptic.

Customers liked to “hang out” with the researchers, and would often post a non-question just to start a conversation: “I can’t think of any good questions”, “Top secret question“, “Question to be posted in a clarification later”, or “Who is jeraboo” posted by customer jeraboo, not to mention “why is John such an unfortunate name” posted for the attention of a researcher named John, or even just “MY KEYBORED IS STUK IN UPPERCASE” posted by Kemlo. Another customer asked researchers to speculate on Kemlo’s true identity.

There were also meta-questions, about Google Answers: Point me to 5 awesome answers, what were the most interesting questions asked, why are my questions not answered, what has happened to the service, why do researchers sometimes post questions instead of finding out the answer themselves, why do researchers sometimes post helpful information for free, and even whether and how researchers and/or commenters have fallen in love!

Some questions were just bizarre. If you dig a hole from the US to China would you come out head or feet first? Amongst the Chuck Norris questions was “Who would win in a hand-to-hand battle between legendary bearded hero Chuck Norris and a similarly sized dinosaur with equal training in ass-kicking?” Then there were the vampire questions: a vampire who wants to become mortal, someone who wants original drawings of nude female vampires, and someone who wanted proof that a liver left alone in the fridge would slowly make its way towards milk.

Who wouldn’t want to know the quickest way to become enlightened, or the potential and negative implications of the concept of sublime energy (answered, appropriately, by researcher sublime1). Some people might prefer not to know the longest time anyone has gone without changing bedsheets, or whether an errant bag of faeces could shear off an astronaut’s head.

Some unanswerable questions were nevertheless asked and answered: What is the secret of women, how do you become your own teacher and, many times, what is the meaning of life? There were also many requests to compose poems, including one to mark the death of a pet.

Oh, and I liked the time back in 2003 when the researchers and the customer got into an argument in the comments. That didn’t happen often!

Related questions:

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