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The e-commerce giant has announced the beta version rollout of a crowdsourced Q&A platform in December. The goal is to enhance Alexa’s ability to answer questions, which, to some extent, falls short of its rival, Google Assistant.
According to Amazon, the feature is named Alexa Answers. The company also says that in order to outperform Google’s Knowledge Graph, it has decided to ramp up Amazon’s databases via outsourcing the answers to an invite-only community. The process received great support from those pre-beta advocates, who have since shared several common questions with Alexa, including “Who wrote the score for Lord of the Rings?”
Such a move by the company enables Alexa to expand its database with quicker and bigger scale. However, it also comes along with risks of abuse and accuracy. Anyone who ever uses crowdsourced Q&A platforms—for example, Reddit, Quora, Yahoo Answers, or even programming-related one like Stack Oveflow—knows that the answers with the most votes are not always the best or most accurate ones. The content of these answers is sometimes profane and consists of inappropriate and offensive language.
In order to tackle the problem, Amazon has attempted to develop a platform with an automatic filtering function to catch “unsuitable” content and a community where answers are rated by Amazon account holders. Contributing to answers will also earn customers points and leaderboard badges, which are eligible for future redemption of many Amazon perks.
“This new feature is just one example of the many ways we’re continuously working to grow Alexa’s knowledge,” an Amazon spokesperson says. “As always, we’ll continue to evolve the experience based on customer feedback.”
Wikipedia, another crowdsourcing platform, has been largely successful in maintaining standards over the years. In its case, the site contains a group of elite editors who make sure that the content is suitable and of sufficient quality to be viewed by its audience. Alexa Answers needs to achieve the same self-regulated, collaborative system. There have not been any reports of abuse of this feature so far, but it has not been broadly available. In short, it remains to be seen if Amazon can catch up in the crowdsourced Q&A space.
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