Wise Guy, Eh?

by on May 15, 2007

Until yesterday, I’d not tried Any Questions Answered (AQA) – the old-school (as in not P2P) SMS-based answer service. For a mere £1, they will answer any question you have. I’d heard good things about them.

Their website allows you to ask one free question, so I did:

“Since 1950, how many people have been shot by the police in mainland Britain (excluding N Ireland) who were not later found to be innocent?”

I was attempting to ask a straight question. Not too broad, minimal ambiguity I hoped, and conducive to a straight answer. It’s a question you would not be able to get an answer from Google at all easily, so I assumed it would be a good test of their mettle. Here’s their reply:

“No one who gets shot by the police is formally not found innocent. You would need a trial, and for obvious reasons a trial can’t happen in that situation.”

Leaving aside my suspicion that they meant to say “No one who gets shot by the police is formally found innocent” I now want to text them back and re-phrase the question. But not for a quid! Is that the sort of answer you would have expected? François pointed out that they are probably popular amongst people who don’t think to use Google.

Crafty lot, AQA…


Bet they won’t be able to answer my question:

By decade what percentage of British authors that died after 1937 were active in 1850s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.
Take that AQA – my mobile hasn’t bleeped yet…

And they couldn’t.

Answer:AQA could only find one British author who died after 1937. Agnes Giberne (1845 – 1939)wrote fiction with moral or religious themes for children.

They could only find one? I sense there is a hidden agenda in your question though, since 1937 is a “magic date” is it not?

After I posted that, I casually Googled for “author dies after 1937” and get Constance Spry (1886-1960) at number three, and this at about number 10, which shows a whole bunch more including Aldous Huxley (1894 – 1963) and George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950).

Hundreds of researchers, eh?

Presumably this isn’t the semantic web but semantically challenged mechanicals Turks /Indians / British behind the scenes?

Heading to the most posted comments ever this section …

I would think it’s just a couple of public school tossers in a bedroom in Stevenage. Quite a cushy job though I would think unless you’re on the night shift. Text comes in, you Google it, copy/paste, ping back. Probably just enough hard questions to keep it intellectually stimulating. Bet they laughed when they sent mine.

Responding so we get to 9 posts! Is that the record?

Did you like the Kraftwerk pocket calculator?

Yes, I don’t know how to configure the site to respond to a “blank” host name without violating various RFCs. I’d quite like to know how to do it though.

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