By WALTER S. MOSSBERG
If you're one of those people who thinks he's always right, but can't
prove it on the spot, we might have just the technology for you.
This week, my assistant Katie Boehret and I tested a new service
called AskMeNow that attempts to be like a digital version of Who
Wants to Be a Millionaire's phone-a-friend. This service works by
answering questions of all sorts in just a few minutes for free, or in
some cases for 49 cents per question.
AskMeNow, based in Irvine, Calif., is a division of Ocean West Holding
Corp. and is currently only available in beta (or prerelease version),
but its full-scale service will come out in the beginning of next
month. Its concept is very straightforward: You send questions to the
service by calling from your cellphone or emailing directly from a
portable smartphone, and answers are sent back to your phone or
hand-held via Short Messaging Services (SMS) or email within about a
Questions can be asked for free using a form-entry method, called
"auto answers," or by calling in questions that don't fit into one of
the form-entry categories. (These are referred to as "AskAnything"
questions, and they are the ones that cost 49 cents each.)
To answer your questions, the company employs real people who sit at
computers in the Philippines, furiously researching the Internet
(using data from content partnerships) trying to respond to your
queries within three minutes. This doesn't always mean the response is
correct. It simply means that the retrieved information was online
somewhere. But our results proved rather accurate.
If your question has been asked before, it's more likely to get a
faster response because its answer is already on file. AskMeNow
reserves the right to not answer questions that aren't family
friendly. The service sometimes answers opinion questions using
opinions posted online, but we couldn't get an answer to our question,
"What is the hippest bar in Washington, D.C.?"