Lazyweb, a site envisioned by Matt Jones and built by Ben Hammersley, was online from 2002 to 2006 before being shut down due to an overabundance of trackback and comment spam. The site, a progenitor of the web 2.0 movement, was one of the first to harness the wisdom of the crowds - by allowing you to ask a question of the internet audience in hopes that someone out there had the answer or solution, which you were too inexperienced or "lazy" to find for yourself.
Now that social networking has taken root, it's actually rather surprising that it's taken this long to see the return of a Lazyweb-like service - which is what the newly launched Hoosgot is.
Unlike more formal Q&A venues such as Yahoo Answers, where anyone can ask a question, Hoosgot is designed for use by people who are already participating in an online community via blogging or Twitter.
To use Hoosgot (Get it? "Who's got...?"), you simply add "hoosgot" into a blog post or send a tweet to @hoosgot and it will appear on the Hoosgot homepage. If your blog is indexed by Technorati, you can also tag a post with "hoosgot" or even "lazyweb", and the service will pick it up, too. If someone out there has your answer, they can respond in the comments of the post or by direct messaging you on Twitter. Like all web 2.0 services, Hoosgot requires participation to be successful, as it's only useful if people comment and respond to the questions posed. To participate, there is a main feed and a comments feed you can subscribe to. Twitter users can also follow the @hoosgot Twitter user account.
Will Hoosgot survive? To fight off spam, Hoosgot's creator, David Sifry, states that he has installed a number of back-end spam fighting tools and systems, but he also warns that Hoosgot may miss a legitimate post or tweet from time to time. If those systems can keep up with the barrage of spam, the occasional false positive shouldn't be too worrisome. What's more troubling, however, is whether or not Hoosgot will actually be relevant. Although the social community aspect of the service seems to fit right in with the web 2.0 model, it's possible that Hoosgot has already been replaced by the very service it uses to feed its homepage: Twitter.
The tech-savvy users of the micro-blogging social service Twitter already have a built-in "Hoosgot" - it's called a "friend list." With Twitter, you have the ability to quickly and easily throw out a question to the masses, except the masses are your friends and colleagues, a group that is already motivated by their personal connections to you, to read what you have to say and respond. Or, if you decide to follow everyone that follows you, you'll have a built-in, personal social network that extends beyond those people that you actually know, to include the people who are interested in what you have to say and, therefore, also likely willing to respond to a question you pose.
Then again, these networks are small and there are many times that you need to ask your question to a wider audience. This is where Hoosgot could help, if enough people join in. At the moment though, Hoosgot looks like it's picking up more blog posts discussing the service than actual questions in need of answers. Since the service was only launched on December 28th, it will take some time to see if enough people choose to participate to make the service worthwhile. Still, Hoosgot, with its built-in Lazyweb fan base, has potential and is certainly an interesting launch worth tracking.