Oneupweb Reviews: Mahalo Answers (Part Two of Mahalo.com Review)

Can Mahalo talk its members into powering the human search engine through its Mahalo Answers feature?

Hmmm… I wonder what that infomercial from Mahalo founder Jason Calacanis would sound like?

“Are you SICK of BEING UNAPPRECIATED for your Trivia knowledge? Have you ALWAYS THOUGHT you DESERVE A BLACK BELT for your SEARCH ENGINE KNOW-HOW? Now YOU CAN get that black belt and MAKE MONEY by SHARING YOUR KNOWLEDGE in your spare time.”

Since launching Mahalo Answers in December 2008, Calacanis hasn’t promoted this crowd-sourced Q&A as a home-based business venture. You have to wonder, though, if the human-powered search engine needs the help of its “brown belts with black tips” —answer ninjas with over 10,000 queries solved and about $400 or $500 Mahalo Dollars in their pockets (or, rather, PayPal accounts)—to help make its search engine a viable resource.

Actually, relying on the Mahalo Answers community may not be a bad idea for Calacanis himself. Any of his Mahalo brown belts could have performed a quick Google search and told him his security consultant had been convicted for stealing online banking identities. That could have saved a little embarrassment.

For those who don’t know the concept behind Mahalo Answers, you earn points that can potentially turn into cold hard cash for every question you answer. There are different karate belt levels depending on how many points you’ve earned and your belt color determines how frequently you can post or ask questions. Which, in an overly-complicated fashion, leads to the money.

The cash comes from tips offered by people asking questions. The best answer, as rated by the person asking the question, gets the tip. Refunds are given for crappy answers, which can affect a person’s ability to make 75 cents on a Mahalo dollar (the site takes 25 percent).

Twitter users seem to love posting questions on Mahalo Answers, but they aren’t really tipping. To “generate excitement,” however, Mahalo has begun coughing up a buck tip for a variety of questions, including mine. As you can see below, Mahalo is funding questions that are specific, not general questions like “How are you?” or, more to the point, “Why?”

Tipping and rating users is supposed to make this Q&A more accurate, competitive and all around better than, say, Yahoo! Answers. In the end, however, Mahalo Answers just offers a lot of opinion from a lot of people who could well be qualified, but just as likely aren’t.

So, the rating: while it’s somewhat entertaining, the fun factor is mitigated by the weird D&D-esque “ninja” point system, the obvious fact that very few people are liable to spend money for answers they could get elsewhere for free, and the natural preponderance of know-it-all blowhards.

Oneupweb thumb sideways, leaning toward down.