Answers.com, which you might remember from WikiAnswers or ReferenceAnswers, announced last Wednesday a new alpha feature called “Hoopoe,” which ties in with Twitter. Hoopoe’s Twitter account is at http://twitter.com/answersdotcom.
Here’s how it works. Either send a tweet to @AnswersDotCom or write a tweet with the hashtag #AnswersDotcom or #hoopoe . Answers.com will send an autoresponse with a snippet of information and a pointer to the answer on its Web site.
The first thing I did was send a tweet to @AnswersDotCom asking “What is a hoopoe?” No more than a minute or so later I had the tweet you see above. The URL ponted me to an Answers.com page that provided information from a dictionary, Columbia Encyclopedia, Western Bird Guide, and a huge Wikipedia article with lots of images. I am now very confident about my basic hoopoe knowledge.
Next I tried a more abstract question, “When is the sun coming up tomorrow?” I tried that twice with #AnswersDotCom and #hoopoe. Be careful about including extraneous text in your question; Hoopoe will try to answer all of it. (It would be great if it only tried to answer the text set before the hashtag. That way you can warn all your followers you’re playing footsie with an autoresponder.) AnswersDotCom couldn’t answer the question, referring me to the site instead.
Thinking that perhaps that question didn’t provide enough data (like where I was) I asked a simpler reference question, “What is the square root of 12?” I got an answer from Answers.com but it was incorrect. And it completely ignored my similar question from a few minutes later — I think it searched for “Square root of” and gave me the first thing it could find in its database.
So if you’re looking for reference-type information, Answers.com’s Twitter service is fast and good. And #hoopoe is a hashtag I could actually type on my cell phone without too much trouble. On the other hand if you want math questions or almanac questions answered, you’ll have to keep waiting for Wolfram|Alpha to come out with a twitter service.