I'm lloking for confidential online research services
January 22, 2007 12:30 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for something like Google Answers where the answer is kept private. Basically I'm looking for an affordable internet research assistant. Specifically, I'd like to find competitors to an online business and I do not want the answers to be public. Any ideas?

Disclaimer: I asked this question on Questionville.com and never got a response. Sorry AskMeFi for straying.
posted by jpep to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you willing to pay for the answers? You could try a posting on the Jobs section or on a freelance site.
posted by coffeespoons at 12:54 PM on January 22, 2007

You might try asking at your local public library's reference desk. Many provide answers by phone and/or email, too. That's what they're there for.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:11 PM on January 22, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks. Yes, I am willing to pay for the research. My biggest concern is the quality and confidentiality associated with just posting the project on a freelance site. It is difficult to ask for someone's 'portfolio' of work in this area (I think?).

I emailed back and forth with my local university library. I was hoping to pay a library researcher to do a couple hours of research. According to the person I spoke to, there was no way to post a freelance job for the library employees. They do have a question answering service, but this seemed to be beyond the scope.
posted by jpep at 1:24 PM on January 22, 2007

Please put some contact info in your profile. There are probably a few MeFites who can help you, but don't want to be accused of pimping their services.
posted by GarageWine at 1:31 PM on January 22, 2007

You may want to contact your local Special Libraries Association Chapter, or the Competitive Intelligence Division. Our local chapter has a consultations chair who would be able to coordinate helping you find someone who freelances w/in your geographic area. I can't speak for your region without knowing where you are (not all chapters have the same chairs).

As someone who does CI (and can't freelance) I know that there are concerns with tracking searches online, and the importance of confidentiality. I'd suggest going with an info pro for this, because it will increase confidentiality, as well as they'll have access to paid databases beyond just the web.
posted by librarianamy at 1:58 PM on January 22, 2007

Response by poster: @GarageWine: Thanks, I just added an email address to my profile.
posted by jpep at 2:04 PM on January 22, 2007

The Windsor (Ontario) Public Library sells reference librarian time at CAN$60 an hour. I did an internship there, and they definitely subscribe to many databases and to the librarian fetish of patron privacy. If you are in the US, don't let that scare you off. They are a border library, and used to dealing with USians.

Alternately, there are freelance librarians, as librarianamy pointed out.
posted by QIbHom at 2:49 PM on January 22, 2007

I'd second the recommendations for a public library.

If you're dead set against this idea for some reason, then ChaCha might be of interest - it's a search engine which also connects you to real humans (via chat) who are supposedly subject experts. However, the site gives you no information about the qualifications of the people who are answering your questions, or their search abilities. So you might want to be cautious about using it.
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:41 PM on January 22, 2007

If it is a question that won't require much time, I can do it for free. I work as a researcher at a large university, giving me access to tons of databases. I also have an MLS. If it is a question that will require a lot of work, we can work out a fair (pretty cheap) rate.
posted by toddst at 6:11 AM on January 23, 2007

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