RIP Google Baraza. [2010 - 2012]
After about 20 months of launching, Baraza, Google’s Q&A service for Africa is a ghost town with less than 1,000 users and minimal user interaction and engagement.
The idea of the service was to allow people in countries across Africa to ask questions and post answers to questions from others in order to help bring more local content online.
According to one of its product managers, Aneto Okonkwo, while responding to the question: “What is Google Baraza?” posed by a user, he said:
One of Google’s goals in Africa is to make the internet more locally relevant and bring more people online. One of the challenges of the internet in Africa is that there is a lack of local content online. At Google, we find that users search for information about local businesses, entertainment, health, etc but often don’t find it because the information is not yet available online. In order to help bring more local content online, Google engineers have created Baraza to allow people in countries across Africa to ask questions and post answers to questions from others.
Unfortunately, Google Baraza has failed to create a community of knowledge sharing and has made the Internet more irrelevant to users looking for reliable information about local businesses, entertainment, health, etc.
Instead, the service has been its own worst enemy. For example, one user on the service named Gameli asked on March 9, 2012: “Do people still use Google Baraza?” One user responded that he still uses it to answer questions and another said he uses it because it is African.
Notice that both responses did not suggest that Baraza as a Q&A service has been useful and relevant to helping them find local information about businesses, entertainment or health — the main goal of creating the service in the first place.
Little wonder my skepticism whether the service would make or mar relevant and reliable information for Africa.
Google Employees Are NOT Even Using Baraza
How do you describe a service that its product manager has abandoned for about a year now for other collaborative Q&A services such as Quora [image above] where he actively contributes questions and answers to?
One word: A failure.
Apparently, Okonkwo who invited me to the private beta testing of the service back in October 2010, has asked and responded to just a handful of questions on Baraza. His last question on the service was on August 23, 2011 and his last response to a question on the service was on March 8, 2011.
Perhaps a more ridiculous example is that of Nmachi Jidenma, who currently works as Outreach Manager for Google+. She asked and responded to her last question on the service on October 20, 2010 (the same day she joined).
Even Denis Gikunda, Google Kenya’s Localization Project Manager for Africa and Salome Nduku, one of Google’s Swahili Language Specialists who both suggested the word “Baraza” to be used for the service are no where to be found on the service.
Did Seun Osewa’s Nairaland Kill Google Baraza?
I strongly believe so. And my reason is simple: Nairaland offers the most reliable and relevant source of local information online ever and provides users with a search-friendly and search-optimised local information network shared by a loyal audience that rivals any Q&A service in the world.
Even Yahoo Answers launched in 2005 (the same year Nairaland was founded) has yet to beat Nairaland with its rich knowledge and information sharing capabilities.
On the other hand, Baraza — a lazy and lame attempt at competing with Nairaland — hasn’t been much of a threat to Nairaland in its about 20 months of existence. Most of the questions asked on the service were unintelligent and irrelevant and the answers given left much to be desired.
[Question: Would you go back to a service that asked how many times men lie in a day? Answer: I'll throw up several times all through the day]
As a result, interactions and engagements with the service was quite boring, especially since other online platforms such as Nairaland and Twitter offered a more reliable and faster way of getting your questions answered anyway.
With so many Google products having failed or shut down over the years, and with its Africa-focused products either being poorly planned, executed or managed, it is only a matter of months before the company throws in the towel on Baraza.
While you might still be using the Q&A service, its engineers and other Google employees have already given up on the product and have moved on to developing and actively using other Google products and services, leaving you and other users in a lonely ghost town.
I know there will be a lot of haters on this post. And people who would feel I should have contacted the Google local team or its local PR agency before publishing the post. [I have contacted Aneto Okonkwo via his emails, but he's yet to respond]
But it still won’t change anything. As far as I’m concerned, Baraza is dead on my radar. Dead.
And as for Google, it should know when to quit flogging a dead horse. Cos Baraza is not likely coming back.
[Image cartoon via: ACM]