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More help from experts

February 2002

I'm proud of my readers. Many of you did the homework assigned in last month's column, asking a question to an expert at AllExperts.Com.

Perhaps the most impressive result was that of a reader who owns two Chagall lithographs and was eager to know how much they were worth. She knew that an art expert would charge her at least $200 per picture--possibly more than the value of the prints themselves. So she read about AllExperts and decided this was the question to ask.

She was thrilled with the result. The expert knew his stuff. He was experienced buying and selling all levels of Chagall graphics and had curated several shows. He was familiar with the works and told her exactly how much they were worth (one in the $300-700 range and the other about $40). She got exactly the advice she wanted, advice that would ordinarily have cost at least $400. And she got it for free!

Another reader simply wanted to know how to get a book listed on Amazon.com. He turned to AllExperts and got the answer.

And one reader took the opportunity to ask two questions to marketing experts. He wanted to know the best way to attract clients to his website and to find out other ways he could attract more clients. He was pleased with the results and would use the service again.

He said, however, that he noticed that he began receiving junk email soon after posing his questions and felt that the two were related. In their privacy policy AllExperts insists they keep your e-mail address confidential.

But not everyone had his or her question answered. One person asked a very specific question of an astrophysicist, and while he got an informative and friendly reply, the expert was unable to answer the question.

Sometimes you're better off asking a question of a group. If it's a difficult question, it may be more likely that someone in the group will know the answer.

You guessed it: more homework. But, really, it's as easy as the last assignment. This time we'll use that wonderful website Google.

Google does everything better. And you can now use Google to interact with discussion groups. In particular, they give you access to the venerable discussion groups called Usenet Newsgroups, which have been around since about 1980.

OK, get your question ready, and I'll take you through the process step by step.

1) Go to Google Groups and type in a couple keywords related to your question. For example, if I wanted to ask a question about regarding my Pocket PC, I could simply type in "Pocket PC."

2) Typically at the top of the list of search results is a section titled "Related Groups." That tells you the discussion groups that most frequently discuss that topic. For example, there are four Pocket PC-related discussion groups. I would choose microsoft.public.pocketpc.

3) Select one of the groups by clicking on it, and then make the resulting page a favorite or bookmark in your web browser so that you can return later.

4) When you select the group, it will return a list of messages that have been posted to that group, with the most recent messages at the top.

5) On the top right, you will see a link titled "Post a new message to <groupname>." Click on that link.

6) Because you haven't yet registered, at this point you will be asked to register by giving a name (doesn't have to be your real name) and your e-mail address. You must complete this simple registration in order to post.

7) Send the registration, and then check your e-mail to get the resulting confirmation.

8) Click on the link that comes to your e-mail address, and you will automatically be taken to a blank form for posting.

9) Post your question.

10) It can take 1-9 hours for your message to be posted. So wait a while and then use the bookmark or favorite you made to go back to the page for that group. Look for the message you posted and for any replies that may have been posted.

Note that junk mailers collect e-mail addresses from the newsgroups, so you may want to sign up for a free web-based e-mail account on Google or Hotmail or Yahoo and then give that e-mail address when you register.

Good luck. I hope you find the Internet to be useful in getting answers to your questions.

© 2001 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.

E-mail Jim Karpen