5 Q&A sites publishers should know
Everyone seems to be talking about Q&A platforms like Quora. Will the now hot Q&A space become a critical part of the professional work of digital publishers? The future looks bright for the growth of the Q & A model, at least for now.
If you're not familiar with this growing content model, here are 5 Q&A sites that you should learn more about.
Quora, which happens to be the hottest Q&A site, is also, of all the sites mentioned here, the most "social." The answers also, from what I could tell, are the smartest. Quora is, according to their site, a "continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it."
What I like best about Quora is the ease of use and the quality of experts that frequently answer user questions. Its influencers include Steve Case as regular users. On being a user of Quora, Case posted:
"I signed up for Quora last Fall because I had heard about it and was intrigued. I was initially reluctant to post answers, as I wasn't sure I wanted to add yet another social media responsibility to my repertoire. But I jumped in the water a couple months ago and started answering some of the questions that had been posed to me. I found it didn't take that much time, and my answers helped clarify some things (especially related to the early days of the Internet). So I am now happy to check in every week or so, and will post when I think I can add something to the dialogue."
If Quora is the hottest Q&A site, Yahoo! Answers is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Yahoo! Answers is not the classiest player in the space (though the vice president has, quixotically, taken to it), but publishers should be aware of its existence. While you are less likely to have your question answered on this community-driven site by a Silicon Valley executive as you are on Quora, it is the site to beat in terms of size and the speed of which questions get answered by their massive audience. Members earn also points answering questions. And there is, of course, a place for the answers of "real people."
Stack Overflow differentiates itself from Quora mainly in that it is geared toward programmers ("people who write code because they love it"). Still, considering the developer-oriented turn of everything in this digital age, publishers might want to take a look. It is far less chatty and open-ended in its discussions than is Quora. Their self-policing is also much better than Quora. But for digital publishers with a specific programming problem or with issues unique to the programming profession, this is an important resource.
About 80% of questions, according to their own internal statistics, are answered. And in his "State of the Stack Report" Joel Spolsky, the co-founder and CEO, posted, "That’s why our favorite thing to measure is 'percent of questions answered.' And not just any answer will do, either: to count a question as 'answered', either the original poster has to accept the answer, or a third party has to upvote the answer. This is where Stack Overflow really shines compared to other Q&A sites: we actually get questions answered."
2010 was a big year for Stack Overflow. They began last as Stack Overflow LLC with three programmers working out of a home and grew by year's end to 16.6 million uniques, growing 51% in just December. Stack Overflow's Top 20 tags are also available in ebook format, which I find nothing short of brilliant.
Mahalo, which has 12 million monthly unique visitors, is now in its fourth incarnation and is focusing on original how-to video content, real time Q&A as well as text. As founder Jason Calacanis described it in a recent Tweet, "Mahalo 4.0 = Howcast + Quora + About.com."
Mahalo distinguishes itself from both Quora and Stack Overflow in that it effectively utilizes video in Q & A. Mahalo, which began in 2007 as a self-described "human powered search engine," has of late pivoted in the Q&A site direction. The move appears to be quite organic and well timed as the site has always had more of a chance to shine as a purer Q&A play than in dethroning Google in the category of search. At the reboot presser, Calacanis, the company's CEO, said, "But the truth is, the world doesn't actually need better-quality search. I think we've got good enough search. The world needs more quality videos and content and teachers."
In the B2B space of knowledge markets, LinkedIn Answers is probably second to none in usefulness (sorry Quora). Users are not only allowed to get answers to their questions from knowledgeable members of their professional network, but are allowed to see other vocation-specific questions posed by others. I check in on it (and on Quora, lately) at least once a week. Questions can also be browsed -- and subscribed to -- by category. Points of expertise in the question’s category are awarded to LinkedIn Answers users whose response is chosen as best by the question’s asker. Quite a service.
Launched in 2007 as an something of an "answer" to Yahoo! Answers (and immediately following the closing down of Google Answers), LinkedIn Answers distinguishes itself from all the other knowledge markets in that it targets one's profession.