Looking for Intelligent Answers

I was actually just going to call this post “Looking for Answers”, but it didn’t really frame the message that I wanted to convey.  Lately, I have messed around with a service called Quora. By its own definition Quora “is a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it.  The premise is pretty good – “you ask a question and people answer them.”

How does it differ from Twitter?  Probably the best explanation is that it isn’t limited by 140 characters.  Twitter is awesome as a learning place but is hampered by the size limit.  Often the best answers from Twitter come from multi-part messages or a link to a web resource where details may be found.

How does it differ from Yahoo! Answers then?  From a quick look, the functionality does seem fairly similar.  I don’t see dropping one or the other at this point.  I do find that Quora, at this point, tends to give more serious answers.  Above the simple Q&A, Quora allows you to follow people to determine what their conversation is about.  I liken the logic to a good confidant.  If you get a good answer, you’re more likely to return.

I actually discovered Quora when I was in search of an answer that I couldn’t readily find by other means.  I was intrigued and so signed up and drop in periodically to see what’s being discussed.  More importantly, I’ve tossed out a couple of questions myself that required opinion and research and was quite impressed with the results that it generated.  Here’s an example of one.

Why does Twitter enjoy such success in comparison to FriendFeed, Plurk, Buzz or any of the others?

Answer Summary

Some of the things that helped twitter score over its competitors were simplicity, suitability to mobile platforms, excellent noise control concept, early adoption and stickiness of celebrities and its excellent APIs that encouraged a whole world of apps.

12 Answers

Robert Scoble, Rackspace Web hosting’s tech enthusia…

37 votes by Murtaza Ali Akbar, Peter du Toit, Paul Ricard, (more)

I was an early user of all these tools and studied this problem from the front-row seat I occupy.

1. All users are not the same. Kevin Rose is worth more to a startup than Joe Smith. The Kevin Rose’s of this world never took to any of the other services named here than Twitter. Why? We’ll discuss this next.

….  the 12 answers continue on at this link if you’re interested.

There are some interesting twists that you’ll find here.  First, as you pose a question, Quora tries to help out by seeing if someone has already posed the same or similar question.  That is helpful to expedite the process.  Answers can come from anywhere and the best of the answers can be voted up to make sure that you’re getting the better ones at the top of your reading.  One of the more interesting features is that others can edit your question to make it even better.  I found that interesting.  The concept of crowd sourcing answers is intriguing to me somehow and the seriousness of the answers that I’m getting at this point do make it worthwhile.  The answer summary is a nice feature as the best of the content is easily made available.

I have asked a few questions so far.

  • Why does Twitter enjoy such success in comparison to FriendFeed, Plurk, Buzz or any of the others?
  • Who do you see as an upcoming speaker blending the best of education and educational technology in their presentations?
  • Are there any amateur infographics creators out there? What tools are you using to create your product?
  • I’m seeing a number of blog posts today where something called “The Blog Health-O-Meter” evaluates a blog and gives details. It makes reference to WordPress.com statistics as the source for the data. Does anyone know where this is coming from?
  • How do Web 2.0 companies make money?

The results have been interesting.  Many don’t generate definitive answers but have led me to open my thinking in different directions and that’s always good.  If you’re looking for answers that can’t be found using traditional tools, you might just find this resource as a place for better answers.  No one source will be the sole place to turn but the more you add to your toolkit, the better the toolkit becomes.  Follow Quora on Twitter as new questions are piped over and someone may have just asked a question that you’ve always been curious about but never thought or knew where to ask it.

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