It seems that there is a new trend for Question and Answer systems on the web. It might be that mailing lists, forums and other “old school” knowledge systems appear too boring / complex / slow and we want information and answers a lot quicker or properly channeled to us or to the issue itself. Experiencing the signal to noise ratio on many forums and mailing lists, this does not really come as a shock to me.
Yahoo Answers is a web service that allows you to pose a question and get immediate answers from thousands of Yahoo users. After a day you either choose the best answer or the people answering vote for what was the best answer. The idea is to store all the best answers and thereby accumulate a vast knowledge base. Every answer gets points, those chosen as best answers get bonus points and so on. The points are there for their own purpose, unlike Google Answers there is no monetary compensation.
Just as Yahoo Answers went live across Europe after being in beta for quite a while in the US, I stumbled over an interesting system:
QUNU is an contribution expert service much like Y!Answers, with the difference that it doesn’t store information or content but connects you to real people answering on their IM clients. The system uses Jabber – which is every geek’s favourite. The idea is pretty sweet but I had a hard time seeing the innovation in it – from a communication channel point of view. If you look closely it appears to be something like a fancy IRC client with rounded corners. The difference is that you can search, tag and add other meta data to questions. Well worth taking a second look and dabbling in it a bit.
Another service that made me go “hmm…” is Ether which allows you to sell your services giving advice over voice-over-ip on a per-minute basis. Sounds like all these funky telephone numbers offered on late night TV get a stiff competition there.