Our web driven, always-online culture has revolutionized the way we access information. Questions that would have taken hours or days to answer in a library can now be answered in seconds with a quick Google or Wikipedia search. At times, however, the sheer volume of information available online can turn the process frustrating or counterproductive. A simple web search can lead to millions of conflicting results and zero answers.
While sophisticated search tools and careful search methodology can alleviate much of this frustration, another solution arises out of the fundamentally social nature of the web. Web-based collaboration and social networking tools allow diverse communities to capitalize on their shared knowledge and expertise, forming a sort of online “hive” mind to answer questions in a quick, accurate manner.
Virtually any website or online community, including ListServs, can act as a “hive mind” for this type of knowledge sharing. There are several websites, however, that have taken the question-and-answer format a step further:
Ask a question, get an answer. Quora is a social network focused exclusively on Q&A, with the ability to subscribe to the topics that interest you.
- Yahoo! Answers
Created by Yahoo!, this site focuses primarily on personal questions, though it regularly strays into topics like business, career, and finance. Community members create profiles and earn points for providing good answers.
As with Yahoo! Answers, AllExperts addresses an extremely broad range of topics. Unlike Yahoo, however, AllExperts has dedicated “experts” for each of its many categories.
- Ask Slashdot
Slashdot is a longstanding news blog dedicated primarily to technology issues. The “Ask Slashdot” feature is run around once a day, featuring a question submitted by a reader and answers by the site’s large commenter community—many of whom work in IT.
- Ask Metafilter
Ask Metafilter is an outgrowth of the popular community blog Metafilter. While its format is similar to other community Q&A sites, the subjects tend to be more casual, conversational, and at times, argumentative.
- Lifehacker Hive Five
Lifehacker’s Hive Five series has a simple premise: ask the community for their favorite tools in a given area, like task management, and assemble the top five results. Then let the community vote on which of the five is the overall favorite.
- LinkedIn Groups
If you’d like to connect with a very specific group of peers or with a group of experts on a very particular topic, LinkedIn Groups is a great option. Powered by LinkedIn, it’s business-first.
- Get Satisfaction
Get Satisfaction is not a Q&A site, but a platform for building social knowledgebase systems. Many software and online service providers now use Get Satisfaction as a way of providing direct support to their users while also encouraging the community to provide answers to common questions.