Answer: Not at all. Q & A sites are a kind of social network and a solution to problems with the Google’s decreasingly-useful search engine. It’s a crowded space—Tech Observer has receivered press releases this week from Ask.com, ChaCha and Answers.com, the last of which is relaunching soon.
Joel Spolsky of Stack Overflow, the popular Q & A site for programmers, had some insight in hisinterview on We Are NY Tech this morning.
Spolsky also created Stack Exchange, a network of Q & A communities built around specific topics, like photography, cooking, gaming.
Any topic for which there is a scholarly journal merits a Q & A site, he said, pegging that number at between 20,000 and 40,000. “You need a minimum number of participants studying the same thing (400-500) which is about the same number as it takes to sustain a journal,” he said.
The Q & A site Quora recently exploded, spreading from the earliest early adopters and taking hold with secondary early adopters (crucial group!) after being reviewed by tech blogger Robert Scoble, who gushed its praises. Two weeks later, the hype is still going.
Quora’s innovation was to make answers not crap by requiring users to authenticate their names with Twitter or Facebook and having editors police content.
Spolsky’s sites, due to their niche appeal, also filter out most of the Internet’s trolls.
And if this whole Q&A thing doesn’t pan out, Spolsky has a backup plan. “There isn’t a single espresso shop on the Upper West Side that knows how to steam milk for lattes properly. I think at Starbucks they just put their face in the milk and blow bubbles,” he said.
“I would open a cafe called the No Laptop Cafe. Hipsters pretending to write novels while they mull for six hours over one cup of brewed coffee would be banned. Instead, we would have real newspapers and folk singers.”
ajeffries [at] observer.com | @adrjeffries