There are numerous Q&A sites on the Internet, but most of them, I'd argue, should be labelled "caveat emptor," so to speak, as it's hard to know whether Yahoo user Zakk1234 or HawtLulu99, for example, really are offering the best answer to your question -- be it how long to roast a chicken or how to unlock the Golden Eggs level on Angry Birds.
But Quora, founded by former Facebookers Adam D'Angelo and Charlie Cheever in 2009, has quickly become the favorite Q&A site of many in the tech world.
The reason is severalfold, I think. You can follow people, questions and topics on Quora, and receive email notifications when someone answers a question you're interested in. You can vote answers up or down and suggest edits to help clarify questions. Despite moving from a private beta to public this summer, Quora has retained a smart, helpful community and a high quality of Q&A. While you can post questions and answers anonymously, most are attached to a profile, so you can really evaluate the expertise of the respondents. Want to ask a question about why Twitter makes you click to load the most recent tweets on its website? Well, it helps to get a response from someone who's actually a programmer at Twitter.
Venture capitalist Mark Suster describes Quora's appeal as "High value content + early maven adopters + topic orientation + SEO friendly content + bacn + high user engagement." And really, once you start participating in the site, you will believe the bacn.
I recommend educators check out Quora, particularly if you're interested in education technology -- as I noted above, the site is well-trafficked by those in the tech world.
Here are a number of ed-tech related questions I've seen lately:
- What are some good education technology blogs / resources for educators?
- Who are the smartest thinkers around how to build the best educational technology user experiences?
- Which languages would you recommend for teaching programming to children 8-9 years old?
- What are some interesting startups in the education space?
- Why is there a lack of innovation in educational technology for school-aged children compared to high school or higher ed?
It was the latter in particular that really made me wish for more educators actively participating on the site. While it's great to have such avid participation from the tech industry, I worry that we'll just recreate the echo chamber if business folks, and not education folks, are the only ones answering the ed-tech questions. (I can also imagine Quora, along with other Q&A sites, making a useful classroom exercise to help teach students how to evaluate sources of information.)