These days, services like Quora, Facebook Questions and even more specifically, StackOverflow, are almost a dime a dozen. Many exist, but only a handful have actually garnered a loyal and significant user base. But how is this possible when Q&A has been around for so long? Why now is it so much more popular?
- Andrew Parker
"Google assumed that you had to pay people for high quality answers to domain-specific questions, but it turns out people will willingly give away copious cognitive surplus in exchange for social credibility amongst their peers (points, badges, leaderboards, etc)," says Parker. "In short, paying someone with fungible reputation has proven to be more motivating than paying someone cash, in the Q&A sector."
We now live in an era - ushered in by the likes of Foursquare and Farmville - where we cherish not monetary reward, but geek street cred. Badges, stickers, points, etc. People provide their knowledge on Quora partly to boost their own repuation in an area, and users battle to be "gurus" of various topics on GetGlue.
All of this and no monetary compensation. While these startups have leveraged this trend, Parker points out it's not as simple as "if you build it, they will come."
"The successful Q&A sites have proven that users can be better motivated without financial incentive, but constructing the incentive mechanics is the (relatively) easy part of the equation... the difficult part is building a community that actually cares about you," he says.