While everyone takes a break to bash Twitter these past couple of weeks for the infrastructure troubles they’ve been having, I thought I would chime in with a useful service that I accidentally found within the past few days, which promises to increase my Twitter productivity and success with questions. The service is @answerme, which helps facilitate asking questions and getting answers over Twitter.
This is a guest post by Muhammad Saleem, a social media consultant and a top-ranked community member on multiple social news sites.
One of my favorite uses for Twitter is for getting feedback on something or getting an answer to a question. In fact, asking questions was one of the points we covered when we talked about using Twitter to boost your social news profile. But until now, there wasn’t a very easy way to ask questions and manage them along with all the answers you receive. Furthermore, it was nearly impossible to answer someone else’s question and be able to see (chronologically) answers from other people that responded. This is where @answerme (site) comes in.
@answerme (Twitter account) is an almost two month old service that facilitates tracking questions you ask on Twitter and managing the answers you receive, as well as monitor the questions that others are asking and allow you to respond to them if you’d like.
Imagine Yahoo! Answers lite built on Twitter and you’ve got a good idea of what we’re doin’ here.
The most basic use of the service is to tweet a question in the format “@answerme [insert-question-here],” which is then picked up by the answering service and displayed on their site for others to respond to. For example:
To answer a question someone else has posed, simply tweet in the format “@answerme @questioner [insert-answer-here],” and your answer will appear on their site like this:
Finally, you can tweet “@answerme [status-id-of-user] win” to indicate one user’s answer as the winning response to your query. That’s it for features at the moment but the service is working to add more features such as tagging and bot commands.
Grouping together questions with their responses isn’t the only reason I like @answerme, though. I like it because I believe with some direction the service can become the kind of conversation threading that people have been looking for in Twitter (and the feature that people have been loving about FriendFeed). In fact, I believe that this is one of the features that the next evolution of Twitter needs to have baked-in. But while I can see the direction that the service will go in as more people embrace it and help it evolve, in its current state the service has a few problems that need to be resolved before it is really ready for prime-time.
First, since you can’t make a profile on the site there is no way to sort questions or answers by users, by number of responses, or any other metric. Furthermore, since the service uses timestamps to group together answers, there will be many times when you’re responding to one question, but the response gets grouped as an answer to another question because that was the most recent question a user asked (and the system assumed you were answering the most recent one). Just like the service has a system in place for declaring a winning answer, it also needs a system to indicate which question you’re responding to. (It seems Summize is having the same problem trying to group @answerme conversations together.)
Ultimately, @answerme can be thought of as a ChaCha-like service for Twitter, but where answers come from people who follow you and are presumably interested in what you have to say or what you have to ask.
You can get updates on popular questions and get direct messages of answers to your questions by following @answerme on Twitter. Also, be sure to check out this ReadWriteWeb post from April in which we looked at 4 other polling apps for Twitter.