Why We’re Moving From Status Updates to Q&A

Within the past few weeks, Quora went public in June, Ask.com reverted to its Q&A roots, and Facebook Questions were formally introduced.ask-logo

Why this sudden trend and momentum towards Questions and Answers?

First, Status Updates are passé. The social web needs to move beyond.

Second, Check-ins were an evolution of the status update, but they lack mainstream appeal, have privacy related issues, and are limited in scope (you have to move to check-in to a different location).

Third, Q&As are more attractive to both users and businesses:

  • Q&As vastly increase the actual usefulness of a social site by several orders of magnitude. This is the obvious, perceived benefit for users.
  • Meaningful questions reveal more about a person than mindless status updates. This leads to better profile information than what people may or may not reveal in their profiles.
  • Questions reveal Intent. Advertisers are more likely to target “Which are the best places to travel to Goa?” (Question) than “Wish I could spend the New Year in Goa!” (Status Update).
  • Questions have a much greater possibility of eliciting responses, leading to greater interaction, translated as more time spent using the site/service.
  • Answers reveal more information about a person’s expertise and interest than what people may or may not reveal in their profile.

Update: To illustrate the last point further, let’s say you answer the question “What’s the best telescope to buy at home?” and it gets voted up. Bingo! Now, even if you don’t have Astronomy listed as a hobby or interest, Facebook knows you’re an Astronomy enthusiast. Also remember, all this information is public and search engines would be glad to get their hands on it. Imagine Blekko with a slashtag search of all Q&A sites – it would be a gold mine for marketers.

What’s next? I wouldn’t be surprised if check-ins and Q&A were tied together. Answers from a person geographically closer may be of higher relevance for certain type of questions. You can add special Badges for the most answered questions about a location, and you get the next version of “Mayor” in FourSquare.

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  • http://twitter.com/atul Atul Arora

    It will be interesting to see what Google does with Aardvark. Will it show up via Google Buzz? Or whether it will be a part of the Google's rival to FB

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Very true. I hope Google doesn't botch it up, like it did with other acquisitions. This time, they have others up and running already, so they should make the most of it.

    Whether Buzz or Google Me remains to be seen.

  • http://twitter.com/AquteIntel Aqute Intelligence

    Q&A sites are not all they are cracked up to be. Aardvark isn't all that useful when you try it out. Look at Yahoo! Answers, which is filled with nonsense and lightweight answers. A quality site like uclue.com has never managed any traction. Google Answers closed down for a reason – you could say it was too early then, but Q&A takes effort on the part of the users that they don't want to put in. The idea that if it works in Korea, it will work elsewhere, has turned out not to be true.

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Thank you for the feedback, Aqute Intelligence. I never opined on any specific service's success of quality in my post – rather, the point was to explain why these Q&A services are being introduced.

    But, I tend to agree with Marshall's post on RWW on this. The idea that if it has not worked so far, it will never work, is also not true. Facebook may well be the game changer. We'll have to wait and see.

  • Observer

    Yes, because I answered that telescope question, Facebook 'knows' that I'm an astronomy enthusiast. But not a birding enthusiast. Nor a sailor. In fact I'm a peeping Tom and am getting all these stupid astronomy ads.

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Ha ha!

  • http://myindigolives.wordpress.com/ Ellie K

    I have been wondering about that for the past few months! Apparently you were too!

    Why the need for so many of these sites, sometimes with vast VC funding e.g. Quora's $68mil? I could see a few popping up now that PHP interfaces are getting better, I use Quora, their app is proprietary but it is nice.

    However, these Q&A sites are not social networking nor particularly fun, except in a very pedantic way, which I like more than I care to admit. Ultimately, though, I prefer the insipid Yahoo!Answers, as Quora is a VERY tough crowd. But then there are others: Factotum, Fluther, Aardvark, maybe more. And again the question: what is the motivation for so many of these companies to be popping up? I am curious.

  • http://www.victusspiritus.com/ Mark Essel

    Q&A's ok. It's not so much I'm looking for answers, as interesting questions. And smart folks have a knack for coming up with interesting questions whether it's on their blog, twitter, Google Buzz or Q&A sites.

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    “What is the motivation for so many of these companies to be popping up?”

    That's what I've tried to answer in the post. Looks like I didn't get through!