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This article was published on July 30, 2010

6 ways to get your burning questions answered online

6 ways to get your burning questions answered online
Martin SFP Bryant
Story by

Martin SFP Bryant


Martin Bryant is founder of Big Revolution, where he helps tech companies refine their proposition and positioning, and develops high-qualit Martin Bryant is founder of Big Revolution, where he helps tech companies refine their proposition and positioning, and develops high-quality, compelling content for them. He previously served in several roles at TNW, including Editor-in-Chief. He left the company in April 2016 for pastures new.

Got a question you can’t find the answer to or are too lazy to search for?

It’s getting increasingly easy to get good answers from the web quickly. Here are some of the best services to use to get your answer in no time at all.

Best for: Fast answers from people who (hopefully) know what they’re talking about.

Google-owned Aardvark service works by analysing your question, tagging it with a topic and sending it straight to people who have expressed an interest in that topic. What makes Aardvark fast is that many users sign up to receive questions via IM and can reply straight back with an answer if they choose.

Google is currently using Aardvark as a customer support service for YouTube and it’s easy to imagine them transforming it into a fully fledged ‘mutual support network’ for users of all its services in the future.

Best for: In-depth answers and debates.

Quora looks and feels like a place for serious questions and lengthy answers. It delivers, too; Quora has a community of users who like to give detailed answers and long, informed conversations can often grow out of a simple question.

Elegantly designed, Quora comes highly recommended when you want to start a debate, not just quickly find out who the third king of Spain was.

LinkedIn Answers
Best for: Career and profession-related questions.

Hidden away in the ‘More’ section of LinkedIn’s navigation bar, LinkedIn Answers is focused on professional questions. Categories include “Law and Legal”, “Finance and Accounting” and “Sustainability”. Yes, this is serious stuff but if you need an answer to a work-related question this could well be the best place to go.

Answers are sourced from your connections, their connections and ‘Experts’; people who have answered popular answers in the field you’re interested in.

Yahoo! Answers
Best for: Anything, when you’re not picky about the answers you get.

Predating most of the other question services out there, Yahoo! Answers has a reputation for being full of stupid people. That’s thanks to sites like Yahoo Laughs that post the ridiculous questions people have posted. “Can my neighbors sue me for skinnydipping in their pool when they weren’t home?” for example. LinkedIn Answers or Quora, this isn’t.

Yahoo! Answers is organised into categories and you may well find the answer you’re looking for. However, given the far more elegant solutions offered by Quora and Aardvark, Yahoo Answers looks and feels outdated.

Best for: The wisdom of crowds.

Although not a service dedicated to the purpose, it’s worth remembering just how good Twitter can be at answering your questions. There’s no formal way of targeting your question, it’s just a case of hoping that the people who follow you see it and have the right knowledge. It’s a pot-luck approach, but ask the right question at the right time and your followers might just do you proud with high quality answers.

Facebook Questions

Best for: Too soon to say.

At the time of writing, Facebook‘s newly-launched question answering service is only available to a small number of users. However when it’s opened up on your account you’ll be able to pose a question as easily as posting a status update. Questions are visible to the whole of the Internet (although they won’t yet show up in search engine results), not just your friends so be careful about what you ask.

We haven’t been able to test Facebook Questions yet so we’ll reserve judgment for now. Time will tell if it’s the new Yahoo Answers or challenger to Quora.

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