Sometimes I stumble upon a service that strikes me as special, yet when I do a quick blog search I find no mention about it in the blogosphere. That recently happened to me when I found Pakt.com, a service for collaborative learning. Users can ask questions and at the same time contribute to the community by writing tutorials and answer questions from other users. This project fascinated me, especially because it also looked like it had an enthusiastic (yet really small) user base. So I emailed the founder Chris Weitenberner to find out more about this new service.
Chris, who are you? “I have a background in software development and project management. Over the past few years I was a tutor and mentor during my spare time for a couple non- profits. On the way home from a mentoring session, I started wondering if the concept of mentoring could be expanded on a larger scale. I started looking for parallels to my experience with mentoring online and couldn’t find what I was looking for. I kept thinking to myself there’s got to be a better way to learn online and to reach out to a community for help.”
“What made the most sense was a social network, however most social networks were centered on the relationship, not the content. I thought I could improve online learning by using the content as the center and leverage the network for help. What I came up with was a “collaborative learning” environment called Pakt. I wanted to focus on content that anyone could create, such as tutorials and Q&A. Questions & Answers provide quick to the point information while tutorials provide more detailed knowledge. Combining relevant tutorials and questions & answers creates a unique source of user submitted knowledge.”
Organize what you have learned
So Pakt’s mission is to empower people to learn and share knowledge, therefore the site is open to everyone. The mission sounds good to me, yet I always wonder who will sign up. When I’ve a question, I just hop on the Google train. So Chris, why would I sign up?
“It becomes a problem to organize what you have learned, where it is located, and getting help to finish if needed. Pakt allows you to track your progress of learning step by step in every tutorial. You can then share that progress with friends or everyone. This makes the learning experience more interactive and helps you complete your learning objectives more effectively. You can further reach out to the community for help and set up a one-on-one or one-to-many private mentoring chat session. Just like in school, many people may need help, but don’t want to ask for it in a public setting. Pakt also offers a revenue sharing program that can be an incentive for bloggers or freelance writers to express their expertise on Pakt.”
Ah! Expertise, sounds like Pakt has a 3.0 flavor over it. Chris: “From my perspective, anyone can be an “expert”. The main problem I have with sites like About.com is that they only offer one solution to a problem. Where in reality, there is rarely one correct way of doing something. Pakt leaves it up to the audience to determine relevant and quality information.” Taking this in account, it’s a Web 2.0 service after all, since it embraces the wisdom of crowds and doesn’t use an experts filter like lots of services do.
I like the idealistic approach of Chris Weitenberner, yet I wonder whether there is a need for Pakt. Since most people use Google to find tutorials, find answers at services like Yahoo Answers and browse through Wikipedia for specific knowledge. Pakt does make a chance when it manages to build up an enthusiastic community of a few hundred people. They’ll help each other in everyday life and at the same time push the pages up in the Google results.
Pakt really deserves this, even if it was just for the diversity of the tutorials and answers. Chris: “Since the inspiration for Pakt came from a humanitarian interest, I tend to like tutorials that inspire people to change the world around them, like “Take the Live Earth Pledge”, or “How to Donate Your Hair to Children with Hair loss Medical Conditions”. You never know what to expect with Questions & Answers, they go from “How do I unlock my iPhone?” to “How many days should you call a girl after the first date?”. I enjoy reading them all.”