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Quora testing new barter-for-answers system

Quora creditsQuora continues to steal the spotlight as the cult-like Q&A site to rule them all. While its core users are the original, extremely devoted insiders, more of the general population (particularly journalists) have caught on and figured out how to use the site for their own benefit. New York Times reporters recently took to the site to answer users’ questions. Crowd-sourced Q&A always comes with some risk attached, but Quora has largely managed to rise above this and offer reliable, insightful commentary.

Of course, the site’s long-term success has been anything but proven. Quora’s experienced a quick rise in popularity and registered users have skyrocketed, but the somewhat isolating UI and lack of a revenue model means its future is iffy. And to that end, TechCrunch reports that Quora has begun beta testing credits that revolve around a system called “Ask to Answer Suggestions.”

“Since experts only have so much time to answer questions, we are also introducing credits as a bookkeeping mechanism so that incoming requests to a user stay at a manageable level. How It’ll Work: When you use Ask to Answer, you’ll now see other beta testers suggested based on how likely they are to give you a good answer. With your credits, you can ask these users to answer questions. Note, however, that if you and another user are following each other, you can ask each other for free. The number of credits required to ask someone reflects how responsive she is to Ask to Answer requests; to give responsive users who are willing to provide answers more requests, their prices come down while their ranking suggestions improves.”

Users will begin with 500 Quora credits which can be used to – honestly – barter for answers. Quora is so inundated with users now that a discouraging amount of queries get ignored, and getting one of the community’s elite users to offer insight can be nearly impossible. But as the site grows, introducing a game-like element adds incentive for both new and veteran users to stay involved. You’d be lying if you said you weren’t tempted to offer up Quora coins just to see if Mark Zuckerberg will answer one of your questions (does he have a price?! Can the man’s response be bought?!).

Ask to Answer is still in beta testing, and it will be interesting to see if down the road it begins a system similar to Facebook Credits where it can turn its e-commerce model into real dollars.