When talking about great websites sharing knowledge for the common good, Wikipedia comes first to our mind. But I would challenge that Quora, with an audience comparable to Twitter, deserves a spot on the podium as well.
I am impressed, I could almost say moved, when I try to imagine the amount of benevolence that led to so much useful knowledge being brought to the right person, at the right time. Why is it happening ? Why do total strangers help themselves like this, and, more importantly, how could we go further ? Wouldn’t it be even more beautiful if beyond one single question/answer transaction, we could withness the emergence of deep, long lasting, productive relationships ?
What does it take to increase the engagement level one step further ?
I can already hear the naysayers explaining “don’t be confused, the helpers act on a selfish ground, in order to polish their reputation as experts and monetize it further down the road. They will do the minimum to maximize their ROI.” That is one way of seeing things, and we’re all grown up enough to understand the arcane of motivation are complex and fuzzy. Though actually, even with the selfish perspective, what would prevent the givers to give more still ? Spend one hour on the phone, open a chat session, bring more experts in … so many possibilities !
For one, that’s true, the asker is only asking for a bit of information, nothing more. And as we know, genuine help has to come from a vulnerable ask. To increase the engagement level a platform would need to create the conditions that would let the user feel confident enough to publicly share the big picture, which could be, to some extent, a difficult if not embarassing situation.
That can only happen if the user trusts the benevolence in the eyes of the readers, the potential respondent. Which implies that the potential respondents are not purely picked based on their technical track record in the subject matter.
So on the expert side, what could be a greater ROI that would justify a greater implication ? Exchange of knowledge is quite a subjective, non-merchant transaction and an ROI is tough to compute. Basically, the overall satisfaction has to outweight what the expert could had gained by investing the same time elsewhere.
For a same effort, what parameters could change so that it gives me more satisfaction ? The quality of the asker. We’re obviously more keen to help close relatives than friends, and friends than total strangers. It would be of great value if the askers were more than mere strangers, but rather people picked based on some criteria that would make them well appreciated by the expert.
Asker and experts need to belong to the same tribe.
Share the same causes, have similar ideals. You want to help people on “your side” who share your agenda since by helping them, you materially help yourself. A crucial piece of a platform that would go beyond simple answers would be to match askers and users differently from what has been existing before. Not the people I know, not the people who know, but a delicate mix that brings together those who have the same purpose in life.
Which cues can we collect to achieve such matching ? Here are a few ideas :
- A follower/following system that allows me to explicitely designate a seed group of people whose advices I’m listening to.
- An openbadge platform where anyone can offer digital tokens of reckognition of an achievement, participation to an event, or mastery
- A quest plaform where I can log my long term objectives and my short term action plan.
Any inspiration on your side ? I’m listening !