Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I <3 Mahalo Answers

According to Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis, the thing that you do where somebody asks you a question on a the web, and then you answer them, is called a "knowledge exchange." I always just called it "fun."

As an online friend once said about me, "If you happen to ask an open-ended question around her, you will find your question answered." I enjoy working with information, and there's nothing more satisfying than finding the answer to a tough question through research.

I've been the go-to person for questions at my office and in my circle of friends for years, especially for questions about language, science and cooking.

So it's no surprise that I am in love with Mahalo Answers.

Mahalo Answers is a lot like Yahoo Answers, which has been around a while. Essentially, peoople ask and answer questions in a Web-based format. The askers look at all the responses, and choose the best answer. But there are a few key differences.

First, there is a real emphasis on quality of the answers. Citations, and refutations are encouraged. I dabbled in Yahoo Answers for a while, but found there were a lot of stupid questions and snarky answers. It really turned me off.

Second, there is a monetary system that can allow you to earn money when using Mahalo Answers. You buy Mahalo Dollars, and then can offer them as tips as part of the questions you ask. The person you select with the best answer gets the tip. Then you can eventually cash out your tips and actually make money. Not only is the making money angle cool, in theory, this also helps to increase the quality of an answer, or at least the number of responses.

Third, the Mahalo Answers is incorporated into Mahalo's Search Engine Results pages. So people who surf over to Mahalo's page on, say, Bob Dylan, can see the questions that people have asked about him. If they have a question that is not answered on the Search results page or in those Mahalo Answers questions, they can hop over to Mahalo Answers and ask it themselves.

Fourth, there's already a community of people built up around Mahalo that is working with Mahalo Answers. This includes guides who work for Mahalo, like me, and others who simply enjoy the site.

And the types of questions that are asked and answered are quite varied. I've seen very few questions so far that didn't have at least two answers, even the very technical or obscure ones.

So, to sum it up in Reading Rainbow style:

"Do you like helpingn people find answers to their questions? Or do you have some questions you haven't been able to answer but want to? Then heck out Mahalo Answers. You'll be glad you did...but you don't have to take my word for it."

2 comments:

Matthew Wayne Selznick said...

I can't help but point out that when someone asks you a question and then you answer them, that's not a knowledge "exchange."

In order for it to be an exchange, the person answering the question (giving knowledge) would have to receive knowledge from the person who asked the question.

More accurately, what Jason's talking about is a knowledge transmission.

Even though there was no question asked... is that answer worth seventy five cents? :-)

The musishian said...

Nah, just two cents.

Thanks for the clarification.

I'd counter that the ability to comment on answers, to refute, add sources, or simply say "neat!" does allow for more two-way interaction. There is at least the possiblity for exchange going on.