Is Facebook Questions ‘a very big deal’?

By Anne Collier

The social Web certainly shows that there’s a lot of curiosity out there. Q&A services – Quora, Aardvark, Yahoo Answers – are hot, and now Facebook is testing its Questions service. ReadWriteWeb co-editor Marshall Kirkpatrick says that, once the bugs are out, the service will be “a very big deal … a net win for the human experience.” Why? “It might be tempting to assume that Facebook Questions is going to end up a cesspool of idiocy, harshness and partisan tyranny of the majority. But look at it this way: The most successful social software company in the history of the world hired the creator of the Firefox browser who worked for months to build an effective Q&A service and you think it’s going to turn into a YouTube dumb-fest? That’s not the outcome I’d bet my money on.”

What sets FB Answers apart from earlier Q&A services is that anonymity goes away – or, due to its “real name culture” in which everybody pretty much signs up as themselves and gets validated by their real-world friends – become much less of a factor. Which is both protective (lowers the chance of harassment somewhat) and useful (because the questioner can more easily tell if the answerer knows what s/he’s talking about). Facebook directs questions “to users who list that topic in their interests,” says Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore in his review of Questions at CNN – with a link to the answerer’s profile, of course. Answers that are helpful will be “voted up” (higher in queue); unhelpful ones won’t be. Every question will be public, but Facebook says that “users can still restrict questions only to their followers if they post them as a regular status update,” The Telegraph reports. It adds that some 50,000 users are testing Questions right now, but ReadWriteWeb says a few million are. Here’s Facebook’s FAQ on the subject.

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