eBrandz Blog

A network of questions-and-answers sites to help searchers

In the innovative and ever growing Internet arena, what people are obviously searching for is an idea that will bind a vast group of like-minded users who make for a large community that sticks together and is bound closely by a common interest.

In the previous post, we put the spotlight on Quora, a continually enhanced questions-and-answers platform created, edited, and self-organized by those who use it. On the other hand, StackExchange is an emerging network of sites that are focused on generic and specific user queries in certain popular categories, such as cooking, photography and programming. It has positioned itself as a network of question and answer sites, about 50 of them, on a wide array of topics from gaming to software programming.

The network has attained some credibility and popularity as a knowledge exchange: an arena where programmers can debate on JavaScript date formats, physics researchers can discuss quantum entanglement, and photographers can talk about secrets of great pictures. How does the network function?

After a user asks a query, some other member of the community proposes a reply. Other members vote on a constantly updated set of answers. The answers getting the maximum number of votes will very quickly rise to the top, denoting their acceptance among users. You are not required to go through the entire discussion to locate the best answer.

Some of them questions currently under discussion are:

  1. Is there any alternative to MacPorts?
  2. Is it even possible to make a processor look like another?
  3. Is there any subtle difference between “to study” and “to learn”?
  4. Are there methods to help creativity improvement from an early age?

Similar to Wikipedia topics, Stack Exchange questions and answers can be edited. If one writes the early part of an answer, others can authenticate and also make it better. The site is democratic in nature and open to everyone. You are not needed to register. However, by registering yourself, you are entitled to collecting reputation points after users vote up your replies that will appear just next to your name. To ensure that the queries are answered properly on basis of their respective categories, the site has collated separate communities of domain experts on specific topics instead of letting in questions on any generic topic.

The website mentions: “We won’t open a site till we are sure there is a critical mass of experts who are ready to participate. If you cannot find a Stack Exchange site on your subject of expertise, a place termed Area 51 is there to propose one. All queries are expected to be objective in nature and to have definite answers. We expect them to represent real problems, and not merely imponderables or requests for opinions.”

The focus of Stack Exchange is on professional communities with an aim of deriving correct answers, and that too quickly!