Knowledge should be easily shared and made available to others without having to pay an excessive amount of money. Ideally it should be free but there are times when that’s not possible. However I believe that many individuals have a lot of knowledge and experience which could be helpful to others and if these people were to share what they know, then life would be a lot easier to deal with.
I’ve always been fascinated with Question and Answer websites because the potential of these systems is really huge. At one point in everyone’s life, there comes a time when you have this doubt/question and you want someone to point you in the right direction. By yourself, it can take a substantial amount to time to resolve the problem but if someone was there to guide you, then it would make the hurdle easier to cope with.
My idea of a Q&A website is a place where people can ask questions no matter how trivial they might seem and get answers from other people. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the answers received will definitely resolve the problem in the said question but at least it can give the asker an idea how to go about solving the question. Sometimes there may be someone who’s had the same problem before and can therefore post a really good answer which would address the question being asked or there might be experts in the question field and therefore, it would be easier to tackle these questions objectively.
The Q&A system would need to have a reputation system whereby people who contribute constructively are rewarded in the community. This can be in the form of different levels attached to a user’s profile or points accummulated over a period of time. Not only does this show how engaging the member is but an answer from a reputable member is worth more attention than that from a person who posted his first answer. This is not to say that a novice cannot provide a great answer but when someone has built a reputation, it is easier to trust their contribution.
Questions can be voted on and rise up the scale when it gets really popular. This can be used to show that a lot of people actually like the question and think that it is interesting. They may not have asked the question themselves for one reason or another but are grateful that some other person has.
Answers should be votable as well and this helps to show which answers are better and which ones are not so good. When this happens, answers with more votes rise to the top and that helps a person searching for that particular question to easily locate the answer which more accurately addresses the question instead of the searcher having to go through all the answers and see which one is the best. Similarly a best answer option is a great way to label great answers and this should take that answer to the top of the page just below the question so that it is the first thing that you see when looking at a question.
Of course with such a system in place, it is upto the community to moderate the content that is being posted. So there must be a mechanism in place to report offensive content and members must be encourage to use that feature. Points should be awarded for doing good karma and the same applies for people trying to spoil the community, that is, negative points and when it gets below a threshold, an automatic ban is issued.
Articles for more in depth information
The question/answer website takes in generally a short question and several short answers. Most of the time, it is something very specific and there’s no need to go in details if a one line phrase can answer the question. This is why is believe that a section should be created for articles where indepth coverage of certain topics can be discussed. For example, an article on “Electric cars” might discuss the various technogies used and the best cars that we have so far whilst a question labelled “What is the best electric car” requires a 1 liner stating the make/model for the best electric car. However a link from the question page to the article page would be really helpful as a person looking for more information on the subject matter can read more.
I think that contests are a good way to engage the members of the website. You could do a contest for the best night photography and let members upload their best pictures and have other members rate/vote them. The one with the highest vote can receive a badge or something more tangible sent to him.
Poll is another good way to have your users interact with your website more. Polls can be anything really eg, have a list of 10 songs and ask users to vote on their favourite. At the end of a pre-determined time, you can close the poll and show the results to everyone.