If you are looking for answers to specific questions, just key in a query on the Google search box, but you are not sure you would get the right information. And because of search engine optimization, you’re not sure if the site at the top of the result page is there because it’s genuinely helpful, or if it’s simply there because it’s the best-optimized webpage.
The Internet is a rich resource of information on all things imaginable. Here are five resources that you can use to get answers to questions.
1. Mahalo Answers
Mahalo describes itself as a human-powered search engine with its content mostly user-submitted and edited by a handful of Mahalo’s editors. Similarly, Mahalo Answers are made up of user-submitted questions with answers provided by other members. Mahalo’s community members are encouraged to submit good quality answers to questions because of the “Mahalo dollars” system. When you ask a question, you can offer a tip to other users who can provide the best answer, which is then chosen either by you or from votes from the community.
To get an answer to your question, first try searching for existing answers to the same or similar questions. Type in your question on the searchbox, and check whether other people have asked—and answered—the question. If you can’t find existing content, click the “Ask a Question” link to submit your own question.
2. Yahoo! Answers
Yahoo! Answers works much like Mahalo Answers described above. You can ask questions, answer questions, and if you’re just in the mood for exploring what other people are asking about, you can browse by topic or search.
When you ask or answer a question, you are required to login to your Yahoo! account. An added option of Yahoo! Answers is that it can automatically notify you if one of your contacts (from your Yahoo! Address Book) asks a question. Yahoo! also uses a fan system, in which users can be fans of others, so they can follow the answers being posted. Yahoo! uses a point system—you “spend” points for asking questions, and you “earn” points for answering. Depending on how many points you have accumulated, you are assigned a user level, which dictates how many answers or questions you can post per day.
Answerbag is another service similar to Mahalo Answers and Yahoo! Answers. The interface is likewise similar—you can search for existing answers by typing in keywords or a question, and if you don’t find what you need, you can submit your own question. The nice thing about using the Answerbag’s search functionality is that when it lists possible matches, it also displays the best answer along with the question, which makes it easy to browse for the information you need.
Another difference with Answerbag is that it categorizes the question according to the type and difficulty. These can be “social,” which are casual or conversational questions that you would usually ask a friend or relative. These can be “expert,” which can be educational questions that are best answered by well-researched and well thought out responses. These can be “local,” which are, as the name implies, specific to certain countries, regions or cities. And these can be about “shopping,” which are questions about business, commerce or products and services.
Twitter has been hailed as one of the most flexible platforms for exchanging information online—in 140 characters or less. Originally conceived as a microblogging or lifestreaming application, Twitter has expanded into being somewhat a messaging platform where users can exchange public and private messages both with the rest of the Twitter community or within their own networks.
Aside from messaging, Twitter is also considered a rich ocean of data and information that can be mined. Featuring its own search engine, users can look for discussions and “tweets” on just about any topic imaginable. While you don’t usually run searches in the form of questions, you can input keywords or hashtags (which are keywords that start with the hash like #football), which people use to attach keywords in their tweets.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for with a regular search, you can simply tweet your question, and your message will be read by people who follow you. Assuming you have a considerable following (anywhere from dozens to hundreds), a few friends will most likely respond to your questions with useful replies.
The power of Twitter is not only the number of people exchanging thoughts and ideas, but in its ability to deliver realtime results for your searches. The Web interface for search notifies you whenever there are new posts that match your query. Power users use client-side software like TweetDeck, which enables a user to run multiple columns, each with its own keyword or #hashtag query. These applications will pull feeds from twitter.com on a regular basis, so you are kept posted.
Another advantage of Twitter is that it can be used on different platforms. Apart from the Web interface, Twitter can also be used on mobile phones through phone-based applications (for the iPhone, Symbian or Windows mobile) or SMS. You can get answers to your questions even while on the move.
Lastly, another good resource we can recommend for finding answers to questions are forums. These types of websites have been popular even before blogs, Wikipedia, Twitter and other websites existed. Forums are mainly community-driven. Therefore, how useful a forum will be will depend on how active the community is.
Forums are also specific to a topic or niche. For instance, if you want to get information about mobile phones, you should join a forum that specializes in mobile phones. The same goes for other topics. Remember that when you need to ask a question on a forum, it’s always polite to use the search feature first, to see if other people have asked the same question, and if these have been adequately answered.
When you’re looking online for answers to questions, sometimes it’s best to skip the generic Google search and instead go for something more structured.
This guest article was written by Dee Barizo from twitQA.com, a twitter answer app. You can also write a guest article and share your tips and tools.