Questioning Your Social Network

Earlier this month, Facebook launched a new feature on its website dubbed “Facebook Questions.” While the feature may be new to Facebook, the premise is by no means a novel one. In fact, looking to the web user community for answers to questions is what initially made Askjeeves.com such a popular website and what is driving the success of a specialized site like stackoverflow.com today.

The web has made collaboration easier, and it is now an expected characteristic of both consumer and enterprise apps. Facebook acknowledges with Facebook Questions, which is yet another way to tap into the wealth of knowledge offered by a repository composed of millions of social connections.

But, Facebook falls short of delivering truly focused answers. Asking a question to a pool of 500 million people might certainly make for some good odds of getting a response, but it’s also very easy for your question to be lost in the ether. As expected, as time passes by and metadata makes finding information easier on Facebook’s repository of questions, the site’s ability to answer a question accurately will improve.

For companies that can’t wait for metadata to speed up the process by which they mine information, a more focused community of experts is what’s needed.

We saw this need for surfacing subject matter experts three years ago when we first developed eXo Knowledge. At that time, we had an application called FAQ. It was intended to be a simple FAQ publishing engine. Our customers very quickly found this FAQ functionality to be useful for building a dialogue with their employees, clients and partners. So we decided to rename the application eXo Answers, and orient it more towards a Q&A dialogue tool. With such a tool, domain experts in the enterprise have a new mechanism for sharing their knowledge and helping new colleagues. The application had turned into a socially engaging collaboration hub while the original FAQ publishing became a secondary feature.

This was reinforced to me again recently, when I participated in a panel of experts at the Solutions Intranet conference in Paris. Our roundtable was focused on Knowledge Management. The experts agreed on the subject that social tools are taking the traditional KM discipline to an entire new level. Some of the key points that came out of this discussion include:

  • Social networks are the perfect place to find and connect to domain experts inside and outside one’s enterprise.
  • Conversational style collaboration (activity streams) pushes out information, a direct contrast to older document-based KM systems, where finding information has been difficult.
  • Information is not knowledge (activity stream is not a knowledge feed, but it helps to push information and resources).
  • A rating system powered by users will quickly surface the most useful questions and answers.

With these ideas in mind, we’ve done a bit of work on our Answers functionality, and it will be a top social feature in eXo Platform 3.0. We’re excited to be delivering Answers – and many other features – to you shortly. If you want to get in early on eXo Platform 3.0, check out our Early Adopter Program or download eXo Knowledge and see what Answers is all about.

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