What: Tapping into the vast knowledge and number of Web surfers to get your question answered is nothing new. What is new, however, is making that process more social and everlasting than before.
Enter Palo Alto-CA based startup Quora, a Q&A website founded in 2009 by two Facebook veterans. Questions asked on the site and the answers users provide are categorized by topics, evolve as more people answer, and accumulate as a knowledge database.
How: Creating a user account is the first step, which requires an e-mail address and password. A Quora account can be linked to Facebook and Twitter and can follow the question and answers of the people in those social networks.
Want to know how to make a killer cheese omelet? Just type in the question and view all who've answered and what they said. Users can also rank answers on the site - a sort of social governing system of accuracy and quality.
"People use Quora to document the world around them," explains cofounder Charlie Cheever. "When knowledge is put into Quora, it is there forever to be shared with anyone who is interested."
Why: It is one thing to be an active social media user with casual followers or friends. It's another to have social media be a viable information and knowledge source.
"Our vision is to expand into more topic areas so Quora becomes the place to go if you want to know anything and connect with those who know most about it," says Cheever.
Who: That person may be an armchair expert, a CEO of a major company, an academic, or a chef. But a critical component of the site is that its content remains as authentic and true as possible.
Ustream's VP of marcomms Lynn Fox uses the site to monitor things said about her company. If she thinks an answer or something said about it is inaccurate, she can reply herself and rank answers.
"Over time," she notes, "it is this place where leaders say authentic things about their company."