Quora Trying New Strategy: User Credits

Got a question? How do you feel about paying someone to answer it? That may soon be a possibility as Quora tests the idea of Quora specific credits.

Got a question? How do you feel about paying someone to answer it? That may soon be a possibility as Quora tests credits.

Quora – the question and answer site that surged in popularity at the end of 2010 but has since lost its social media steam – is testing a new strategy: paying for answers. TechCrunch reports that Quora has rolled out a beta test for “Ask to Answer Suggestions”. This new system revolves around credits which can be used to buy answers from experts. According to an email sent to Quora beta testers:

“Since experts only have so much time to answer questions, we are also introducing credits as a bookkeeping mechanism so that incoming requests to a user stay at a manageable level.

How It’ll Work: When you use Ask to Answer, you’ll now see other beta testers suggested based on how likely they are to give you a good answer. With your credits, you can ask these users to answer questions. Note, however, that if you and another user are following each other, you can ask each other for free. The number of credits required to ask someone reflects how responsive she is to Ask to Answer requests; to give responsive users who are willing to provide answers more requests, their prices come down while their ranking suggestions improves.”

In other words, Quora may become a question and answer flea market.

The system will give users 500 credits to use how they please. Ask to Answer Suggestions claims to reward high profile answerers: “Ask to Answer is a way to connect users with questions they are well-qualified to answer. People who make these connections deserve public recognition for their role in getting a question answered. If a user asks someone to answer, their name will now be displayed beneath the answer they requested”. Fair enough, but it seems Ask to Answer Suggestions will likely  turn Quora into a game where users can barter and bargain to get responses..

On the one hand, it seems like a handy tool. The site has many users, and it can be difficult for unknowns to get questions answered by the “Quora Elite”. The credit system gives both veterans and newbies incentive to get, and stay, involved with Quora. Also, much like Facebook’s Credits, it appears to be a step towards making e-commerce translate into real world dollars.

On the other hand, it seems like a risky move. In the past, both Google Answers and Mahalo Answers tried similar strategies – with no success. The main issue is that Quora credits will likely translate into pennies for answerers. So, instead of real world dollars, experts will be rewarded with real world quarters. This means that the “incentive” continues to be more about bragging rights than actual dollar value. While this isn’t necessarily a problem, it doesn’t seem that “top answerers” – experts in their field – will be lured by nickels and dimes. In this way, the credits risk adding an unnecessary complication to the Quora system.

Since Ask to Answer Suggestions is still in beta, the verdict is out on whether the new strategy will be a positive or negative addition to the site.