The power of the written word has fascinated mankind for thousands of years. The Romans were absolutely right when they said, "Verba volant, scripta manent" ("Spoken words fly away, written words remain"). Once an idea is put in writing, it gains a life of its own, triggering thoughts and emotions in people in a way the original author could not have imagined.
Being a bit of a video game buff myself, I've often appreciated people who went to extraordinary lengths to educate other fans on online forums. I like replaying legacy video games that I used to play when I was in college. That hobby of mine would be torture without online forums dedicated to franchises such as Heroes of Might and Magic and Civilization due to the problems associated with setup, bugs, or game mechanics one inevitably runs into. A tutorial on an age-old online forum prepared by a fan fifteen years ago can still solve a problem and keep a large community engaged for decades, even long after the companies stopped caring about their products. How cool is that?
The golden age of online forums was before the social media tide inundated all of us and turned us into interaction addicts. The internet was seen as a one-way highway back then, publicized for facilitating access to information. "You can learn anything at the touch of a button" was its selling point to the internet-skeptics, especially the older generations, which spoke to the effectiveness of early search engines like Altavista, Yahoo, and later, Google. This new technology was about to revolutionize the way know-how was transferred.
Today, the general public's interest in the internet is guided mainly by entertainment purposes. Most of the user-generated content on the internet can be filed under the entertainment category. Videos and stories on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok are curated to entertain the masses because that's what brings in the views and likes. This wasn't always the case, however. The user-generated content of the early- to mid-2000s had a more balanced flavor, with the goal of sharing information being more prominent.
Wikipedia was and remains the epitome of such platforms dating back to the early 2000s. Although the quality of the posts changes from one topic to another, and politics certainly plays a factor in the creation of content on the site, it is safe to say that Wikipedia still functions as it was intended. As of March 2022, the English-language Wikipedia hosts close to 6.5 million articles and over 43 million registered users, ranking no.8 among the most visited sites.
Reddit was another portal for user-initiated lengthy discussions before the site turned into something like a cult with a distinct sense of humor. Today it covers anything and everything, and sharing knowledge is no longer a priority outside of a relatively small, committed group.
Quora is the flag-bearer of purely Q&A-based community-driven websites nowadays. It boasts 300 million monthly active users writing on more than 400,000 topics ranging from technology to business, politics, history, health, military affairs—you name it. Regardless of your field of interest, Quora is capable of sucking you in like a vortex. There is always the danger of finding yourself having spent your whole Sunday reading verbal fights between anoraks of Napoleonic warfare, though.
Lately, Quora has also become an attractive outlet for tech leaders looking to be heard. Entrepreneurs, CEOs, and CTOs of software companies with aspirations of thought leadership in their respective domains regularly take the time to answer questions on Quora. Questions asked on the platform give these people valuable opportunities to educate the public on topics related to their line of work, explain their vision, and nurture a valuable bond with users that can pay off in the long term. Answers are there to stay, like notes pinned on a cork bulletin board, and will continue to educate people seeking answers to similar questions in the future.
Facilitating know-how transfer has been a focal point for us at Peaka. Our latest template, Pronto Q&A, is another contribution in that regard, letting our users easily set up a forum, receive questions from forum members and provide them with answers. We think this will make a perfect app for startups slowly gaining traction and expanding their customer base. Managing and servicing a community is relatively easy when you have just a few customers, but questions, bugs, and support requests can overwhelm your already strained staff once you are above fifty customers. Slack and Discord channels will only help so much—assigning a dedicated thread to every customer with a problem becomes unwieldy really quickly.
A forum built on Pronto Q&A will help a support team better keep track of customer questions and recurring issues, serving as a repository of knowledge to direct newcomers to. Pronto Q&A will solve a major pain point for startups and help customers self-serve while allowing teams to use their time more efficiently towards growing the company.