You can crowdsource just about anything on the Internet. You can crowdsource your design project. You can crowdsource legal advice. And, yes, you can crowdsource your knowledge, too.
Part of this through something called a knowledge network. Not to be confused with the television network of the same name, the concept of a knowledge network can be understood a few different ways. First, you could think of it as a collection of resources that are then integrated into one another to provide the most useful information to users as efficiently as possible. For instance, the knowledge network could take an organic knowledge base, add in the organic nature of forums, capitalize on communication through instant messengers, and integrate all three to make the collective expertise available to all members of the knowledge network.
Another way to think about knowledge networks is the structure of a business. Traditionally, businesses have a hierarchical structure, but this static structure may not be flexible enough to adapt to continuous changes in the industry and in the market. So, a network is formed with adaptive structures, self-adapting, and self-organizing internally to respond to external changes. A knowledge network works in the same way, with all the members organically interconnecting with one another to share their expertise across the organization.
So, where can you access these kinds of knowledge networks to crowdsource your knowledge on the Internet?
You could say that Quora operates in much the same way as Answers.com, but it goes beyond those kinds of sites by aggregating questions and answers that fall into the same topic areas. If you have a question, you can pose it to the Quora community or you can sift through the related topics and see if it has already been answered.
The crowdsourcing nature comes from the ability to get multiple answers from multiple individuals, but members can also suggest edits to both the questions and answers already submitted by other community members. The social nature of Quora is partly because its founders were former Facebook employees.
Another place where you can pose questions to the Internet community is Aardvark. However, it operates in a slightly different way.
Rather than passively waiting for responses from other Aardvark members, the system actively matches up your submitted question to a suitable expert in the Aardvark community. This is based on the areas of interest and expertise that users add to their respective profiles.
Beyond providing a “simple” answer, the system can even facilitate a live chat or email conversation with experts in your extended social network. After all, the answer to your question could lead to more questions. A live chat can help you gain an understanding of the subject, rather than just gain some superficial facts.
Qwiki and Other Wikis
An entirely different kind of knowledge network is Qwiki. It’s not really about posing questions to the community and waiting for an answer; it’s more about going through the “information experience.”
You enter a topic in the main search bar and Qwiki will find or put together a brief multimedia presentation on that subject. This includes not only text, which is read out by a female computer voice, but also relevant images. After watching the brief presentation (most are under a minute), you can review the information through the “contents” tab and add more information through the “improve this wiki” tab.
The collaborative nature of wikis means that you are accessing the collective knowledge of all the members who have contributed to it. Easily the largest example of this is Wikipedia, but there are many other wikis on the web that are great sources of expertise and knowledge. Have a question? There’s bound to be at least a few people out there who know the answer.
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