The quality of the answers that I have received has been mixed but I’m going to continue using this from time to time. I’d really like to see this model succeed. I think there is also a place for this type of service in the business world. Companies pay an arm and a leg for yearly maintenenace from software companies. It’s a real racket. A business version of this could have a category for Enterprise Software and categories for different software packages – Siebel, SAP, Oracle, etc. Freelance support engineers who have expertise with these software packages could answer the questions and be compensated financially. In this case it would make sense for the person (or company) asking the question to compensate the person who answered the question – e.g. $10 for a simple question and higher dollar amounts for questions that are more critical or more urgent (the company would need to be able to set the price for the question and maybe define a timeline for that price – e.g. $100 for an answer within 30 minutes, $50 for an answer within an hour, etc.). So instead of paying a software company $25,000 per year for maintenance and support, they could farm out their support to an army of freelance tech support people. It would be a massive Help Desk organized by categories. The quality and consitency of the support might be inconsistent but I would bet that it would be a heck of a lot cheaper in the long run. And this could be a nice way of earning extra cash for people who have exertise in some field.
I’ve been trying out the recently launched Yahoo Answers! service. It works on a point system. If you ask a question, you lose a couple of points. If you answer a question, you gain points and you get additional points if your answer is rated as the best answer. This guards against people abusing the service by asking question after question and not giving anything back to the community. It looks like eventually you will be able to earn money (probably not a lot) by answering questions. This requires applying for a Yahoo! Publisher Network ID.