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Why Migrate from Forums to Q&A?

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Here at AnswerHub, we are often asked about the difference between our Knowledge Management system and other popular tools like forums, wikis and email. So today I wanted to take a look at the differences between AnswerHub and Forums.

AnswerHub Knowledge Management

First, let's look at the intended purpose of these two systems. The purpose of AnswerHub is very clear for us. We have designed AnswerHub from the ground up to be:

  1. A knowledge capture system
  2. A knowledge storage system
  3. A knowledge dissemination system throughout the organization
  4. A knowledge retrieval and discovery system that is very easy to use
  5. A team productivity enhancer

We specifically built AnswerHub to help bring knowledge out of the minds of experts and into a publicly visible and easily accessible place that everyone in the organization can use. The Q&A methodology is an efficient system for accomplishing this goal, and it is something that every human being understands.

This knowledge capture/dissemination process directly addresses important enterprise problems such as:

  • Employee departure, where expert knowledge would otherwise leave the organization
  • Employee onboarding, where the new employee needs to absorb knowledge as quickly as possible
  • Team knowledge distribution, where many people on a team need to acquire the knowledge of a single expert

Because AnswerHub is designed specifically to address these key functions, it does them well. Specific advantages include:

  1. The best answers rise to the top through voting, making them instantly obvious to users
  2. Users can find answers to already-answered questions immediately
  3. The system avoids duplicate questions and guides users to related material quickly
  4. Experts gain reputation from the audience, which frequently improves expert and user engagement
  5. Questions can be directed toward experts to speed responses and improve answer quality
  6. Poorly formed questions can be detected and easily improved
  7. The Q&A format works better with search engines and is better for SEO
  8. AnswerHub contains important features frequently absent from forums, such as spaces, tagging, related answers, etc.
  9. Overall, a much better user experience

AnswerHub promotes an "Accepted" answer to the top of the page, directly beneath the question, making it easy for users to find.

Forums

Forum software, on the other hand, is designed to foster free-form human conversations of all types. That is fine if what the enterprise needs is a conversation system. Unfortunately, conversations are not an effective way to address the enterprise knowledge capture problem set that AnswerHub specifically intends to solve. Human conversations, especially on the Internet, are known to have numerous problems, including:

  1. Conversations often meander or go off track, diluting the information stream (often to the point where the stream becomes useless). What starts as a question about CPU performance can quickly devolve into a conversation about anything under the sun, for example Bob's vacation if Bob is just returning to the forum from a two-week break.

  2. Conversations, because of their meandering, frequently waste readers' time. In a large forum, the aggregate amount of time wasted can be measured in man-decades.

  3. Conversations on the internet, for reasons that are not completely understood, seem to frequently promote drama, arguments, offensive behavior, etc. The idea of a “troll” is something that frequently occurs in a forum. Bullying, ganging up, etc. are also common in forums. Forums seem to foster dispute, and once dispute starts it can quickly accelerate. These forms of behavior are generally not found in Q&A systems because Q&A systems are purpose built to gather answers to questions rather than to log conversations.

  4. Because of the drama, arguments, trolls, bullying, etc. commonly found in forum conversations, any forum requires moderation to erase posts and sometimes full threads, and also to discipline and ban users. Paid moderation can become a significant cost to maintaining a forum.

Here you can see an example of how long threads can become. This thread has over 700 replies that users would have to wade through to find the information they are looking for.

Because of these common problems with forum systems, forums can be extremely expensive. There is the direct cost of moderators as well as the indirect costs that mount as employees write and read the meandering, off-topic material so common in forums. In addition, a forum can be a source of ill-will and job dissatisfaction, as arguing and bullying rarely promote a professional working environment.

So which is best suited for enterprises?

In other words, the core values of a Q&A system – values like sharing, collaboration, acceleration, insight, focus, understanding – are positive, productive, team-oriented activities. A forum system frequently devolves toward the opposite value set, at great cost. A forum might enable people to ask questions as a subset of human conversations, but it in no way supports that modality – in fact, it may discourage it and certainly makes it inefficient. A system like AnswerHub encourages and empowers the Q&A methodology of knowledge sharing with a wide variety of specific Q&A-enhancing features.

For these reasons, we believe that an enterprise Q&A system is a much better fit for the enterprise than a forum system.

Ready to see what separates AnswerHub from the rest?

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