It looks like that Jeff & Joel gave up on finding a viable business model and just went after the VC money. I get that. But what I don’t get is why they have’t tried a very simple, but in my opinion good business model – let people pay for answers?
One of my clients is having connection problems between their application servers and the database servers. It looks like some TCP configuration issue, but I’m no expert in that so after trying to figure it out by my own, I posted a question on ServerFault. The question got only one answer which wasn’t that helpful.
Now my next step is to hire someone on ODesk to solve the problem. But what if I could just pay for someone to answer my question on ServerFault? For me that would be perfect, because that’s what I’m going to do anyway with the freelancer I find on ODesk, as I can’t trust him enough to give him access to the client servers.
I know there is a bounty feature on StackOverflow, where you can give someone some of your reputation (points) on StackOverflow if they answer the question. But the thing is – I’m not that active on ServerFault and don’t have enough reputation.
Maybe I should just create this marketplace, where valued users can offer paid answers and people can hire them. That might work, but after seeing what happened with the Twitter ecosystem I learned my lesson – no more filling holes for OTHERs. Because it is obvious that if my marketplace works, the StackExchange team will be motivated to create their own version.
What do you think?
UPDATE: Dan (who is too cool to comment) sent in his thoughts by email:
Google answers failed and it was a paid system. The main problem is the subjectivity of the quality of the answer. How do you judge that?
That’s a great point. I think that it will be basically the same as it is today with point bounties:
1. Once you put a bounty you already give in the points (or in my case – the money), so you have no incentive to “lie” and say that the answer you got isn’t good enough just to save yourself the payment.
2. You decide which answer is “the” answer and gets money.
If you don’t get a good answer, you can always keep it around or raise the bid.
Another concern someone might raise is the same that Joel & Jeff usually raise – what’s a good price for an answer? While many people don’t mind sharing knowledge for free, once you start attaching a price tag it becomes a whole different story. Well, I acknowledge that and I don’t think that the whole StackOverflow site should be paid, but it should have a paid option.
People will still have a great incentive to answer questions just like today (they increase their reputation), but this will give another option for those who ask more esoteric questions.
Now, what do you think?