Facebook announced a new feature called Questions this week that might be the tipping point that makes technology mediated crowdsourcing a commonly accepted everyday occurrence as a way for individuals to find answers and solve problems.
Now, crowdsourcing is not all that new, but for most people I suspect crowdsouricng as a personal activity with a large network isn’t really on their radar. Sure, when you look for information, you might ask your friends or family for advice or post a question in a forum on the topic somewhere, but I suspect for most people harnessing the network effects of a large distributed mass of people isn’t really something they take part in.
Questions just might change that. Post a question using Questions (you can add a photo or a poll to the question – nice touch), and not only will your friends be able to answer it, but you can also send the question out to the FB network. Further target your question by tagging it with a subject keyword, and only people who are interested in that subject (I assume because they have declared it somewhere in their profile) will get the question, giving you access to a bunch of people who have some (granted self-declared) skill and expertise in this area.
I haven’t seen the feature yet (it is being rolled out by Facebook as a beta to some users), so I am not going to speculate much more on it. And I am not sure how the questions will be posed to the network in an unobtrusive manner. If unsolicited questions just start popping up in people’s news streams, I suspect there will be a few upset users complaining about the added noise. But at first blush, it seems like the kind of feature that a social learning enthusiast can get behind.
EduDemic has an early look at how Questions could be used in the classroom.