Questions is a new in-house Facebook application we examined on Monday that allows users to post questions, tag them with topics, and vote on responses to surface the best answers.
New Zealand Facebook user Sid Yadav has been part of Questions’ beta test, and he’s been talking about of what he’s seen already — we’ve followed up with him and gained some more details about how the service works. His network has had access to the feature for a few weeks.
Most notably, there are currently no privacy options on Questions. Friends of friends and even those completely removed from your network can answer your questions, preventing the feature from being used to query select people about personal issues or to assess preferences regarding private social plans. By adding full privacy options, Questions could become a powerhouse for offering and receiving more personal advice.
Notifications are displayed on the home page and sent to email whenever someone answers one of your questions or comments on one of your answers, while only a home page notification appears when your answers are voted upon. This supports our hypothesis that Questions will generate significant numbers of notifications and could become a major element in increasing return visits.
Facebook is for the first time controlling grammar on the site, presumably in an effort to give Questions a more mature and reliable feel. The first letter of any answer or comment on Questions is auto-capitalized, for instance “It’s impossible to write the answer ‘lol’ without it displaying as ‘Lol’” said Yadav.
Questions works off of the conversion of static profile interests to links to public Pages since you’ll see queries from people outside your network if the questions are tagged with topics related to Pages you like. This means that if you formally like Slumdog Millionaire, you’ll see questions regarding the film asked by strangers. Opposed to fellow questions-and-answers site Quora where you list yourself as an expert or are endorsed by others, on Questions it’s your public interests, not your expertise that influences what content you see. This lends weight to our prediction that Questions would settle into a less academic, more pop culture and recommendations-oriented niche than Quora. Pop culture and brands translate more directly into widely liked, privately owned Pages than nebulous academic and philosophical subjects. Therefore, questions about pop culture and brands are more likely to be tagged with Pages, which translates into them being seen by the greater public and getting more answers and votes, skewing the overall Questions-sphere towards these types of questions. The connection between Questions and Pages could also manifest itself in the form of sponsored questions, where Pages pay to direct a question to those that like them.
These details imply that Questions could be a tidy way of leveraging a user’s stated interests to frequently draw them back to Facebook. There will surely be some tweaks to Questions before it’s rolled out, but Facebook must offer transparency and tight privacy control so users can adapt the feature to their needs.