Believe it or not, TechRepublic is working really hard to improve Tech Q&A. In fact, we hope to have a streamlined, revitalized, far-easier-to-use version of the feature ready to deploy sometime this fall. That said, there is one flaw we simply can't fix...
The hole in the Q&A system has always been people who ask questions but never rate the answers. There is simply no way to require user feedback, because any requisites we put in place just make the feature harder to use. You can't force courtesy. The problem that creates is there is no obvious way of ranking the contributions of those who answer Q&A questions, other than by sheer volume. The more you answer, the high your rank. That's fine, except it's a painfully easy system to game, so we can't really hand out awards (or rewards) for Q&A participation using a quantitative system.
So what ifs we had an "Answer Army"—a small, elite group of hand-picked moderators designated to lead the way in answer Q&A questions. Membership in the Answer Army would be by invitation only, and the site would recognize the members as the cream of our crop (ego-stoking) and possibly even hand out a monthly "Medal of Honor" to the best moderator, complete with some swag and/or a small cash bonus.
It's not an elegant Web 2.0 algorithmic-feedback self-sufficient reputation system. It's an old-fashioned managed-by-people process that requires someone in-house to actually watch over the Q&A group and recognize/reward the best particpants. Am I crazy, or what?
And for my next trick, I'll discuss the WikiManual I want these moderators to build...
Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can also follow him on his personal blog.