Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Fluther, wis.dm and the collective knowledge of crowds

Fluther and wis.dm are two new startups that are attempting to tap into the collective wisdom of crowds, asking the user base of the site to answer questions posed to the group.

Fluther is quite cute (it's squid themed - how can you not like it?) and nicely designed (though I would rather the 'ask a question' box wasn't quite so prominent, as it means I can barely see the questions posed on the front page). The questions asked here seem mostly serious - the sort of things you would ask, as the website puts it, if you had 'five Uncle Franks to answer your car questions, eight Aunt Marthas to ask about astronomy and six Grandma Gerties to advise you on your garden dilemmas'. I would argue that this shares a lot of the same mental space as MetaFilter - most of the questions are things that you would see posed there, which arguably begs the question of why you wouldn't just post to metafilter, with a much larger userbase?

wis.dm (as seen at Here we are. What now?) is a slightly different take on a question and answer site, requiring that questions be phrased as yes/no in an attempt to generate discussion. I can see this one being a little more popular, though a lot less useful. It's very compelling to click on the little ajax-y buttons to answer questions, but far too much effort to click through and actually comment on something. I do wish the ratio of responses was shown on the front page though - I want to be able to see how the votes are swinging at a glance without having to click through. The questions on here are mostly vapid ('Are you sitting in a swivel chair now?') and I admit that I don't really see the point - I can't help but think that it's another site that's attempting to be a social hub, when people are pretty much social-site-d out at the moment.

I do, however, think it's interesting that there are so many places on the internet where people go to get their questions answered. It seems like the sort of service that public libraries would want to be providing - indeed I'm sure there are one's around that do, I admit that my knowlege of the progressive services that public libraries offer is limited. I think it'd be great though - a site where library users can pose a question to the librarians and users of their local library and have it answered in this sort of way - combining the resources of the library with the wisdom of the crowd, and creating a community feeling at the same time. Does anything like that exist at the moment, or am I being a bit optimistic?

1 comment:

Ben FInkel said...

Hi hypatia,

Thanks for reviewing Fluther. I think you're right on about us occupying a similar space to Ask.Metafilter--we think they're great. There are a few key differences though:
- Fluther is free to join, with no waiting period.
- Fluther supports real-time discussions and filters questions based on what you know.

Also, a tiny correction: Our logo is of a jellyfish (a "fluther" is a group of jellyfish)... and we're flattered you like it.

Great blog!

Cheers,
Ben Finkel
Fluther Co-founder