IdeaLab: Q&A 2.0

Over at the PBS IdeaLab blog, I wrote something earlier this week about what I think of as Q&A 2.0, the recent string of modern, general purpose question & answer sites exploring different ways to gather, filter, and deliver information.

And that’s the right way to think about it: Gather, filter, and deliver information. That’s a basic function of journalism, right?

Here’s one of my takeaways from a short tour of a few Q&A 2.0 spots:

“From Quora, we learn the value of frictionless real-time interfaces. Don’t assume your application has to follow patterns generated by its predecessors. You’re building next year’s tools, not last year’s.”

That’s a critical idea for anyone building user interfaces these days, isn’t it? Learn from best practices if you’re building, say, a hyperlocal news site, but you shouldn’t feel obliged to assume you need all the same pieces every other news site in history has ever had. It’s fine to emulate success, and well-designed presentations, but if you’re not trying anything new, the odds are long that you’re building something innovative, something that’s moving the needle ahead, something with a chance at mass, transformative appeal.

In other words, it’s OK to have new ideas. But I don’t need to tell you that, right?