Those of us who grew up in the digital age are accustomed to instant information gratification. If a trivia question comes up that we don’t know the answer to, or if a fact is disputed among a group of friends, we can whip out our smartphones and find the answer almost immediately. As much as we complained about researching for school assignments in college, we really were lucky –the almighty Google allowed us to research from the comfort of or dorm rooms, so we didn’t always have to make the 11 p.m. trek to the school library like so many generations before us did.
Yet, like many of my fellow digital natives, I found myself complaining about the lack reliable of Q&A sites when I was in college. When researching a question I needed to answer for a study guide, I’d become frustrated with the Internet when it couldn’t read my mind. What do you mean when I type in “What’s the average lifespan of an albino alligator?” the correct answer doesn’t just appear instantaneously? I was so spoiled that if I had to actually scroll through the various search results, or worse, click on the links more than one actual website, I’d give up. Clearly the question had no definitive answer — in fact, it was probably a trick question the professor put on the study guide for the straight-A students to figure out.
Now, there’s a startup called Answer Underground that promises to to bring an end to student Q&A website woes. Answer Underground is a free learning iOS app designed to help students and teachers share information and get fast answers through group Q&A. Similar to Yahoo! Answers, users post their questions on the app and wait for other users to answer them. Users sign in through Facebook, which might help with credibility — students can see that the person who responded to their question isn’t some random internet user, but a grad student at UCLA or a professor at Boston University. This way, answers are likely to be more correct than those posted to sites with less credentialed users. Students can post questions in math, science, literature, history, arts, and more, and they can create groups for any subject, club, or grade, and invite classmates from their own college or others to join.
Is Answer Underground really the A to the Q of reliable Q&A sites? One flaw I forsee is the wait time — until the app becomes extremely popular, there could be a long wait between posting a question and receiving a response. Answer Underground says the team is making an effort to reach out to Ph.D. candidates and professors to help moderate groups, yet it could still be a challenge to answer every question posed. If a student’s paper is due in three hours and she hasn’t received an answer, you can bet she’ll be visiting a different site such as Quora to answer her question.
Readers, agree or disagree? What do you think of Answer Underground? Sound off in the comments below!