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EarthQ Core Business Model: Where Is the Sweet Spot?

by February 1, 2012

Recently, we have been working to launch a project dubbed EarthQ. The goal has been to shepherd good questions and cultivate good answers by bringing the right mix of experts to Quora, as is described in this post about bringing the carbon cycle to Quora. This work continues, but so far, my attempts to draw in a few experts to help with answers have come up dry. The Quora team thinks it is okay for those who pose a question to answer it, so that will likely be my next step. Perhaps with a solid answer to the first question, What are the compartments in which carbon is stored on Earth?, I can then start to draw in some colleagues to endorse the answer by up-voting it…

In the meantime, I have been reflecting more on whether Quora really is the place to build up a library of great Q&A about the environment. Specifically, I am most interested in questions that are answerable, yet good, clear answers are not available on the Web.

Here’s a flowchart that describes the “sweet spot” that I believe Dialogue Earth could target with the EarthQ project. Some explanations follow the chart below.


Starting off, we are focused on issues related to the environment. I take a broad view of what is connected, but at some point we need to set limits.

It should take more than a couple of minutes and a good search engine to answer the question. The folks on Quora, for example, are okay with questions that a quick search would solve (see this Q for example). That’s fine, but I propose that is outside of the EarthQ niche. I see EarthQ as a place for asking questions that are tough to answer well.

The questions should not be impossible to answer (e.g., are there other life forms in space?) or the type that require an opinion, even if from an expert (e.g., should hydraulic fracturing be permitted in location xyz?). Squarely in the EarthQ sweet spot would be questions that require expert knowledge to answer. Finally, a key will be that “someone” is willing to pay for a great answer. I put someone in quotes, because this could be the person who poses the question, it could be Dialogue Earth in cases where there is a ton of interest in the question, it could be a philanthropic interest who wants to support these types of Q&A, and it could be an advertiser or underwriter.

A final note about the EarthQ sweet spot is that the typical answer will typically require some multimedia to help explain it. Maybe just a nice, clear graphic and a paragraph or two of text. But maybe the case requires more, such as a short video, like some of those we have prototyped here at Dialogue Earth (visit our YouTube channel).


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