What happens between the time a question is asked and when it is actually posted, and how much manpower does it take to run a quality Answer section like MakeUseOf’s? Just wondering.
Great question, Joe!
Well, all submitted questions enter the moderation queue. When it's their turn in the queue, they are screened and if deemed publishable, they are edited, tagged, categorized, and finally published or sometimes scheduled to be published later. Questions that we can not publish are rejected and the submitter receives a custom message explaining why the question could not be published.
We edit questions to make them easier to process for those who will answer them. This means we check for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and formatting. Most importantly, we edit the actual question line that is listed on the Answers front page. Many questions are submitted with keywords in that line only and we turn these into a full question.
The team moderating questions consists of Matt from the US, Tim from Australia, and myself from Europe. We are deliberately spread across time zones. Apart from moderating questions, we also manage the Answers social media representations, i.e. we submit selected questions to the MakeUseOf Twitter and Facebook pages and monitor reactions. And of course there is a web developer, James from the UK, who takes care of all technical issues and continues to implement features.
Once a question is published, anyone visiting Answers can see it and respond. Moreover, we have a team of seven contributors who are paid to solve questions. Usually, at least one of them will respond to any given question. Occasionally, you will also find a staff member like myself answer a question. And if someone not affiliated with MakeUseOf responds to a question and provides a great answer, they automatically enter our Best Answer of the Week contest, where they can win prizes between $20 and $50.
Obviously, we also have to moderate the actual answers (or comments). And to manage the contest, someone (me) has to read all comments and mark them to be considered for the contest. While reading comments, I often find new questions within old comment threads, which I forward to the contributors to answer.
And finally, twice a week I compile the best and toughest questions to be posted on the MakeUseOf main page. Contest winners are announced with the Friday Best Questions article. With the Tuesday article we are giving those questions some extra exposure that have not been solved, yet. This is also a great opportunity for our readers to enter the contest.
I think that about summarizes it. And I'm sure someone will add anything I have forgotten. :)
Wow - I knew such an informative site had to have a lot of manpower (and womanpower) behind it.
I posted a related question about what software the MakeUseOf site uses - and had fantasized about starting a similar type of site for the area in which I work - Occupational Therapy (OT).
Muotechguy shared some info about the WordPress + custome code that runs the site. He states " Unfortunately, there’s an awful lot of custom coding that’s gone into MakeUseOf too – this answers section for instance is entirely written from scratch"
I'm guessing that the code he's referring to automates the workflow you describe above. Even if I could somehow muster the manpower and volunteers to start a similarly run Question/Answers site for Occupational Therapy topics, I'm willing to bet I could not find opensource or relatively inexpensive software that would automate the "Ask Tech Help" workflow you describe above - or maybe I'm wrong - is the coordination handled by more of a manual process in handling the queue of questions ?
As for the workflow I described above, the editing and publishing of questions is handled entirely in WordPress.
And there are free and open source Q&A solutions out there, both as plugins for WordPress and standalone solutions. You can find a few suggestions in response to these previously asked questions:
How can I add a Question & Answer section to my WordPress site?
What is the best Q and A plugin for WordPress?
Can you suggest a Q&A content management system for WordPress or Joomla?
You also received some suggestions yourself here: How can I make a site that looks similar to MakeUseOf in another topic area?
After figuring out how to set up one of those, you just need to find the volunteers. :) Good luck!
Thanks again for sharing such details, now I'm off and running : )