God bless Twitter – it’s a breaking news haven, a 24-hour virtual networking event, a help-desk line, a job search tool, an RSS feed, and many, many other things all rolled into one. But one of best and most overlooked use cases for Twitter is Q&A. Hands up: how many of you have asked a question like this on Twitter?
Arrived in a Taipei and need a restaurant recommendation? Ask Twitter. Need a good recipe for a party cocktail? Ask Twitter. Want to know the best pair of headphones under US$ 50? Ask Twitter.
What’s the problem here? I might ask Twitter where the best bar in Tampa is, but if no one on my Twitter network knows Tampa well, I’m out of luck.
Seoul-based startup WIV Media is hoping to leverage Twitter’s prowess as real-time Q&A forum with the launch of Qaster – a web-based application that lets users search Twitter for those helpful “recommendation conversations” for specific topics.
Let’s say you’re wondering, “Where can I find the best bars in Boston?” Simply search “bars in Boston” (or something to that effect) on Qaster’s homepage and you’ll be directed to a list of Twitter conversations in which other people have asked the exact same question.”
Clicking on a specific thread directs users to the Twitter conversation, where they’ll hopefully find a few helpful suggestions.
Dongung Kim, founder of Qaster, uses Twitter’s API to collect and aggregate data, but created his own algorithm in order to identify which conversation threads were informative and which ones weren’t relevant to Q&A.
If this seems like it might take a wizard to implement, you’d be right. Before he began creating Qaster six months ago, Kim worked at Daum, one of Korea’s biggest web portals, as a search expert for over ten years. He joined that company when it was just a startup, and left recently in order to pursue his own entrepreneurial interests.
Qaster officially launched in beta last week, but it’s already received some financial support from investors. Korean VC firm K Cube Ventures just finalized a seed round for Kim of about US$ 500,000.
From a user’s perspective, Qaster remains firmly in ‘minimum-viable product’ phase, with a spartan UI and a few kinks in the overall experience. But it’s easy to see how a service like this could evolve to be valuable, much like Quora or even Yahoo! Answers. Kim says he hopes to use the $500K in funding to generally improve the site’s usability, and also experiment more with turning the raw Twitter threads into readable content.