Quora lets you know who’s Online Now

These days, when we need ready answers to pressing questions, faster certainly is better. And in our mobile-media world, faster is also essential.

That’s why the question-and-answer website Quora may have added horsepower to the information race with the introduction this week of Online Now, a feature that puts likely experts and admitted novices together with just a click.

Online Now appears as a gray note by the names of frequent knowledge contributors who are online at that moment, allowing the inquisitive to post pressing questions by clicking a blue “Free to Ask” button that moves those questions higher in priority than general queries.

Details of the exchange appear only in Quora’s Ask to Answer section, which constitutes a list of contributors the site believes is best suited to answer particular questions. The Online Now feature can be tweaked to indicate who is the answerer or questioner, or can be turned off, in the user settings.

“This is especially fun if you are in the mood to answer certain topics,” explained Joel Lewenstein, a designer at Quora, in a blog post on the subject. “Maybe you saw a movie or a sporting event, fell in love with a new restaurant, or just finished a book. When you feel like answering questions about a specific topic that you know, Online Now will send people your way.”

Demand for faster responses on Quora has grown since the site released mobile app versions starting last year with the iPhone, said Marc Bodnick, a member of Quora’s business team, in an interview with PCMag.com. He says mobile use makes up about 25 percent of all Quora traffic.

David Sheets is a freelance editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dksheets@gmail.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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