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Ex-TechCrunch journalist Steve O’Hear has launched his new project, expertise platform Beepl.

Opening to the public today, the Q&A site allows users to seek answers and opinions from subject specialists, enthusiasts and their social graph.

The site's semantic engine uses natural language processing and machine learning to create a real-time network of experts. Questions are re-routed and matched to the most relevant users, as the company says users don’t follow topics - but topics follow them.

As such, Beepl understands the topics that questions relate to, as well as users' interests and expertise. O’Hear says that this is the key differentiator from the likes of Quora, as questions automatically reach the best people to answer them. 

We're big fans of Quora but that we also come from a different place, both in terms of the technology and from a philosophical point of view. In a sense, on Beepl, topics follows users based on their activity on the site and their broader social media profiles. This, I think, creates a very different user-experience and is potentially more mainstream.” 

He went to say that philosophically, Quora's mission has been described as a sort of Wikipedia for things that would never warrant a Wikipedia entry. They started out as a question and answer repository, edited and moderated by the crowd. Its new feature based on curation also fits this model, whereas Beepl is more about the "here and now".

Users who connect their Beepl and Twitter accounts can send questions to and from Twitter using the hashtag #ask. Any replies provided by followers are displayed on the corresponding Beepl question detail page. This is a great feature for users with a lot of Twitter followers, while conversely, even users with a low follower count benefit as their tweeted question still reaches Beepl’s real-time network of experts.

Each user is awarded a ‘Beepl Rank’, an algorithmically-defined score based on their overall Beepl contribution relative to the rest of the community. This is displayed on their profile page.

In terms of what this means to marketers; whenever conversations are taking place online, brands should keep an eye on them. 

O’Hear added that this is especially true when many of those conversations are likely to be consumers talking about brands either negatively or positively, seeking product recommendations or support.

Additionally, it’s likely that brands and marketers will come up with imaginative ways to join the conversation and hopefully bring value to the community in a way that doesn’t degrade the user experience. It will be interesting to see how that plays out on Beepl.”

Will this contextual aspect mean that Beepl is more successful than Quora, or at least build a more engaged community? Like Quora, Beepl has the potential to be a valuable tool to monitor customer feedback - particularly within a tech-savvy, early adopter crowd.

Vikki Chowney

Published 16 January, 2012 by Vikki Chowney

Vikki is head of community at TMW. You can follow her on Twitter or Google+

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