A Q&A site called Kommons which aims to harness the power of Twitter was recently profiled by Mallary Jean Tenore on Poynter. Kommons allows its members to direct questions to anybody on Twitter, and provides a space for their reply. Members can also 'back' another member's query, to provide impetus to these people to answer. When you ask or back a question, you can choose to tweet this.
Tenore spoke to founder of NYU local and recent NYU graduate Cody Brown, who founded the site with former classmate Kate Ray in September. Kommons is still in beta and the only way to become a member is to be asked a question by a current member. So far, the site has about 100 users, mainly journalists and quite a few have been asking and answering questions.
Rachel Sklar of Mediaite concluded, after having been asked a question and having provided a long detailed answer, that Kommons was "sort of brilliant" and managed to "sneakily" make her blog for free. She write that "you know that what you're going to get will be interesting and good."
Brown told Tenore that he believes social networks still fall short in fostering two-way conversations, and that is what Kommons hopes to change, by enabling people to seek their own answers. "All we're doing is making the question harder to ignore and expanding the number of people who are seeing it," he said.
Kommons will be more focused on politics as it expands, Brown said.
In a way, Kommons is intended to allow the public to go around journalists and ask their own questions directly to those in power, but it could be used by journalists too. Journalists have shown an interest in integrating the Kommons concept into their reporting, Brown said. They could use the site to motivate their large numbers of Twitter followers to get involved with an issue or debate. Brown also mentioned to Tenore that he'd be interested in partnering with news organisations, but did not provide details.
How useful is this sort of service? The existence of Twitter means that a huge step has already been taken towards the accessibility of the powerful and famous to the general public. Will Kommons actually provide the extra incentive to the powerful to answer difficult questions? It is not the first question and answer site - others include Quora.com - but it is the first to use Twitter and may therefore have a better chance of attracting the public's attention.