Business Issues Channels Enterprise Services SME Technology
Module Header
Craig WentworthMWD Advisors
Craig Wentworth
16th April - Egnyte the blue touchpaper...
Louella FernandesLouella Fernandes
Louella Fernandes
11th April - Managed Print Services: Are SMBs Ready?
Louella FernandesLouella Fernandes
Louella Fernandes
11th April - The Managed Print Services (MPS) Opportunity for SMBs
Simon HollowayThe Holloway Angle
Simon Holloway
11th April - Intellinote - capture anything!
David NorfolkThe Norfolk Punt
David Norfolk
11th April - On the road to Morocco

Blogs > Office Jotter

Three more Q&A forums for you to sample
Roger Whitehead By: Roger Whitehead, Director, Office Futures
Published: 26th March 2011
Copyright Office Futures © 2011

Here are some more knowledge sharing sites to consider as well as Quora and Go-Social, which I mentioned recently. They are Focus, Social Business 1 and Spiceworks Commmunity. All are free to subscribe to.


Focus makes a straightforward offer: “Connect with 1000s of leading business experts. Get quality answers to your business questions.”

The site covers such topics as accounting, Japan (but not China), marketing, motivation and social media. It also deals with backup, storage and cloud computing, which are technical rather than business concerns. There are dozens of other places to look for advice and opinions on those.

A roster of “experts” is there to help answer questions and for each question the site suggest experts to follow, in the Twitter sense. The expectations of an expert are set out here.

The site uses tagging and voting. Readers can promulgate answers they like through the usual trio of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

From the ones I have read, the discussions are informative and to the point. Focus also publishes research from its experts and runs online events featuring them, so good quality assurance in selecting these is crucial to its future success.

It’s a potential weakness of the service that it allows contributions from people who offer no background details about themselves. The reader is thus unable to judge those commenters’ likely knowledge and whether they have an interest in any suggested solution.

Focus’s terms include helping itself to “an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense)” to anything users post on the site. This is commonly found on media sites.

Social Business 1

This is an imprint of CustomerThink Corporation, which publishes similar sites on customer relationship management (CRM) and customer experience management (CEM). The subject matter of Social Business 1 is, as its title suggests, social business.

Much of the material is blog items from contributors, republished at their instigation. These form the basis for commentary and debate. There are also the results of research by CustomerThink, sponsored white papers and “interactions with a global panel of experts”. (Interviews, in other words.)

Discussion content is presented in full on the home page, as with a blog, which can lead to much scrolling. Today’s first item is over 8,000 words long. However, tabs at the top let you select from a list of either the most popular or the most discussed items. I prefer these as a starting point.

Contributions are moderated and CustomerThink appears to be doing a good job in keeping the quality high. As its CEO, Bob Thompson, says in one discussion:

The downside risk of seeking guidance from external communities is that opinion often masquerades as experience and wisdom.

This has long been a problem, from the days of Usenet and earlier. Any forum that suppresses misguidance from the LCW — loud, confident and wrong — is doing its subscribers a favour.

The site’s terms contain much CYA material about infringing on other people’s copyright but, oddly, nothing about CustomerThink’s intentions towards users’ intellectual property.


The third site of this batch is Spiceworks Community, which sounds like a collective factory where local people extrude female Monkees and other plastic figures. In reality, it’s an adjunct to the popular, and free, Spiceworks network monitoring software.

Spiceworks Community offers a range of discussion groups, nearly all on computing topics. They include best practices, hardware, IT jobs and careers, networking, security and virtualisation.

There are ratings and reviews but often the number of votes is too low and the reviews too short and too old to be of much use. (CNET’s software reviews and user ratings are far more helpful and current.)

Not being a ‘techie’, I’m uncertain of the value of this site. It seems well used but it’s in a busy market. Quentin Hardy at Forbes thinks it represents “the future of media”. Chris Goettl of Shavlik is an advertiser on Spiceworks Community; he’s got all excited over its user ranking system. Each to his own.

Spiceworks’ lawyers have been busy on its terms of use, making sure its intellectual property is well protected. They have also inserted wording about users’ IP similar to that Focus uses.

And Quora and Go-Social?

Judging from the number of questions being submitted, Quora is doing well. It is getting plenty of press and Twitter attention and has recently completed a second round of funding.

Since I’ve done so for the forums above, I looked at Quora’s terms. It, too, arrogates to itself the right to reuse anything subscribers say. On the other hand, it gives them “a worldwide, royalty-free, non-assignable and non-exclusive license to re-post any of the Content on Quora anywhere on the rest of the web…”.

Go-Social looks fairly quiet after its good start. Membership has increased by about a tenth in the three weeks since I wrote about it. The inflow of comments and questions has slowed. I hope the pace picks up again.

Being a LinkedIn group, Go-Social has to abide by its host’s terms of use. These include the usual stipulation on the unrestricted reuse of subscribers’ material. The group also has its own rules, which are unexceptionable.


Published by: IT Analysis Communications Ltd.
T: +44 (0)190 888 0760 | F: +44 (0)190 888 0761