Wikipedia can be, and is, used as a Q&A (question and answer) site. Normally, we would think of Wikipedia as the online encyclopedia that anyone can contribute to, but beneath the surface it is also used for other things. There is even a podcast, Wikivoices (although it appears to have died out in late 2009).
For instance, the main entry point for getting help on doing something, the Helpdesk
, works as Q&A. This is set in a wiki context:
- A new question is a new section and is added to the end of the page.
- Any section can be edited on that page, as on most Wikipedia pages, but it is not considered good style to do so.
- An answer is posted by editing the new section, preceding ones response with one or more commas to indicate the threading level (who is reponding to whom).
Old questions roll off the page after a few days by automatically being moved to an archive page (an unfortunate consequence is that the original URL to the question gets broken).
As an example, there is the equivalent of a language Q&A site, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Language. It works the same way as the help desk.
Wikipedia is a very large place. Just navigating the various help pages is a challenge. Using Wikipedia in the Q&A fashion described here makes it much more manageable; it is possible to ask real people and get answers.
As a side-note, ironically Wikipedia itself stubbornly insists that a Q&A site is "a website where the site creators use the images of pop culture icons to answer input from the site's visitors"
(!) even when it is common knowledge that it designates any website that has Q&A as the main focus.