Qunu is a new service, claimed to be the next-generation in expertise matching, that provides users a free and simple solution to find and give real-time support covering any skill. Anyone can make a search on any skill, whether registered as a user or not, and receive a list of experts that are online at that time and are experienced in that skill. You can then choose an expert and request support using Qunu’s web-based Jabber instant messenger bringing you real-time support. Furthermore, if your not looking for help but would rather help others, you can signup and list your skills so you can appear in the expert listing.
You do not have to register with Qunu, although I recommend doing so just so you can create a profile and obtain your own unique Qunu Jabber ID (mines bbenzinger[at]qunu.com). However, if you have a Jabber account for instant messaging already, you may login with that which will get you setup with the service as well. Lastly, if you decide not to register, that is perfectly fine too because you can freely ask questions to experts as a Qunu Guest.
To start, head to the Qunu alpha site and make a search on any skill (ie: PHP, Photoshop, Linux, etc.). It will then connect to the server and find any available experts that are online in that you can request for support. When the list is returned, you click on the expert name and you will be presented with the experts profile, skill set, and amount of experience for each skill. If the expert seems to match what you’re looking for, click on the “Request live help from this expert” button at the bottom of the profile and the expert will have the option to accept or deny the request. If you did not find someone who you are looking for, you can try filtering through the list of experts by selecting more tags relating to your question on the right of the search results.
If you found an expert and the expert accepted your request for help, an instant message window will popup. The window looks very similar to your basic messaging application, so you should have no problem getting comfortable with it. Chat is Ajax powered and in real-time using the Jabber IM Client. Experts that are logged in can optionally use the Qunu web-based interface to chat or they can use their own Jabber client (supported Jabber Clients). The expert will be given the topic of discussion and then you both just have at it. Say your usual, “Hey” and “How’s it going?”, then ask your question. Remember, the experts are normal people that simply like to help, so just act like you usually would, like speaking to a friend. Also, if you’d like to include more users in your discussion, you can do this simply by clicking on invite on the message window and entering the username of your friend/expert into the text box.
When you have finished your discussion and received your answer (or not), you may save your conversation using the save button and when ready, close the instant message window. Once closed, you will then see a new window appear asking you to answer two questions regarding the expert. You rate the experts level of expertise and you say how nice the expert was when you were discussing things. As of now, I’m not sure if you can view these ratings or not, but I’m sure Qunu is planning to do something with them. If not, maybe this is Qunu’s way of moderating experts making sure they’re actually “experts.” Either way, the questions are optional and I was actually happy to see them.
Overall, I found Qunu to be a unique and helpful system. It’s like a normal instant messaging client, but without the buddy list, and to talk to someone, it’s just a search away. Qunu currently supports Firefox and Internet Explorer with Opera support on it’s way. I had no problems using the interface and everything was pretty straight forward. Also, because of the fact that searching, managing your profile, setting your online status, etc., is all powered by Ajax without redirection, you can still browse the site while having a discussion in an IM window so you won’t mistakingly leave it.
What I like about Qunu so much is that usually if I was in such a need to ask a question, I’d resort to a forum on the topic and wait for a few hours until receiving a reply. With Qunu, it’s support right when I find an expert and in real-time. It definitely saves time! But to answer the question many of you are probably thinking, why would someone be willing to help me, especially when it’s for free? As Qunu says in their FAQ section, “It’s simple. In general, people love to help. They’re doing it already, on forums, email lists and a hundred other places. What we’re doing is giving people a way to help in real time. And get thanked in real time too.” Qunu also says, “It’s community helping community” and I can’t agree more with both statement. Great work, Qunu. I’ll try to help out where I can!