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May 27, 2012 / carlispina

Ask Questions on Balloonduck

With the explosion of social media, asking questions online is becoming a normal part of a many people’s online routine. From mundane factual questions to opinions to recommendations, it is common to see questions popping up in a Twitter stream and some services have been developed specifically to facilitate this type of exchange, such as Quora and Formspring. Balloonduck is the newest tool in this field, but it seeks to differentiate itself by combining elements from existing tools with a simple and elegant design sensibility. Users can include images with their questions and can sort their requests into four streams, “to learn and discuss”, “to share and entertain”, “to find what is needed”, and “to think out loud”. The combination of images and categories makes navigating through the site both easy and visually engaging. With its images and method of navigation, Balloonduck is also clearly aiming for Pinterest-like user interface, albeit scrolling horizontally rather than vertically, which is an appealing way to browse through the latest questions that have been submitted. Posing and responding to questions is quick and simple using an interface that is very similar to Twitter’s, which will make it intuitive for many users. Questions are limited to 150 characters, but there is also an option to include a separate description which can include hashtags or @ mentions (another carryover from Twitter). Since Balloonduck seems focused on short and fun requests, this length will likely be sufficient for most users. When you submit a request, you are asked to categorize it into one of the four available streams, which makes it easy to find requests on topics in which you are interested. Anytime you are mentioned in a request or a reply, it appears on a separate page to facilitate ongoing communication between members. You can also follow other users and keep track of those you are following on a separate page.

Overall, the user interface for Balloonduck is extremely well thought out making it quick to learn how to use all of the available features. I can see the appeal of having a dedicated forum to ask and answer questions (something I think might particularly appeal to some librarians), but so far it seems as though the user community for Balloonduck is a bit too small for there to be continuous and timely interactions. I have my doubts about whether Balloonduck will be able to differentiate itself enough from other similar tools to attract a  devoted audience. But, if you are looking for a new forum for questions and answers, Balloonduck’s design makes it a great option. Balloonduck is currently in private beta, but  you can request an invite on the website.

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