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Hi all. I have heard the term 'critical mass' used to refer to the number of individuals who have to be signed up to a website in order for it to attain a self sustaining momentum. Regarding Q2A websites, how many users could be considered as critical mass?
Q2A version: 1.5
Interesting question. I assume that the critical mass of users must be active more or less at the same time. It doesn't help if a sufficient number of users trickles in but their questions remain unanswered for a long time. You can probably also add some momentum with active core members who answer questions.
Thanks for your reply. My aim of asking this question is to find out about the business model of the websites using q2a. We all know that all websites without revenue will finally fail. I can not see how Q2A websites earn money in order to recover their costs. I can not also see what type of incentives are for users and how this incentive compensate the time and effort that they devote.
It depends on how you define failure. We plan to use a Q&A installation as secondary part of a non-profit project. So, any increased revenue by additional donations and advertising would be welcome, but we don't actually depend on what is generated through the Q&A.
We consider our website successful if people ask good questions and get useful answers.
Thank you Chris for your reply. In the case of your own case as you mentioned Q2A is the secondary part and not the main generator of donations. But I think we should consider more general situation in order to proceed. let me to assume that all those with questions in hand are "community of interest' and all who answer are 'community of practice" which are willing to answer if the community of interest donates in turn for charity purposes. does Q2A provide any tool for me as site admin to bring into reality this flow of money, this time for charity but also for sharing among members of "community of practice"? I consider Q2A websites as a special kind of crowdsourcing websites in which knowledge about something is asked from crowd (every body with internet access, access to Q2A website and relevant knowledge could answer). now compare http://preguntaaz.com/ and http://www.popanswers.com/ as two examples of crowdsourcing questions. which one could be considered more successful? and why?

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+4 votes
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I would say there is no "critical mass" referring to total of sign ups to a q&a site. There are too many factors like targeted audience, PR, look and feel of a q&a  site, activated options, visits by time period... and so on to determine a "critical mass".

As mentioned before by You, You may compare these two websites. You will see that popanswers has much more visits and users but this site is open for everything.

Preguntaaz in comparison is limited to Mexico related questions on a regional base and is not really a crowdsourcing site. That site is mine by the way.

Typical questions are: What is the phone number of that institution in that village ? or: How can I get in contact with that person from that village ?

Obviously the audience for this kind of question is very small while a question on the popanswers site about Justin Bibers underwear may trigger real crowds to answer or comment.

I wouldnt consider that my site is very successfull, but it is self sustaining.

To get there I added an ask box on one of my successfull regional sites, sending all incoming questions to preguntaaz. Actually I have about 6000 questions but very few people who register.

However, stats show, that half of my visitors are redirected visitors from the regional site where the askbox is and the other half are coming from google and so on. Now, while maintaining an incoming pagerank link from my regional site, I could take off the ask box and preguntaaz would still be self sustaining in terms of incoming visits and new questions, through search engines.

On another site i have just 1000 questions and it is as well selfsustaining.

Back to Your initial question, if You change critical mass into self sustaining and user sign ups into questions on google, than i would answer that a q2a site from 1000 questions on can be self sustaining, completely indipendent of the quantity of sign ups.

I personally think, that having a site growing by itself is all one needs.

The concept, having an askbox on a succsessfull site works well for me and I will go this way, as I could establish with a 5 USD / month investment and some work a self sustaining website and some extra income, which will grow by quantity of quality questions without any further work.
Dear Monk333. thanks for your participation. lets focus on your own website, preguntaaz. Of course you have better data than me regarding trafic and user activity etc. However  I learn from your website that only less than 5 percent of questions are answered. now consider yourself as a visitor to a Q2A website with over say 10000 questions but only 50 answered questions. will you come back again? will you recommend it to others? could you really consider that website a place of interaction among those who have questions and those who know answers? to my opinion it does not matter how much you have invested. the more important is how much you earn. if you are not retaining visitors, even 1 USD/month is a huge amount of lost money.
Earnings are ok, but in my case, which may be similar to Your situation, the q2a site adds additional value to my regional site. I read the q2a questions feed from preguntaaz and show them in the matching category of my regional site. People like it to see on the regional site related questions, what makes the regional site more popular and recommendable.

If I would want to have an independent q2a site than I would have to make another decision. The range would be from an all purpose site like answers.com to highly specialized site with interview questions for example.

The less specialized a site would be, the sooner it would be possible to have a small community with returning visitors and members. This is what very most webmasters want.

On the other hand if one has a highly specialized site, it will need much more time to have an active community.

But a higher specialized site may work much better regarding income, as there are very few competitors and depending on the branch much higher payed ads available. Answers and questions would be of higher quality.

For example, if one makes a highly specialized site around investments and money or health and surgery, it may be that he cant establish a community that easy, but each click may bring him Dollars in place of cents.

By the way, my normal behaviour is looking for an answer to my question through google. For me it is not important from which site it comes, I just click on the link which may contain a matching answer.
If I like that site and it has many good questions and answers i bookmark it.

If I have for example a tech question I never would ask it on answers.com, I would ask on a specilized site, thinking that I could receive better answers there.

Both ways, all purpose or highly specialized, may or may not succeed, but in no case one is loosing money once he has enough quality questions in google .