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Looking for Answers Online

Looking for Answers Online

    The internet is all about information, but sometimes it can be hard to sort out the answer you really need from the celebrity gossip and gadget rumors. You can email your question to friends and family, read Wikipedia articles until your eyelids droop, or even post your question to your blog. You still may not find the answer you’re trying to find. But there are some websites that are all about answering questions — it’s just a matter of taking advantage of the folks who happily hang out, just looking for questions that fall into their expertise.

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    My Favorite Places to Ask Questions

    • LinkedIn Answers — I’ve had good luck getting answers on LinkedIn Answers. While questions on this site are supposed to focus on business, there’s a little leeway. I’ve gotten much higher quality answers here than most other sites.
    • AskMeFi — The variety of questions on AskMeFi is nothing if not impressive. Today alone there are questions about water resource engineering, vacation planning and more. The folks who frequent the site seem to be able to answer just about anything.
    • WikiAnswers — This site, as it happens, is a wiki where you can add a question to a particular category. You don’t have to actually wikify either questions or answers, though. The site handles that sort of thing automatically.
    • Yahoo!Answers — Yahoo!Answers seems to just have more people frequenting it than any of the other sites I use to find answers. If I’ve struck out everywhere else, I head to this site. There’s a higher likelihood of getting an answer you can’t use here, just as there’s a higher chance of getting any answer at all.

    Beyond these four sites, there are thousands of other sites devoted at least partially to answering questions. Heck, even Slashdot posts questions on a regular basis, allowing readers to contribute ideas. By no means should you consider this list exhaustive, and if you have a site you prefer, please mention it in the comments. I know there are plenty of sites focused on particular topics as well as forums that can help lead you to the information you’re looking for.

    Crafting the Question

    Not all questions get an answer, no matter which site you post it on. It’s not always an issue of whether anyone knows the answer: you may need to tweak your question-writing technique. I’ve found, for instance, really broad questions get ignored. On most sites, question answers are only spending a small amount of time answering questions. They’ll go for the easy responses first — the questions they can answer in under five minutes. With really broad questions, there is a certain feeling that whoever is asking hasn’t done any research, and no one wants to do someone’s work for them.

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    It can also be difficult to write a question that gets the answer you’re looking. More than once, I’ve had to rewrite and repost questions because I assumed that the folks looking at my question would be thinking the same way — maybe I assumed that everyone would think that I’d already looked into the obvious answer. That’s really not the case, though. You have to state limitations if you want people to conform to what you really want for an answer. Most sites provide plenty of room in which to write your question: it can be worthwhile to make a note of answers you’ve already looked into and discounted, or other information that can help limit your request.

    Considering the Answers

    Unfortunately, not everyone who hangs out on a website and types up answers to random strangers’ questions is a reliable source. Especially if you’re asking about sensitive subjects, you might get a few ‘interesting’ answers. It’s up to you to sort out the information you can really use and set aside the rest. Depending on the importance of the question, I try to do a little research to, at least, confirm the answers I’ve received. I’ve actually found that once I have an answer, it’s much easier to Google for confirmation than it was to get Google to find an answer in the first place.

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    There are also more than a few sites that guarantee that you can have your questions answered by experts. The major difference between these and the sites I’ve been discussing is a matter of price. As long as you don’t care about the quality of your answers, you can get them for free. If you need something a little more reliable, though, it might just be worth investing in a few minutes of an expert’s time.

    Give Back a Few Answers of Your Own

    While spending all day on AskMeFi, answering every question you can, may not seem like a good time to you, it still may be worth your while to spend a little time on one of the various answer sites. It can be a good way to kill time, especially if you stick to the relatively simple questions, but some people do it for other reasons. Many members of LinkedIn, for instance, answer questions to help build up their reputations as experts in particular subjects. Other sites award points for good answers, although some points systems may be arbitrary and I’m still not sure what value most of those points have. No matter what the reward, though, I firmly believe that answering questions gets my brain going and are probably better than the many YouTube videos I could be spending my time on instead.

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    Last Updated on June 18, 2019

    15 Ways to Cultivate Continuous Learning for a Sharper Brain

    15 Ways to Cultivate Continuous Learning for a Sharper Brain

    Assuming the public school system didn’t crush your soul, learning is a great activity. It expands your viewpoint. It gives you new knowledge you can use to improve your life. It is important for your personal growth. Even if you discount the worldly benefits, the act of learning can be a source of enjoyment.

    “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” — Mark Twain

    But in a busy world, it can often be hard to fit in time to learn anything that isn’t essential. The only things learned are those that need to be. Everything beyond that is considered frivolous. Even those who do appreciate the practice of lifelong learning, can find it difficult to make the effort.

    Here are some tips for installing the habit of contiuous learning:

    1. Always have a book

    It doesn’t matter if it takes you a year or a week to read a book. Always strive to have a book that you are reading through, and take it with you so you can read it when you have time.

    Just by shaving off a few minutes in-between activities in my day I can read about a book per week. That’s at least fifty each year.

    2. Keep a “To-Learn” List

    We all have to-do lists. These are the tasks we need to accomplish. Try to also have a “to-learn” list. On it you can write ideas for new areas of study.

    Maybe you would like to take up a new language, learn a skill or read the collective works of Shakespeare. Whatever motivates you, write it down.

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    3. Get More Intellectual Friends

    Start spending more time with people who think. Not just people who are smart, but people who actually invest much of their time in learning new skills. Their habits will rub off on you.

    Even better, they will probably share some of their knowledge with you.

    4. Guided Thinking

    Albert Einstein once said,

    “Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”

    Simply studying the wisdom of others isn’t enough, you have to think through ideas yourself. Spend time journaling, meditating or contemplating over ideas you have learned.

    5. Put it Into Practice

    Skill based learning is useless if it isn’t applied. Reading a book on C++ isn’t the same thing as writing a program. Studying painting isn’t the same as picking up a brush.

    If your knowledge can be applied, put it into practice.

    In this information age, we’re all exposed to a lot of information, it’s important to re-learn how to learn so as to put the knowledge into practice.

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    6. Teach Others

    You learn what you teach. If you have an outlet of communicating ideas to others, you are more likely to solidify that learning.

    Start a blog, mentor someone or even discuss ideas with a friend.

    7. Clean Your Input

    Some forms of learning are easy to digest, but often lack substance.

    I make a point of regularly cleaning out my feed reader for blogs I subscribe to. Great blogs can be a powerful source of new ideas. But every few months, I realize I’m collecting posts from blogs that I am simply skimming.

    Every few months, purify your input to save time and focus on what counts.

    8. Learn in Groups

    Lifelong learning doesn’t mean condemning yourself to a stack of dusty textbooks. Join organizations that teach skills.

    Workshops and group learning events can make educating yourself a fun, social experience.

    9. Unlearn Assumptions

    You can’t add water to a full cup. I always try to maintain a distance away from any idea. Too many convictions simply mean too few paths for new ideas.

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    Actively seek out information that contradicts your worldview.

    Our minds can’t be trusted, but this is what we can do about it to be wiser.

    10. Find Jobs that Encourage Learning

    Pick a career that encourages continual learning. If you are in a job that doesn’t have much intellectual freedom, consider switching to one that does.

    Don’t spend forty hours of your week in a job that doesn’t challenge you.

    11. Start a Project

    Set out to do something you don’t know how. Forced learning in this way can be fun and challenging.

    If you don’t know anything about computers, try building one. If you consider yourself a horrible artist, try a painting.

    12. Follow Your Intuition

    Lifelong learning is like wandering through the wilderness. You can’t be sure what to expect and there isn’t always an end goal in mind.

    Letting your intuition guide you can make self-education more enjoyable. Most of our lives have been broken down to completely logical decisions, that making choices on a whim has been stamped out.

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    13. The Morning Fifteen

    Productive people always wake up early. Use the first fifteen minutes of your morning as a period for education.

    If you find yourself too groggy, you might want to wait a short time. Just don’t put it off later in the day where urgent activities will push it out of the way.

    14. Reap the Rewards

    Learn information you can use. Understanding the basics of programming allows me to handle projects that other people would require outside help. Meeting a situation that makes use of your educational efforts can be a source of pride.

    15 .Make Learning a Priority

    Few external forces are going to persuade you to learn. The desire has to come from within. Once you decide you want to make lifelong learning a habit, it is up to you to make it a priority in your life.

    In fact, you can train your brain to crave lifelong learning! Here’s how to become a lifelong learner:

    How to Train Your Brain to Crave Lifelong Learning (And Why It’s Good)

    More Resources About Continuous Learning

    Featured photo credit: Paul Schafer via unsplash.com

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