Historically, there have been many question and answer products, and there still are. Ask.fm had its moment and is still active. Instagram now lets users add stickers to their stories with a question box. And there's a whole string of Japanese Q&A sites run by individual developers that are relatively popular in their own niches.
There's something about asking and answering questions that is incredibly human. We're curious beings by nature and we like to pick people's brains where we can. It seems as long as the web exists, there will always be platforms dedicated solely to asking and answering questions, and I think that's a good thing.
But my favourite Q&A product is one of the originals, and is not even a standalone product–– it's a feature. The Tumblr 'Ask Me Anything' widget. I used to love this thing. Back in the day when everyone was on Tumblr, this was how you spent half your time. The beauty of a little box with those simple words, 'Ask Me Anything', was all that was needed to prompt people into, well, asking anything. Couple that with the simple aesthetic of the feature and how the questions were neatly displayed on people's blogs after being answered, it really was pretty perfect.
Unfortunately, as people have moved off Tumblr, they've also largely stopped using that feature1, and as a result there's been a steady decline in people answering interesting questions online at a personal level. There's no 'one' place for it anymore2. Platforms are either too crazy, too ephemeral, or too niche.
That's where Rep.ly comes in. It's an incredibly simple way to set up your own public Q&A page, where anyone can ask you questions and you can answer them anytime. Aside from being hosted on a great domain (rep.ly), we've done our best to 'unbrand' the product as much as possible. There's no ads or annoying distractions. Part of the appeal of Tumblr's AMA feature was that it always looked simple no matter what. It wasn't plastered with Tumblr's branding, and would suit anyone that wanted to use it, whether they were a random teenager or a famous artist.
With Rep.ly, we've opted for an incredibly simple design that just does the basics really well. It's nothing fancy–– just questions and answers. Sign ups are handled through Twitter (we fetch your name/username/profile picture) so you can setup a page in less than 5 seconds, which you can then share with anyone. By using Twitter for authentication, you can always trace a Rep.ly page back to a user's Twitter profile for added legitimacy. For example, my username on Twitter is @benjitaylor, so my Rep.ly page is rep.ly/benjitaylor. You get the idea.
As the name implies, Rep.ly is a simple product and will probably stay that way. This isn't something revolutionary. It's just something we thought should exist, and now it does. So if you'd like to relive the days of having somewhere where people can easily ask you questions in public, go give Rep.ly a try.
There are of course many people who still use Tumblr and this feature, but the numbers don't measure up to what they used to be. You also shouldn't have to make a Tumblr blog just to take advantage of this one feature.
Quora is probably the closest any platform comes to being 'the place' for questions and answers. The big difference of course is that Quora is focused on groups of people gathering around one question, instead of individuals having their own pages to answer questions.
For anyone wondering, it's pronounced 'Reply'. We just write it with the dot for stylistic purposes.