I am a firm advocate of the StackExchange network. It does good work and it allows us all to take less time to do something it took a bit longer several years ago. I have been following answers.startups.com for a while now and its one of my favorite StackExchange sites. I love startups and I am also attempting one right now for my self.
The problem I have with this site though is not the answers it gives, but with the answers it doesn’t give. I personally think the FAQ of the site needs to be updated and changed. They are closing too many questions that have to do with startups in one way or another.
Lets take for example, this question on pricing for a startup. Lets look at the FAQ to see where this falls under. The FAQ specifically states:
Topics include financing, hiring employees, renting an office, legal, marketing, sales, compensation plans, banking, payroll, benefits, and more. This is the place to come with specific questions or to seek specific advice from your peers.
The question here, is about pricing and sales of their particular startup. How am I going to sell this product better than what I currently sell it at? Yet, it was closed and proceeded to be voted on by three people who think they have read the FAQ thoroughly.
Lets take a look at another one. This one asking for tips on marketing. While a pretty general question, but if we look at the FAQ again. It falls under marketing. Again, it was closed by four people who think they have read the FAQ. The problem here is they haven’t. Things like marketing an application or startup is a pretty good question. I would personally love to market my start up differently if I only knew how.
One more, just to prove a point. This one asking what type of offer to provide new members of a company. This has to do with hiring an employee, but they say it is too localized. I ask them, when has a start up ever been started by just two people and adding the third on some time later? Have you ever heard of a start up that doesn’t do that? Definitely not me. (sarcastic) This person wanted to know if the offer they provided was sufficient enough. I would look at this question if I brought in a third person for my startup. I can then get a much better gauge at what to offer them. Therefore, I have used this question to help answer my question of hiring someone else. Not localized at all.
Now, lets look somewhere else. Everyone knows about YCombinator. At least everyone I talk to in the startup world. One of my friends actually got accepted to this latest group and just had his demo day. I personally asked him, what he thought the best part of YC was. He said it was the people. To know, he can post a question to any one of them about any part of his startup and get the advice needed. It didn’t matter what topic the question was on, he would get some honest and good feedback and even some help if he needed it. Sadly, that's not relevant here at answers.onstartups.com, even though they clearly state “seek specific advice from our peers” in their FAQ.
On the front page it self, I count 5 closed questions alone. That means, that this answer forum is throwing away 1/4th to 1/3rd of their user community. What person wants to see this site for the very first time, asks a question and then gets told its not on topic. I would be pushed away never to return.
I ask you answers.onstartups.com, what are you actually trying to accomplish? Are you trying to accomplish me coming to your site, because I don’t know anyone else to ask, and ask a question that I can get real answers to? Or are you trying to just have the business end of the startups answered?
I personally don’t think this site has a specific goal in mind and needs to reign in their moderators. They are pushing too many people away when they can’t even be that exclusive. One day, this site could be the Forrst for startups, but not today. Not while they have problems without specific goals in mind.
There is a problem with some of these Q&A sites. Its that there is no correct answer. Its not a programming site, where I can show you solid logic to back up my claims. Its advice. Advice on what we have done and what worked and what didn’t. I think that's the real problem with answers.onstartups.com. It expects logic, and not actual advice to be the correct answer.