What do we do when the questions are all answered?

I’m a big fan of Stack Overflow, SuperUser and the Stack Exchange network.

There’s a lovely synergy where folks using those systems build a reputation based on the quality and quantity of the answers they contribute. That score can be used as one element by which to evaluate those contributors, most interestingly to me for the purposes of deciding whether to hire them and what to pay them. There are other factors, but that score can get people in the door and that can be quite valuable.

The thing is, what do we do when the majority of important technical questions — the ones that people search for answers to the most — are answered? This is not doom and gloom. I think the sites will remain important and find a way to thrive one way or another. But I do think things there will change. Certainly people will find new areas of existing topics to address and new technologies will open entirely new areas for new Q & A contribution, which can continue indefinitely.

But today I believe there’s a Q & A Gold Rush occurring. People are searching the internet for answers to questions more than ever; presumably internet use is still growing apace. People are answering those questions on the internet. But once the major questions that are going to be answered are answered, what is the next area that is going to grow? Where will people’s attentions be directed?

First there was something to find, then there was Google to search it. Now people are sharing more directly with each other via walled internet gardens like Facebook. Where does this go next? Hell, where is it now? Has this happened before? One thing that comes to mind is the development of the telephone.