Quora chips away at getting more answers with “online now” feature

For Quora, the online question and answer forum populated by geeks and trivia devotees alike, the site is really only as good as the answers it provides. With much of the online consumer world moving to mobile (and Quora moving with it), the company is trying to tackle one question: How do you keep users on the site and answering question in real-time on their phones? The company’s executives hope part of that answer comes with their new “online now” feature, debuting Monday that will mark frequent Quora users as available or likely to answer questions in real-time when they’re online.

“It helps you satisfy your curiosity quickly and settles answers of what’s on your mind,” said Marc Bodnick, Quora’s product and business executive. “And it’s really important in the mobile world, because often the questions you want to know, you want to know soon or right now.”

The company explained how the “online now” feature works in a blog post on its site:

Online Now shows you when people with knowledge about your question are online and available to answer, and shows others when you are available to answer. Ask to Answer suggestions identify people who are likely to provide a good answer because they have answered similar questions in the past. Starting today, if one or more of these people are active on Quora now, you’ll see an Online Now label and a blue button prompting you to ask the person to answer your question.

Users who don’t want to be targeted with questions can turn off the “online now” feature in their settings, an option the company should be sensitive toward after it received backlash for showing which questions people were reading and viewing earlier this year.

The company has been making moves recently to keep users engaged on the site and spreading Quora posts across the web, marking Quora power users as “top users” to recognize their contributions, rolling out Android apps for its many new mobile users, allowing bloggers to more easily embed content across the web, and trying to show which posts have been read by users. The company has plenty of cash while it works on its business model, having recently raised $50 million in May, but presumably keeping users engaging with the site is key to success.