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Summary:

PeerPong, a new Q&A site with an adorable name, is launching a public beta today. The company’s premise is to bring users’ questions to qualified experts on any given topic given their talking about it publicly online — right now, on Twitter.

PeerPong, a new Q&A site with an adorable name, has launched a public beta. The company’s premise is to bring users’ questions to qualified experts given their history that are talking about that topic online — right now, on Twitter. Yes, it’s yet another Q&A company looking to build up page views for its portal, in the vein of Yahoo Answers and competing with startups like Quora and Stack Overflow as well as the pre-launch Facebook Questions product.

PeerPong was incubated by the VC firm Partech International and was originally called Muchobene. CEO Ro Choy, who was formerly chief revenue officer at RockYou, joined this January. The company has raised $2.8 million from DCM, First Round Capital, Charles River Ventures and Partech International.

Out of the more than 100 million Twitter users, only about 3 million of them have demonstrated “real knowledge,” said Choy in a recent interview. That’s according to PeerPong’s “PeerRank,” which uses natural language processing to analyze what you tweet about in order to identify your areas of expertise. So for instance, Choy pointed out an alpha PeerPong user named Ian Manton from the UK who loves technology and has answered about 60 questions about phones and software for the site.

Here’s PeerPong’s own description of how it’s different from other Q&A services — particularly the Google-owned Aardvark, which seems similar but looks to users’ extended social networks and their self-stated interest areas to solicit answers:

PeerPong doesn’t rely on friends of friends or feel-good motivations to deliver a fast answer, or crowd-sourcing to find a “best” answer. Instead, PeerPong looks for the best person for a specific question and empowers and incentivizes knowledgeable people in a variety of ways to encourage them to share their expertise.

PeerPong currently uses its own Twitter accounts to message relevant Twitter users to ask them to respond. It will soon give its questioners those potential answerers’ Twitter handles so they can address messages themselves. These methods could quickly turn spammy for so-called experts who’d rather not be PeerPong users, but we’ll have to see what happens now that the site is public.

Users who register for PeerPong to participate as experts can earn badges and get widgets to solicit questions on their own blogs. And users who ask questions have the opportunity to ask follow-up questions and engage with experts directly.

I’m not sure much of what people talk about on Twitter could qualify them as subject-matter experts, even if PeerPong’s natural language processing is awesome. I mean, does the fact that you tweet about where you eat every night make you a restaurant guru? Maybe. Still, the company might have a good middle ground with people who want to style themselves as experts. They’ll earn on-site reputations points, recognition and perhaps traffic directed back at their own projects — and at some point PeerPong should probably pay them a cut of whatever it’s making.

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By Liz Gannes

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  2. Thanks for the post Liz. A couple of clarifications. We take outbound messaging very seriously and give users full control over notifications they’re sent. In addition, for people we identify as qualified to answer a question, we have a hard cap on questions they receive from PeerPong or our users (currently it’s set to no more than twice a week). Upon joining PeerPong a user can then decide exactly what type of notifications they receive.

    Also, we infer interests and knowledge from Twitter streams and Facebook status updates, score/rank relevance of topics by user, but becoming an expert requires a user to be recommended on our site. As we look beyond real-time streams, this might change, but at this point, expertise is decided by the PeerPong user community.

    Ultimately, we believe introducing users to knowledgeable Twitter users or even their own Facebook friends is incredibly valuable and only helps increase followers and understanding between peers.

  3. Who follows people who only tweet about dinner? If you’re going to provide “trusted insights” you might want to upgrade your standards, Ms. Gannes. Twitter happens to be one of the best tools for sharing expertise, and fortunately, many experts choose to use it for this very purpose. Think 140 characters is too short? It’s all about the link.

  4. PeerPong is a profoundly annoying invention that kept generating new user names during its testing phase earlier this year to evade block after block, either intentionally or not. It wasn’t until I started letting loose with potty-mouthed tirades every time I was peppered with one of their unwanted, unsolicited queries that eventually someone at the company took notice and put me on their “Twitter crazies to avoid” list.

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