A piece of friendly advice

Question-and-answer Websites are helpful, but are they reliable?

Just about any article or report you come across claims to have information from experts, whether it be about gardening or auto mechanics.

But you don’t have to go to the library to find expert advice. You can find some of the same gurus online. Users requiring an expert’s knowledge simply post a question on a site with a stable of experts, and one of its specialists responds. Some sites are free; others charge by how long the expert is online with you; still others quote a dollar amount.
While most sites post the resumes and qualifications of their advisors, they conduct minimal screening and they hardly ever monitor the answers. Still, if you have a burning question that you want answered here and now, these sites can be useful.

Allexperts.com (www.allexperts.com) This is a free expert Internet site with thousands of volunteers who give advice on more than 1,500 topics, including computers, automotive repair, travel and small business. You can even become a volunteer yourself by merely picking a subject and signing up on a trial basis. This site is actually helpful to students looking for some assistance with their homework.

Keen.com (www.keen.com) This site is helpful for business owners looking to consult a network of advisors. It’s a lot cheaper than visiting one’s office. The cost depends on the price set by that particular expert. It could range from 50 cents a minute for some tax advice to $1.50 a minute for a legal question. You can browse through a directory of thousands of members nationwide. You can get a live answer to your question from a real person immediately and privately over your telephone.
Ehow (http://ehow.com/home/home.asp) You can get the answer to almost any question free. You can’t e-mail an expert directly, but you can take advantage of a wide range of tutorials. Also, you can check an expert’s credentials, including his or her bio, areas of expertise and list of contributions to the site.

ExpertCentral.com (www.expertcentral.com) With a pool of more than 5,600 experts in dozens of categories ranging from careers to computers, this site is a great resource for young and old alike. The site recruits top experts, including educators, journalists and authors. Post a question and you will receive a bid for a response. You can accept, decline or negotiate the price. Experts have the option of charging for their answers or they may respond for free to easy questions.

XpertSite.com (www.xpertsite.com) You can pick a topic from among 11 categories and then pick an expert. You can review the profiles listed for each expert, some of whom are regular folks. You can also check out the experts’ ratings, although not every participant has one. One little nicety is that you can submit your query to more than one advisor. You also can browse through previous questions and compare experts’ answers. The site is free.

A word to the wise: most expert sites generally rely on reviews or ratings from users, not unlike the reviews found at sites like eBay. In

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