yoomoot wants to improve the conversation

Discussion forums are broken and threaded comments found on blogs don’t cut it either. Too much of the conversation gets lost and any lasting knowledge is buried. That’s the view taken by yoomoot, a new startup just out of private beta.

The standalone site aims to make public online discussions more productive and useful, although in the future yoomoot is planning a subscription-based version for organisations who want to hold private discussions and a plugin for other publishing platforms, such as WordPress.

Discussions on yoomoot are highly structured around Q&As, starting with a top-level topic with related questions and answers, which in turn can have follow-up questions and so on. To navigate this knowledge-base is the yoomoot browser, a sort of iTunes-esque column view where you can browse the hierarchical structure of each ‘moot’ (each of which has its own URL) and quickly drill down to a specific reply.

The Q&A format is designed to force users to “think carefully about the point of what we’re saying, encouraging structured, goal-focused thinking”, says yoomoot, although the company argues that its approach differs from traditional Q&A sites that are based around a single Q&A accompanied by standard comment threads.

And that’s probably yoomoot’s biggest challenge: explaining to users how it’s better or different than existing solutions. It also feels like it’s caught between a rock and a hard place; the imposed structure might make it more useful but the conversations feel, well, dry. They lack personality, although this could also be a consequence of the site’s very functional design. There is an element of social, however, with each contributor getting their own profile with a record of their yoomoot contributions.

The startup’s revenue model is three-fold: a premium version of the public site that removes advertising and give users greater control over their profile; yoomootpro, a private version of yoomoot for organisations; and a planned plugin to enable blogs and other websites to use yoomoot to handle their comments with very high-traffic sites being charged for this service.

Yoomoot is based in London and is founded by Barbara Nowacka and Nicolas Holzapfel who came up with the idea while studying for an MA in Interactive Media at the University of the Arts London.