Synchronous social Q&A systems exist on the Web and in the enterprise to connect people with questions to people with answers in real-time. In such systems, askers’ desire for quick answers is in tension with costs associated with interrupting numerous candidate answerers per question. Supporting users of synchronous social Q&A systems at various points in the question lifecycle (from conception to answer) helps askers make informed decisions about the likelihood of question success and helps answerers face fewer interruptions. For example, predicting that a question will not be well answered may lead the asker to rephrase or retract the question. Similarly, predicting that an answer is not forthcoming during the dialog can prompt system behaviors such as finding other answerers to join the conversation. As another example, predictions of asker satisfaction can be assigned to completed conversations and used for later retrieval.

In this paper, we use data from an instant-messaging-based synchronous social Q&A service deployed to an online community of over two thousand users to study the prediction of: (i) whether a question will be answered, (ii) the number of candidate answerers that the question will be sent to, and (iii) whether the asker will be satisfied by the answer received. Predictions are made at many points of the question lifecycle (e.g., when the question is entered, when the answerer is located, halfway through the asker-answerer dialog, etc.). The findings from our study show that we can learn capable models for these tasks using a broad range of features derived from user profiles, system interactions, question setting, and the dialog between asker and answerer. Our research can lead to more sophisticated and more useful real-time Q&A support.