April 26, 2011 | Andy Boxall
It seems like everybody has got a question these days, and there are plenty of other people willing to answer them. Yahoo Answers and the phenomenon that is Quora spring to mind as being examples of successful question-and-answer forums, so what does Pupil bring to the table?
Pupil’s hook is the ability to illustrate a question with a picture taken using your iPhone. Let’s say you see a car you like the look of, but have no idea what it is aside from the make. Snap a picture and post it to Pupil, asking what model or year the car is, and other users will provide the answer. At least, that’s the theory.
When you sign up you’re asked to tick subjects you’re knowledgeable on, so you can contribute answers to other people’s questions too. Of course, you don’t have to give answers – or questions for that matter – if you don’t want to, but services like these rely on a strong community being built by active users; plus for some reason, answering questions in this way is oddly satisfying and addictive.
The app takes only a few moments to set up, during which time you’ll need to provide your email address, but once that’s done you can start contributing straight away. I answered a couple of questions to the best of my ability, and the app supports multi-tasking if you want to flip between it and Safari to check a fact, and earned some points for doing so. These points raise your rank in a category.
My plan was to ask the users of Pupil a question and to report back on how they do, but these plans were scuppered by the app. Having already been through the sign-up process, when I restarted the app it had filled in my email address and password, except it wouldn’t accept them. I re-typed my password and still nothing.
I went back to re-registering using the same address to see if it would work, but it came up as being already ‘active’. Using a new address didn’t make any difference either, as it still wouldn’t let me sign in after registration! Worse still, there’s no option to retrieve your password, no confirmation email when I registered and no help on the official blog. Unsurprisingly, I gave up.
Before leaving the app the first time I used it I did answer a couple of questions, but I’m not sure if they were user-generated or test questions posed by Pupil themselves. They were relatively simple and if the person who asked the question had time to open Pupil, take a picture, formulate a question and upload it all; then they had time to check Safari and answer it themselves!
Although I can see Pupil being useful in certain situations, like all Q&A services, it will rely on a large, knowledgeable user base – something it’s not going to get when you can’t sign back in!
After being contacted by a member of the Pupil team, it appears the sign-in problems are to do with the version of the app I was using – one obtained using a promo-code. After downloading and reinstalling a regular version from the App Store, I was able to create a new account using the same email address and log in and out without any problems.
Having been away from the app for a few days, a few more questions had been added, but only in one of the categories I’d selected. Our recommendation? Download it, join in and see if it lives up to its potential. Like we said, it’s all going to depend on the community.