LinkedIn users, did you catch this message that the site sent out a few weeks ago?

“As of Jan. 31, LinkedIn Answers will be retired from LinkedIn. We will be focusing our efforts on the development of new and more engaging ways to share and discuss professional topics across LinkedIn. In the meantime, members can still pose questions and facilitate professional discussions through other popular LinkedIn channels including LinkedIn Polls, Groups, or status updates.”

Many of you probably deleted this note without a second thought.  Others of us, however, shed a tear.  Over the years, I’ve been a HUGE proponent of LinkedIn’s Answers section, believing it to be the second most valuable aspect of the site beyond the system’s core networking functionality — even though LinkedIn decided to hide the “Answers” page in an obscure place on the menu bar, where millions of users routinely missed it.  For those who never got around to using this feature, it allowed you to post a question out to the enormous audience on LinkedIn and receive all kinds of useful (and free) advice on whatever business or career issue you were inquiring about.  I’ve had clients use the Answers page to get advice on things like how to find work internationally, work effectively with recruiters, combat age dicrimination, find emerging new career alternatives, and the like — and I, myself, have relied it on heavily for advice on business management and marketing issues.

But for whatever reason, the powers-that-be have decided to take this functionality from us with little warning — and without even much of an attempt, best I can tell, to improve it, monetize it, or fix whatever aspect of it appeared to be problematic.  What’s more, their public explanation for all this, posted above, is extremely vague and a bit insulting to our intelligence.  It sounds roughly akin to a movie theater imploring you not to bring in outside food and drink “out of courtesy to other patrons” versus just saying straight up, “hey, we’re a for-profit business and we reserve the right to sell you overpriced popcorn!”

So yeah, I’m bitter.  I’m going to miss the Answers functionality in a big way and was hoping for a “stay of execution” for this feature, but one doesn’t seem forthcoming.  So at this point, all we can do is move on and start hunting for an effective substitute.

On that note, virtually everybody who has written about this issue has suggested that the most immediate alternative worth exploring is  Quora is a little less buttoned down than the LinkedIn interface, but essentially follows the same idea, allowing people to post any sort of question to the site — and receive a string of answers from other users.  Or you can search the Quora archive, seeing what people have to say on topics like functional resumes, or phone interviewing, or negotiating a compensation package effectively.

Additionally, many LinkedIn Answers refugees have created new LinkedIn Groups to try and “replicate” the Answers experience.  Again, the interface (to me) isn’t nearly as convenient as the former offering, but if you want to explore this option, here are the leading contenders:

Q&A: Ask a Question, Answer a Question
Q&A Forum: Any Question, Any Time
Q&A Forum – Using LinkedIn Subgroup (for specific questions about LinkedIn usage)

Beyond that, there are other options, still — and other websites where a curious individual might seek valuable input from the cyber-crowd.  As I was starting to conduct some research into these possibilities, though, I stumbled across an excellent article written by Wayne Liew at SproutGeek blog that discusses this topic in depth.  So rather than recreate the wheel, I’d recommend you check out Wayne’s advice, if interested in probing the possibilities further.

Without question, Answers will be missed!