What’s the best technology base for an activism Q&A website?

two question marksAn activism group I know is thinking about setting up a Q&A (question-and-answer) site.  What technology base should they use?

Here’s the functionality wishlist:

  1. users can ask and answer questions, vote on others’ answers, and leave comments
  2. multilingual and accessible
  3. a pleasant and attractive user experience
  4. good moderation tools
  5. easy to attach tags (or categories) to questions and to browse all the questions in a category
  6. people can sign in with their existing Twitter, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, etc. IDs
  7. questions, answers, and comments are easy to tweet and look good when posted on Facebook etc.
  8. there’s a way to include Twitter, Facebook, etc. responses as answers or comments
  9. users can have profiles if they want but don’t have to spend any time setting them up
  10. the overall look-and-feel can be customized (to match the activism campaign’s overall branding)
  11. there are a few options for themes for questions, answers, profiles, and categories
  12. it’s possible to integrate discussion forum and chat software [to help people as they’re learning to use the system, and to talk about ‘lessons learned’ as we’re using it]
  13. secure
  14. privacy-friendly (meaning a robust privacy policy if it’s hosted elsewhere)

In general, open-source software with a fairly  unrestrictive license (BSD-style) is preferable; if the GPL’ed or commercial tools for the job are better, that’s fine too.

There are a lot of different options.  For example:

  • WordPress plugins like Instant Q&A ($35), Answers, or WP-Answers.   Instant Q&A’s currently being used for sites in Dutch and German as well as English, so I’m fairly confident about the multi-lingual aspects; conversely, I saw a report that WP-Answers’ localization was difficult.   For any WP plugin-based solution, letting people sign in with other accounts might take some integration work.
  • Vanilla Forums, an “open-source, pluggable, themable, multi-lingual community-building solution.”  While Vanilla isn’t optimized specifically for Q&A, it’s easy to configure it that way, and it has some very flexible theming and login features.
  • Hosted Q&A solutions like QHub ($40/month) or QandAPress (currently in beta, pricing TBD).   Neither of the sites have privacy policies on their home page, which makes me nervous …
  • Open-source Q&A platforms like OSQA and Askbot, or commercial alternatives such as Qato (which offers the ability to switch between different presentations of the same information).
  • A custom solution on top of Echo as described here.  This might be the easiest path to including Twitter and Facebook comments but it seems like a lot of work (and Echo has a mixed reputation).

Does anybody have thoughts on the tradeoffs, experiences with any of these products, or example sites we should be looking to for inspiration?

Thanks as always …