As a startup, Vark.com is doing a lot of interesting things. I really dig their IM interface, the breadth of ways they store, share, & answer questions, the interesting statistics regarding “median time to answer” and other fun facts about how well the service is humming.

Ultimately, though, it has a single fatal flaw: it fails to provide personal value to the nucleus of expert users that provide value to the wider user-base.

Josh Porter (aka Bokardo) explains this problem succinctly in a post title “The Delicious Lesson”:

The one major idea behind the Del.icio.us Lesson is that personal value precedes network value. What this means is that if we are to build networks of value, then each person on the network needs to find value for themselves before they can contribute value to the network. In the case of Del.icio.us, people find value saving their personal bookmarks first and foremost. All other usage is secondary.

Vark.com fails to provide experts any lasting and meaningful value… “Why should I spend my time and energy answering these questions?”

This isn’t unrecoverable. Vark could provide experts value in the form of notoriety by ‘scoring’ their contributions and providing a category leader-board, appealing to their ego or compulsion to beat the 'game’.

Perhaps there is some other clever offering, but the lesson is: there has to be something.