being able to ask questions directly
I think the forums should work OK for this... Perhaps a new "General Forum" called "mentorship" would be useful?
How about we make a list of people that are willing to anser qestions, and help fellow arduinoers until a broblem is solved or answered?
I can't speak for anyone else, of course, but it's very important to me that I be able to answer questions "asynchronously" - when I have the free time to be fiddling in the arduino forums instead of doing real work - rather than being committed to being in a particular place at a particular time "on demand."
I think a lot of threds could've been avoided this way.
I don't see "avoiding threads" as being important. In the worst case, the hosts "waste" a fraction of a cent worth of disk space. In the best case, information that is archived in the forums helps the next set of people to come along with similar questions (and that's a good thing.)