I must apologize to Dave Winer. He warned me about supporting services that aren’t the open web and I wasn’t willing to listen to him a month ago, because I was infatuated with a cool new service that lots of insiders were supporting.
I’ve seen a LOT of discussion about Quora in the past few weeks since I wrote it could be the biggest blogging innovation in the past decade. GigaOm even wrote a post asking whether it was worth the more than $80 million the investors are hoping it’s worth.
Turns out I was totally wrong. It’s a horrid service for blogging, where you want to put some personality into answers. It’s just fine for a QA site, but we already have lots of those and, in fact, the competitors in this space are starting to react. Mahalo just released a new version that has been getting lots of praise and at DLD I met the CEO of Answers.com and he said to expect a major update from his service (which has 1000x more users). Stack Exchange is growing faster than Quora and has many many times more questions and answers, plus I’ve found the answers are broader in reach, and deeper in quality (especially for programmers).
Even worse, I’m getting dozens of emails from people pissed that their questions have been changed, their answers marked “not helpful,” or that they got kicked off the service altogether. Admittedly one of the things I really love about the service is there is very little, if any, spam and everyone is forced to use their real name, but lots of people want to talk about their business or not use their real names. Mashable, for instance, has the most followers on the service but they’ve been banned because brands aren’t allowed on Quora. Funny that some people with obviously fake names haven’t been deleted yet, though.
These are all things that are allowed on blogs, even welcomed, and no one can downvote my blogs here.
Because if you gather a group that doesn’t like you, or your writings, for some reason, you can get voted down, which effectively makes your answer disappear. See this post, for instance. As of right now my answer is voted down, even though it got 33 upvotes and lots of “great post” comments on Twitter and under the post itself. In fact, no one explained why the post got downvoted in the comments — which means that people who leave answers are left scratching their heads wondering “what did I do wrong?” Most just leave the system, not to return.
So, does this matter to the long term relevance of the system? Yes.
I’m watching hundreds of topics and not seeing the influx of new users and new questions that this service needs to become worth $100 million so that investors will make out.
It is a fun place to see answers by Steve Case and other technology insiders, but it just isn’t an interesting place to participate and until Quora fixes this moderation problem, and puts very clear answers onto why something was downvoted, it just isn’t the kind of place that I can recommend supporting.
Sorry, Dave, you were right and I was wrong.
UPDATE: How would I fix this? Turns out the question could have been collapsed by a reviewer (who isn’t paid by Quora, but given “special powers”). To fix this problem the reviewer’s name should be included on the collapsed answer, along with the reason why it was collapsed. There also should be a way to contest/appeal the downvote. Either way, whenever a question gets collapsed it should be very clear why, who did it, and what process the answerer can go through to change the answer to respond to the criticism, and get it upvoted again.