Why I was wrong about Quora as a blogging service …

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.

Why?

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.

Comments

    1. Gautum – you just killed the post I have half done last week :)

      Quora IS the new digg – replace the “headline” on Digg with the “Question” on Quora. Replace the “comments” on Digg with the “answers” on Quora.

      And it’s interesting because I asked a top Quora user about the idea that content can be changed – it was a shock to me (I don’t use the service currently). I kept saying to myself – why would anyone want to write a nice, in-depth answer only to have it edited by someone he or she doesn’t even know.

      Also – when you write on Quora, it seems you are basically saying “sure x blog, scrape my whole post, put it on your blog, make money on it and share nothing with me” – at least with a blog, that doesn’t happen as often.

      I also wonder when you have a blog as widely read and as powerful as Scobleizer, when you post on Quora, do you miss sharing your thoughts with so many others who won’t see it on Q? I know you share a lot of your answers on Twitter so maybe people find them that way.

      1. Yeah, I didn’t worry about my audience here. In fact, I found it freeing because I could answer questions that don’t fit into my blog, like about cigars, or other topics that don’t fit into the tech blog corner I’ve painted myself into here.

        Sorry for screwing up your post.

        1. lol you didn’t screw anything up – I think Quora seems to be trying something new – I don’t really follow the service that much – but it seems like they are trying a “moderated community Q&A site” which is different than many of the others.

          They have done a good job of getting big names in there to answer the questions.

      2. Please go ahead and finish that post :-) Didn’t mean to kill it :D

        While I found Quora interesting in the beginning – primarily because there was knowledge there by people who had built companies, failed and succeeded, the questions got out something from them that they hadn’t shared (either because they weren’t bloggers or due to some other reasons)

        However, in the other generic spaces Quora answers are not helpful. And I am slowly getting disenchanted with the service. I still go back to discover some gems – but that’s it.

      3. Initially, I liked having a place to write in-depth answers to a broader (not deeper, though) audience than the venerable Stack Exchange properties and my concern over ownership of my answers was mitigated by the feature listed as “Connect Blog” in the Settings. Though it only supports Tumblr and WordPress.com blogs, I thought that creating Tumblr or WordPress.com free account to then syndicate back to my personal blog would create a way for me to keep my answers as my own.

        Unfortunately, when I created a WordPress.com blog for this puporse and connected it to Quora I found that this feature merely creates link bait for SEO for Quora. The only “connection” Quora makes back to your own blog is to post a tweet-style Quora headline as the title and content of the blog post with a link to Quora. Useless. Spammy. Disabled. Blogged about it (on my own blog!):

        http://www.rjamestaylor.com/my-feedback-to-quora-regarding-blog-connect/

        Secondly, my experience with the arcane moderation of the insiders at Quora turned me off of spending effort to craft a lengthy response on their service. It also caused me to doubt the direction of the company itself. What happened: I added a picture of myself to my personal name topic. A Product Designer at Quora edited the picture describing it as “unrelated”, which was a shock to me!

        http://www.quora.com/Robert-J-Taylor-1/log

        That a Product Designer for a UX-challenged product would have time to make silly, inane moderations broke my trust in the company. It wasn’t that I was offended; it was the inanity of the thing.

        After the above experiences I now use Quora as I do the rest of the Interent: I look for people having questions about things related to my day job and try to be helpful. But as a place I will expend my energies to add value to Quora? Those days are over.

        1. I hated the ‘link bait’ too – I stopped using that feature immediately. However, I do like Quora as whole. They have an above par user experience and personally for me – as a new entrepreuer – I found it to be valuable resource.

          I do think however that Quora can likely make more money by licensing their platform rather than from the current existance of Quora.

        2. rjamestaylor,
          Although it’s an off-topic, let me note that WordPress – Google Buzz integration actually implements what you said Quora is failing to implement: comments are identical, instantly syncronised and visible on both WordPress post and corresponding Buzz thread.

    2. Except there is less incentive to massively game Quora. Digg had massive traffic to push in a direction. Real money is there. Quora has moderate ego boosting to push. I am sure there is gaming, but I think the lack of monetary end goals keeps the community in check more than Digg use to pretend to do.

    3. Man, you beat me to that comment Gautam!. Yeah, Digg where a bury is worth 100 Diggs and a small malicious group can alter results even though normal users real did like it.

  1. I think it could still have some usefulness to bloggers, but they need to desperately work on the integrations with blog services to truly make it a place for bloggers publicize their expertise. Agree with you completely on the moderation portion of this though. They also DESPERATELY need to instill a sense of humor into some of their admins as well…some of them are the Q&A version of the Soup Nazi.

  2. heh and this is how I started off on Quora. I wanted to know why Wave was such a failure and what people understood it as. Someone marked it as a poll and closed it. I don’t care who or what but that was my first activity on Quora and whoopde doo. I use the service just for kicks or when I’ve actually finished catching up on tech news and have time to spare.

  3. Ironically, it was when I posted an answer to a question about whether you were ‘killing quora’ that was subsequently deleted by a mod that I lost interest. It was a defence of sorts – but it was mainly to make the point that a forum without portfolio was doomed to fail if people started flaming other users – you in this case. I’ve run several online communities and see no good reason why the psychology of quora should be any different.

  4. I am starting to wonder if the most relevant way to judge a service is to look at it in terms of whether it would survive if started outside the Valley. The Valley is just so good as an echo chamber that it seems easier to grow businesses without having wider applicability. If Quora had started in Portland or Seattle or Chicago or Austin would it still be popular and have grown the way it has?

  5. Interesting analysis. I think Quora has some big voting issues as well, but not for the reasons you list here.

    On one thing in particular you’re completely right, Quora is not, “the biggest blogging innovation in the past decade.” Simply put, I don’t think it’s a blogging platform at all although I can see why you might consider it one.

    I think the primary difference is in what makes a great post.

    In a blog (as in the media in general,) being factual and providing valuable information is not enough to tip something into viral distribution. You have to be loved, but also hated. A controversial post which is equally loved an hated gets 70x the distribution of a mediocre post.

    If it’s not somewhat controversial, it’s not worth sharing.

    In Quora, those posts would be weighted equally and the post would be at the bottom of the page (or lower.)

    P.S.: If you want to see something fascinating, look at OKCupid’s latest analysis. They show what we’ve all know for a long time. A girl ranked as “pretty” with an average score of 3.4 from viewers won’t get as many messages as another “interesting” girl who also has an average score of 3.4. Why? Because the interesting girl has some feature (or defect if you prefer) which some people love and some people hate.

  6. You can always come back to FriendFeed.com – even for a moment. You still have the ability to block a spammer off one thread and have them vanish from all of your threads in the future. Threads can be voted up – but not down. FriendFeed is leet.

    1. Hi Anthony,

      I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with long vs. short posts on Quora and long seems to win out overall. I think it’s because it takes more effort to scroll down and read the rest of the posts. Possibly also there’s an assumption that, “if someone spent this much time writing it, it must be correct.”

  7. I am a Quora enthusiast and would really like to see what it grows into. But of course it does have some faults. As one person commented above, the moderators lack a sense of humor. This post here put the fear of God in me: http://www.quora.com/Lucretia-M-Pruitt/Welcome-to-Quora-Do-Yourself-a-Favor-Slow-Down. Although the writer came back with another post apologizing for her tone, the damage was already done. It confused me that something like this can be posted on Quora and not get outvoted into oblivion but answers with just a bit of personality (read as “humor” and “wit”) that do not offend anyone are chucked out. Having said that, I have found Quora to be really helpful. I am working on a startup (an all-women virtual firm selling digital services) and I have a lot of questions about the how, what and when of my business venture and the community at Quora has been extremely helpful. These are people who have been there, done that, and are experts in their fields. Let’s cut Quora some slack and give it a chance to show us what it can really do.

    1. The post you cited had a very interesting path. It started with me, being utterly annoyed with some old friends who had come over to Quora in the “post Christmas rush” and were being incredibly spammy.
      At the time I wrote it? There were 150 people “following” me on Quora. All of whom have known me either in person and/or online for years. Most of whom would’ve shrugged and taken the value out of the bitchiness and moved on.
      I posted it because it said (at the top) “Post something to your Followers” – and naively I believed that’s exactly what I was doing.
      What neither I (nor anybody else) really expected was that it would gain a life of its own. The speed with which it propagated was a little startling. Quora has a much faster viral component than any other site I’ve ever been on. Should I have expected it? Maybe. But it was a lesson well learned.
      I’m sorry that it “put the fear of God” into you. I wrestled for a long time over whether or not to go and edit out any of the abrasive language or tone. In the end, I didn’t feel right editing it after so many people had voted on it. But I did go back and add links to helpful Quora posts that would probably better serve a new user.
      Again, I apologize to those who were offended or put off by it. But please don’t take that particular post as representative of Quora. It’s not – there are some really amazing people on there.
      Best, LMP

      1. Everyone has the right to their opinion and also to how they want to express themselves. My anger with your post was not about the tone, it was annoyance at the fact that it got the approval of so many people that I have good reason to believe are closely associated with Quora despite the very generous sprinkling of personality but if someone else tries to answer a question with just a bit of, let’s say wit, for lack of a better word, it gets outvoted. Quora was never a blogging platform but a member to member exchange community. I feel the only person who has the right to vote for an answer is the person who asked it. If I find ask a question I should be the one to decide if an answer was helpful or not. I don’t mind getting edited – I am a non-native speaker of English so I tend to to be not as clear with what I am saying or asking as a native speaker can be. That’s perfectly OK. But to see people’s replies getting collapsed just because they answered something in their own particular style is irksome. This is a knowledge/information exchange community and if I can not exchange anything with my followers or with other members without the fear of offending with my style of writing then it is something that Team Quora should be wary of as its goign to cost them members.
        Having said that, I use Quora as much as I use Facebook and that’s really saying something. Have learned a lot, am learning a lot. And am excited to see what Quora becomes.

        1. Keep in mind that Lucretia’s post was just that, a post, and not an answer. Voting for posts spreads them through Quora, but it doesn’t have any other ranking effect, as far as I can tell, against other posts.

          Answers are ranked differently and they are held to different standards.

  8. Another reason I dislike several of these Q&A services is that in desperation their managers/sales/moderators go to LinkedIn groups and ‘pose’ questions. When responded to, the respondent received an email request to please copy and paste their answer over to the Q&A site. This is a poor process and a ‘cheat’ of sorts and actually shows that questions are better asked on bigger social sites and that these pure Q&A’s have little to offer in order to retain users. Further, how many questions do you answer before you feel like a little payment is due. I actually think this another serious issue.

      1. Robert, it’s very impressive that you are/were open-minded enough to be shifted on this topic. You had had me believing that Quora was a new blogging platform – and it still does have some very strong attributes of that – but your new thinking is great. Even bigger however is your ability to shift and openly allow and admit new learning. Thanks! Bill

      2. I think you mean you gave your opinions. Which is one thing undermining Quora (there are several). When you answer a question like What should Larry Page do at Google, your opinion is not an authoritative answer. It’s just one person’s view. And you are not an expert on business strategy. When Quora becomes a compendium of personal opinions it becomes a forum, not a Q&A site.

        1. Except that opinion is the reason people go to Quora. Without opinion, it’s just data. You can get data with a Google or Wikipedia search.
          The *only* compelling argument for something like Quora is that you have opinions from people who are worth listening to.

          1. I’m sorry, but that is absolute nonsense. The contrast is not opinion vs.
            data, it is opinion vs, fact, or at least expert knowledge. A Q&A site is
            where you go to get an answer from someone who for a fact knows more than
            you do. When you start getting opinions from people who are not more
            qualified than you to opine, you just get noise. I could go to a bar and ask
            any drunk what Google’s strategy should be, and his opinion is just as valid
            as Scoble’s.

          2. I’m afraid you and I go to Quora for different reasons. I find there to be no “factual” answer to the majority of the questions asked there. If you look at the question that Robert was pointing out? It requires an opinion. A personal assessment of whether or not Davos is a “waste of money.”
            That requires a subjective viewpoint and is the kind of *data* or “fact” that you won’t find on Wikipedia and is the entire point of crowdsourcing such an answer.
            The premise behind all of the validation on Quora – such as upvotes, endorsement, reputation and the use of real names – is designed to help you determine whether and answer from Scoble differs much from the “drunk in the bar”.
            If your belief is that opinions are as valid from one person as the next? You won’t derive much benefit from a site that clearly is designed on the opposite premise.

          3. If that is indeed the purpose of Quora, then it has been perceptually
            mispositioned. It is not a Q&A site, it is a discussion forum. I.e. a place
            where anyone can float a topic, and have everyone weigh in with their
            opinion.

            However, this contradicts all the talk about ‘quality’. After all, if it is
            just somebody’s subjective opinion, what is the measure of quality? Also,
            what is the basis of editing answers if that answer is just an opinion?
            Everybody’s subjective opinion is ‘correct’ from where they stand.

            This I think goes to the heart of why Quora is doomed for serious failure:
            it is not sure what it wants to be. It is not a Wiki, because people post
            under their real names, and so are likely to get offended when their answers
            are edited (on Wikipedia, people don;t get hurt by this, except of course
            the hardcore obsessives). It is not a Q&A site, as evinced by the number of
            opinionated answers. Yet it is not fully a forum, because you don’t have
            peoples’ answers being edited or voted on on a forum.

            What need does it fill? Not reasearch, and not conversation. Maybe the next
            question on Quora should be “What is Quora?”

        2. Absolutely wrong, actually. At Microsoft my final title was “strategist.” And I’ve interviewed thousands of business people. I know more about business strategy than most people.

          1. “I know more about business strategy than most anyone on Quora”

            That astonishingly arrogant and pompous statement shows how little you
            actually know about strategy. First, anyone with training and experience in
            strategy understands the management of uncertainty and incomplete
            information and would not make such a definitive statement.

            You don’t know everyone on Quora. You don’t know what everyone on Quora
            knows. So such a statement demonstrates a level of hubris that would be
            fatal in anyone responsible for business strategy.

            You also show ignorance of one of the pitfalls of strategic management:
            perceptual biases, specifically the overconfidence bias (look it up,
            strategist). Its when business managers make bad decisions because they
            assume they know more than they do. You are a blogger whose popularity is
            going to his head, causing him to feel he has expertise outside his core
            competence.

            At Microsoft my final title was “strategist.”

            Yes, I’m familiar with those empty titles, usually given to cubicle-dwellers
            whose job is to sit in on meetings where people debate what to do about a
            product. I understand Microsoft didn’t hire you because of your Ivy League
            business education, management experience or strategy consulting background.
            You were basically an evangelist.

            “I’ve interviewed thousands of business people.”

            Really? Well, I’ve watched thousands of boxing matches so I must be ready to
            become world champion. And I’ve watched thousands of porn clips so I must be
            the world’s greatest lover. Dude, take it from someone who actually wwent to
            a top business school- you don;t know strategy. Your recommendations to
            Google were a laundry list of product features you would like as a tech
            person. There was no reference to the competitive landscape, Google’s
            overriding mission, core competencies, internal management structure, or how
            their product or business portfolio should ride emerging opportunities and
            deal with extant threats. Anyone with actual strategic training could see
            you were a layman blowing smoke.

          2. Most people on Quora don’t match your description of them. Not everyone on Quora is Steve Case. It might be arrogant to say, but who the hell made YOU a judge of who has business strategy expertise or not?

    1. “How many questions do you answer before a little payment is due.”

      Good question, Susan. I’ve wondered this about all social media networks. The content is user-generated but the profits are not shared.

      1. Networks provide the infrastructure. Users provide the content.
        Networks get the profit. Users get the authority (which can then use it for profit)

        Its a win-win. If you believe you get nothing out of creating content on those networks then perhaps you should stop doing it.

      1. Hype is always…well…hype.

        It would be a great idea if they’d turn off the “post” feature which does make it a lot more like a blogging platform and just focus a really great Q&A platform.

      2. Clearly it’s not a blogging site and I agree that as a Q&A site it doesn’t deserve the hype (nor does any Q&A service fundamentally). Where, however, I see Quora as having massive potential is as a bottoms-up knowledge management system. While there are flaws with the moderation and voting and editing, the precise fact that these capabilities exist is in my mind what sets it apart from a Q&A platform. I think they could be on to something big here. http://doctordisruptive.wordpress.com/2011/01/06/quora-the-winning-formula-for-knowledge-management/

    1. Sure, you’re right. Quora is not a blogging service, as Facebook is not a blogging service, Twitter is not, and Google Buzz is not. Not understanding it is a key for misuse and then bashing – that’s what so many “power users”, as Chris Lang calls them, are guilty off.

      A wonderful article by Dave Winer http://scripting.com/stories/2011/01/04/whatIMeanByTheOpenWeb.html clearly explains it. The answer by Jeremy Chone on “Is Robert Scoble right about acknowledging he was wrong about Quora?” Quora thread http://goo.gl/ehZFN perfectly prooves it too.

      P.S. I’m really thankful for Robert Scoble for letting know about Dave Winer.

  9. I’ve found Quora a place to get comments and quotes from technology insiders on subjects that I blog about, something that they would often not devote an entire post to. I like Quora for the questions I follow and read all the opinions, whether these have been hidden or not.

    I realize that these are not the answers to the Question, but somebody’s subjective opinion and that some people really think that somebodies subjective opinion is not valuable so they press “Not Helpful,” which is their subjective opinion.

    I’ve currently been working on a project which incorporates the fact that people’s comments and scores are subjective and which devines what an objective truth might be based on multiple factors. Which means people are weighted by the quality of their opinions and previous evaluation of other people’s opinions. This might be a solution for Quora.

    Another way to go is /. meta moderation, if people are giving poor feedback then they can’t give feedback as often as when their feedback is good. Which may lead to more constructive feedback.

  10. I’m with you on the mod thing Robert, they need to get a grip – That said, I still think it’s a quality piece of work that adds genuine value. I’ve been really impressed with the quality of a lot of the questions and indeed answers too.

    I guess in some respects there’s always a problem with mods and ‘power’, it often goes to their heads and they assume this superior type view acting on the strictest interpretation of ‘the rules’ to the detriment of the user. DMOZ (had) and most other forums have similar problems with egos in the room. I’m yet to see a system yet that’s conquered the ego problem, in fact I have more faith in the power of the community than any single individuals.

    As the commenter above says, his first question on their got dinged and for him, that was that. I had a similar experience on the Huffington post and said to myself wow, ok that’s the last time I invest 20 minutes of my time in you bunch of jokers.

    I’d like to see Quora succeed as I it’s the first Q and A site that I’ve gotten involved in that has the interest of my peers and social networks – I’m loving the ability to expand and explore what it offers and most certainly tip my hat to them.

    1. I don’t mind if I get downvoted or my answer marked as “not helpful” if it meets three conditions:

      1. I know who voted me down.
      2. If I know why.
      3. If I have an opportunity to change my answer and appeal the decision.

      On Quora we don’t know who voted you down. I don’t know why. I don’t have an opportunity to change my answer and appeal the decision. That’s nasty all around.

      1. Yep, couldn’t agree more – Current system makes it easy for ‘snipers’ to hit and run unseen. You’d like to think that the smart folks behind Quora are aware of this though. Let’s see. They need to act fast mind else…

        It’s a good reminder of why other social type services (albeit completely different) don’t have this disgruntlement problem. Twitter, FB etc you can say what you like unfettered. There isn’t anyone to come along and snipe you out of the game – one doesn’t (in most cases) talk a lot of old cobblers else otherwise your friends/followers will vote w/ their feet or ignore you. Social rep counts and if you have any sense of this you’ll act accordingly. I’d say it’s a reason why they both work so well.

      2. If you know who down voted you its just going lead you to a vendetta against that person more than 90% of the time. It is the nature of the beast, moderation is going to be gamed, abused and a source of constant antipathy. Of course without it, Quora is going to be spammed, turned in to a self promotion forum, and the signal to noise ratio will plummet. Moderation is a horrible approach, its just better than all the alternatives. That said it is a bad thing to have moderators with “special powers” if that is what Quora is doing. Will be constantly abused, and has been on every sevice that allows it. If you are going to allow moderation it has to be randomized through the community with meta moderation like Slashdot.

        To be honest this sounds a little like, “I Love Quora and will promote it constantly as long as I’m getting huge numbers of followers and being constantly up voted by my fans”, quickly turning in to “Quora sucks because I got down voted” once.

        As for Mashable being banned. I get why they did that and am OK with it. Every new social network comes out, Mashable moves in with there fan base and completely dominates it, just like they did on Buzz, Digg, etc. Mashable already has a huge megaphone, they don’t need any more and they don’t need to dominate EVERY social network. The Scolbelizer brand is nearly the same. I’d actually like a service where everyone rises and falls based on their actual participation not based on the size and “enthusiasm” of their camp following fan base giving them an instant and dominating presence. Of course if Quora doesn’t stay on the good side of Scobelizer it is probably DOOMED.

      3. That’s the same reason why “like” buttons are good to have and “dislike” buttons not so much (on Facebook, Disqus, etc.).

        The “like” button signals “I agree and have nothing to add”

        The “dislike” button (or a vote-down) allows someone to block or oppose something without stating why.

        It should take more than a single mouse click to be disagreeable. :)

        1. A very good point. While I’ve wanted a ‘dislike the object of the post, not the post itself’ button on Facebook forever (really? Who “likes” bad news?) I think there’s something important about not allowing abuse.
          Maybe you only have 3 dislikes a week? a month? hm.

          1. I understand that rationale. The thing is, the reason we have all of these ‘thumbs up’ and ‘like’ and ‘up/down arrow’ things is that it’s pretty much a ‘one click and done’ deal. I know when I’m sharing something on Facebook via a “Like” – there’s a little description after it. It says “Lucretia Likes Mary’s post about baby ducklings saved!” or something silly like that. It’s fast and to the point.
            I think if required to post a comment every time someone wanted to just share something? Facebook would have far less interaction.
            There’s something to be said for ease of use.

        2. A very good point. While I’ve wanted a ‘dislike the object of the post, not the post itself’ button on Facebook forever (really? Who “likes” bad news?) I think there’s something important about not allowing abuse.
          Maybe you only have 3 dislikes a week? a month? hm.

      4. That seems a really difficult problem to solve. Imagine you’re 36 downvotes, and notifying them about you question ‘update’. I think it could damage the simplicity of the site.
        What about posting another question? can you do that?

  11. Think Quora’s key issues is that its social system is based on a complex algorithm rather than a set of clear human-level rules.

    On the one hand, it gives some initial advantages to the service
    – It looks immediatly usefull and relevant
    – It creates a “magical feeling” of immediate coordination between people that dont know each other

    On the other hand, since no-one understand how their feed is really build, nor what their questions and answers really become, it creates a set of much deeper issues
    – People don’t feel they own their contributions, since they can’t predict their fate
    – People can’t generate their own rules or practices (think about an early Twitter without RT or @…)
    – Quora’s team itself will find it more and more difficult to understand how its own system is working, taking the risk to make a lot of bad decisions regarding its own algo

    Growing frustration about votes, ownership and other such items are a consequence of this choice of automated vs human curation.

    The value of Open Web systems is not only the ownership of the data itself, its the understanding of the way the data is built and shared.

  12. Let’s not be too quick to disregard Q. While Scobleizer’s concerns are real, I see value in answers being moderated, to improve user experience. Hubpages use a similar model, where your answers can be downvoted without explanation. Of course, HP is not a question-answer forum.

    1. There is absolutely value in moderation. But let me ask you a question: why do they require transparency from users (you aren’t allowed to use a fake name, for instance) but they don’t require transparency from moderators. In US courts you are allowed to face your accuser, but not on Quora, and there’s no real transparent appeal process. That’s wrong and nasty and builds distrust in the system.

  13. The Scoble Hype Cycle is becoming a parody of itself.

    Step 1) Find new service
    Step 2) Become incredibly enthusiatic, acquire the most followers
    Step 3) Declare it as the new blogging/twitter/friendfeed/foursquare/buzz/latitude/whatever else was the last victim of the Scoble Hype Cycle
    Step 4) Hit some minor flaw or snag, frequently one that only affects someone using the service in an extreme way with a ridiculous number of followers
    Step 5) Declare it as dead, fundamentally flawed, move on to the next lucky company

    Can’t wait to see who’s next.

      1. It was reductive and mean, yes. Sorry.

        But have you ever looked back at the patterns in your coverage and use of different services and products?
        I bet it’s more accurate than not.

      2. Shallow assessment but the macro trend is correct for services where you hit a wall.

        What surprises me in the case of Quora is why you haven’t reposted answers to questions here on your blog, like a Q&A tab. Maybe your own mini scoble-q&a to enable folks that follow your work to ask questions and chat, promoting community. That would be an addon/service I’d enjoy as a blogger. Then these mini-communities can be woven together between blogs where a question here get’s a link to an answer on Fred Wilson’s or Dave Winer’s blog

        I reposted answers that I put time into, in case they were banished to invisibility.

        1. That’s a really good suggestion and I’m also wondering why this has not been happening here.

          Reposting here “to enable folks that follow your work to ask questions and chat, promoting community” would seem to be a logical extension to activity commenced on Quora which is clearly not a blogging platform by any conventional definition.

          On the other hand Robert, as distinct from the constrained modus operandi of Quora, your blog is in your own hands and your own control and thus a place for naturally expanding both upon the audience for your Q&A activities on Quora as well as for being open to additional contributions in answer to those questions.

      3. I like Mark Essel’s observation: It seems to be a really good suggestion and I’m also wondering why this “Reposting” has not been happening here.

        Reposting answers to questions here on your own blog “to enable folks that follow your work to ask questions and chat, promoting community” would seem to be a logical extension to activity commenced on Quora which is clearly not a blogging platform by any conventional definition.

        On the other hand Robert, as distinct from the constrained modus operandi of Quora, your blog is in your own hands and your own control and thus a place for naturally expanding both upon the audience for your Q&A activities on Quora as well as for being open to additional contributions in answer to those questions.

  14. I think Quora is much closer to Wikipedia than a blogging platform. Wikipedia has similar content management: contribution can be edited or removed with no further explanation or clarification by an editorial board. But it still has high credibility. Why Quora has not been able to replicate it?

  15. Yeah, this is a big reason I’ve been sceptical about Quora. The mod process is opaque and hugely arbitrary, and as the site grows & admins have to do more work I’m not sure how they’re going to cope. I wrote a post a couple of weeks back digging into past problems with Quora’s moderation system, and came to the conclusion that as it’s currently set up it doesn’t trust its community to organise itself or to promote the best content, and that’s angered a fair few people in the past. Seems a lot like the creators are pushing the site in one direction when a lot of users want it to be something else. Dunno if it’s OK to post links here – let me know if it’d be something useful to add to the conversation.

    1. I looked for info on how Quora works behind the scenes, and how they intended to organize information (some kind of taxonomy is required) but mostly found *unanswered* questions. Without some organization to the questions, information would get wildly duplicated and become inconsistent as well. Based on the unanswered questions I saw, I completely agree that the people behind Quora are pushing toward some kind of vision for it which they don’t intend to explain, and they also don’t seem to care what their actual audience wants.

  16. I cheat the system. I use quora to inspire me. That way I know what questions people want answered and then answer how I want on my blog. I also some questions there ( if I don’t feel like writing a post about it or it’s out of my normal topic of discussion). My issue with quora is I still can’t figure out what real benefit the user profile component is other than a false sense of popularity.

  17. In addition to the service being derivative of at least a dozen things which preceded it, I’m also bothered by the fact that though one can view specific question via a link, you can’t surf through the site without registering for their walled garden.

  18. Robert, I never saw Quora as a “blogging platform”, but another crowdsourcing platform (like Vark.com that you turned me on to). Because I am careful which questions I answer, and who I follow, I find it works very well for technical questions I have. But, as another commentator pointed out, it is an awful like like Digg.

  19. Respect Scoble, many people can learn from this, it’s ok to admit when one is wrong. We all make “mistakes” learn and move on with greater knowledge.

  20. dismissing dave winer’s opinions is never a good idea. he has strong views and can be prickly at times, but his instincts are as good as anyone i know.

    i’ve resisted engaging in quora because we have this community called AVC which is a pretty damn good community on its own right and we have interesting discussions there all the time and i get to control it a bit more than some other place on the web.

      1. I think Fred gets right to the heart of why I never saw Quora as a blogging platform: you’re not in control, someone else is.

      2. The problem with Winer isn’t that he’s right or wrong. He’s often very right. But when you disagree with him he declares you evil and then proceeds to trash you. Not worth the effort to cycle with his manic depressive episodes.

        1. i disagree Mike. i’ve gotten the declaration of evil treatment as well. if you take it as dave being dave, then you just let it roll off your shoulders.

          i need all the insight i can get and dave provides a ton of it

    1. Fred’s blog is an excellent example of presenting information often in an implied if not explicit Q&A fashion in a constructive, informative mode where an avidly involved community has been established and the communities’ own response to those blog items turn into very productive discussions.

      In my opinion, it would take away from, rather than add to, the great value that Fred has created, and contributes, in establishing the A VC Community if he were to become distracted/diluted by having to also manage a Quora quotient in addition to all of the other things in his schedule.

  21. Robert, my experience with Quora has led me conclude it is often a bully site. In my experience, esoteric questions receive no or few answers anyway. On the other hand, trending questions attract droves of self-proclaimed experts who use Quora as their blogging platform. I once answered a question on whom to follow on Twitter with an honest opinion addressing that single question. Others followed with lengthy, bulleted discussions of how dumb my reply was, addressing instead the importance of engagement (duh!) leaving me with the choice of either defending my comment (the first reply to the question) or deleting it. I chose the latter. I don’t care to carve out time to argue with Quora bloggers.

    1. Right: two thirds of the posts are answers or comments; one third seem to be comments on whether the answers or comments should be answers instead of comments, or comments instead of answers, or inappropriate, period. Bullying, as you said.

  22. I warned of these concerns a month and two ago, when:
    -The very design and function flow, doomed it.
    -The founder and design team ignored concerns and silently edited them from existence,
    were rude, and then repeated that sequence again,
    even as the crowd began to echo my concerns months later.

  23. I think there’s no coincidence that Quora came out of former FB-ers. When I heard the founder speak at y comb startup school, I understood why quora feels like french toast that tastes like cardboard.

  24. I think as a Q&A service LinkedIn Q&A is much much better – you don’t have anonymous answers there, and you know the personal credentials of the user answering your question AND there is no silly thumbs down or up etc.

    Quora is redundant.

  25. What impresses me the most about you is transparency. The typical A-blogger would fight tooth and nail to prove that has wrong views of a month ago are not wrong.

    BTW, I think I’m at the same cycle you are with Quora. I don’t know if the service will succeed or what it needs to do to improve, but I lost interest. I was finding good stuff multiple times a day, now it takes too much energy and time.

  26. Its not so much the collapsing that bothers me, its the “merging” of questions (with several answers) with unrelated ones for political/business reasons. For example, I contributed to “Is Google search result quality going up or down?” as did several others but then this was last week incorporated into “What nonconfidential evidence can be presented to prove that Google search quality is going up?” by a “former member of Google’s search quality team”. Its a completely different (and leading) question. Everyone that answered the original question has lost their input. This isn’t a substitute for the persistent, unilateral opinion and discussion that is blogging.

    Anyway, honest post as always. Hope Dave starts to follow you again! ;)

  27. I don’t understand what openweb got to do with quora’s ‘failings’? How would the moderation problem go away?

  28. I was going to write a small blog on Quora but didnt get around to it. It was going to be about how much Quora makes me think about Wiki Answers which was a mix of Y! Answers and Wikipedia. I tried it but ended up hating it because other users could edit my questions and/or answers. Something I despised and created an ideal environment for spammers and trolls.

    Quora is still new so things can be fixed and changed. But right now it gives me that Wiki Answers feeling so I shy away from it.

    The best part so far is seeing big tech people, founders, etc post their insight where it’s something we the public rarely get to see.

  29. Kudos for admitting you’ve changed your mind. And on the subject of moderation: humorless, over-zealous moderation killed one of my favorite communities, Chowhound. Good execution on moderation is more art than science, and harder to manage than it looks.

  30. The fundamental flaw in Quora is that it doesn’t get what a “community” is: Communities are built around people, not around questions.

    Quora has chosen to be built around questions so, in a way, it’s in the same territory as content farms like Demand Media: its business model is ultimately to have its questions rise in search engines and to cash in the ensuing advertising.

    It’s a legitimate business model, but it doesn’t make a community. In a community built around people (like MetaFilter), people ask questions and their questions are not edited by other members; moderators are real people and are members of the community who you can talk to and who are available to explain openly their moderation.

    The funniest part is that MetaFilter makes most of its money from advertising to people brought to the site by search engines. So the business model may be the same as Quora, but the social model is built around people.

    The verdict seems to be: as soon as people begin to realize that the “community” part of Quora is an illusion (or is defective) they hate it. You can’t build a social model around questions, only around people.

    1. Wikipedia is built around topics, not people, but it still excells and is among few most valuable services on Internet. Not everything on the net is social, and not everything should be built around people.

      1. Good point, vkelman.
        But Wikipedia is not built around the identity of people who respond either. My feeling is that Quora is trying to have it both ways: playing up the people who participate to create an attractive social environment and playing down the human part in questions and answers.
        I agree that not everyhting needs to be social, but I doubt it is possible to be half social.

  31. I could never get into it, although I did see the value. The UI needs a lot of clean up. It’s thoroughly confusing, rules aside. And, as you say, it’s already in a crowded space – LInkedIn Answers, Yahoo Answers, etc. formspring even has 5x the traffic. So, they’re all important to watch but let’s see what emerges as the next big thing.

    1. The UI needs more than a clean up if you ask me. I am glad that industry professionals like your self feel the same as I do on Quora. I was beginning to think I was alone in my dislike with the site a few weeks ago with all the positive hype the site was receiving.

  32. I am sick of other people editing my thoughts or questions. Quora is a closed system for admin elites looking for a power trip. I logged in this morning and had the following message waiting for me.

    My New Notification

    A Quora admin blocked you from editing on Quora.

    Comment: Multiple collapsed answers.

    The collapsed answer was a picture of a dog? WTF I was not allowed to post on my profile page. I deactivated my account. I’m done with Quora.

  33. Since Quora edits (or authorizes edits) to what people write, doesn’t that change them into the legal definition of “publisher” who is responsible for all content they publish? I’ve forgotten the legal outcome of the Prodigy situation about editing content, so I’m hazy on all this.

  34. I could care less if Quora goes mainstream, I just want it as a site embeddable tool. I think they have a great product for large blog and website communities that want to crowd-source FAQ’s or knowledge bases. Even if Quora marketed the software as an Enterprise internal training resource product, I think they would reach their investment goals. Most of the upside I see for the future of Quora is use of their product outside of Quora.com. Hoping for a mainstream audience and running ads to them or selling the data will not work.

  35. I could care less if Quora goes mainstream, I just want it as a site embeddable tool. I think they have a great product for large blog and website communities that want to crowd-source FAQ’s or knowledge bases. Even if Quora marketed the software as an Enterprise internal training resource product, I think they would reach their investment goals. Most of the upside I see for the future of Quora is use of their product outside of Quora.com. Hoping for a mainstream audience and running ads to them or selling the data will not work.

  36. I could care less if Quora goes mainstream, I just want it as a site embeddable tool. I think they have a great product for large blog and website communities that want to crowd-source FAQ’s or knowledge bases. Even if Quora marketed the software as an Enterprise internal training resource product, I think they would reach their investment goals. Most of the upside I see for the future of Quora is use of their product outside of Quora.com. Hoping for a mainstream audience and running ads to them or selling the data will not work.

  37. I’ve pretty much given up on Quora. I’ve found it too noisy, too much opinion and difficult to find the facts, interface is horrid – I could go on. However the thing that really finished me off was someone editing one of my questions. They may have preferred their version but it wasn’t what I asked!

    I’ll no doubt drop in from time to time and see what develops but it certainly isn’t high up my priority list at the moment.

  38. The reasons you mentioned is why I like the stack exchange sites so much – their moderation system has evolved through user feedback and deep introspection, leading to highly refined system that keeps the quality high and (most of) the users pleased.

    Quara has a bad interface (usability wise, not design) and lower quality of questions / answers compared to the stack exchange sites, due to the moderation problems and lack of domain focus. I never understood how it got it’s initial traction and gathered all those authority figures, but I guess after the initial glow its problems are becoming apparent.

  39. Robert, I don’t know that you were right or wrong so much as it is that you are now seeing the downside to a very specifically designed community knowledge system after gaining insights from experience. Every design decision has its trade offs, and many of the things you now cite as bad and preventing its future growth, are in fact things that will make it more interesting to others and attract them if given the chance.

    Personally, I don’t participate there very much, but I have been thinking about doing so. The system (or network) is only as valuable as the perceived value of those who participate within it, which is why having Steve Case in there is an oft cited element of what makes it interesting to many.

    No, its not a blogging service, nor is Twitter a microblogging service (still cant get at some of my original tweets which I thought I was PUBLISHING via Twitter), it’s its own thing. Ultimately people will use the things that most appeal to their needs based on prior experiences. ie, if you asked a question poorly and someone edited it to make it better, you may like that feature, but if someone destroyed your intentions, you will tend to dislike it.

    I guess I am just saying that once again, its relative, which is why I am now staying away from the shiny objects and letting more people play with emerging technology for a while before jumping in with two feet. I have made too many investments with my time and knowledge over the years that have been destroyed by the system’s developers to get excited at every next great thing (though I still register and save my username for later ;)

  40. Thank you for being forthcoming about your change of opinion Robert. I had become seriously creeped out by the Quora moderators editing both my questions and answers and hadn’t been back on in over a week. (Anything that I had posted with even an iota of “personality” was suddenly being scrubbed clean and sanitized for the masses.) I’ll probably go back from time to time check for answers to generic questions but the novelty and idea that this is something revolutionary has worn off.

  41. This comes a little too late for me. I deactivated my account one week ago and don’t intend to go back there unless there are real/true changes such those Scobleizer suggests.

    1. I deleted my account when my answers were getting edited. I get the rational and it may work on “paper” but when you answers are edited based on tone and grammar it’s alienating. It’s not a welcoming place at all. I know they claim not to be a social net but they have all the trappings of a social net and so need to abide by the assumed rules of engagement associated with social nets.

  42. Quora as a blogging platform? I agree Robert. But then again I never saw it as one to begin with.

    I get a lot of value from Quora. Then again, it might be because I don’t focus on the Silicon Valley or social media side of it. Take a look at the quality of answers I received from asking this question:

    http://www.quora.com/Is-Hu-Jintao-a-lame-duck

    Both of the people who took the time to answer are widely respected online voices in cross border China. They took the time to answer a question that I felt the mainstream media wasn’t covering. Neither of them have regularly updated blogs but they sure have a lot of valuable insight to share.

    I think it’s worth looking at these platforms outside the lens of the tech bubble hype from time to time. It would help folks like you and the usual “famous in tech and social media but not that known outside of it” influencers shape your opinion about the potential
    of something with wider reach factored in. I’m pretty sure Quora wasn’t created as a Silicon Valley Q&A site so I look forward to seeing it evolve.

  43. I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time reading the content on Quora and a lot of the comments people have about it, and I think the first people complaining about the ‘Quora thought police’ were in the first few days of it getting written about.

    Personally, I’ve got some mixed views. My first ever answer to a question was an attempt to be helpful and informative and got voted down as ‘not an answer’ by someone who mainly asks and answers questions about fashion etc – the topic I answered was about inspiring virtual contributions to a website or blog, which is something I’ve been doing for about 10 years on a number of different projects. There was no real reason why my answer didn’t qualify etc, and in my opinion it was more helpful than the only other answer, which was one line from an A-List internet celebrity/blogger, which obviously wasn’t voted down or edited in any way.

    At the same time, I’ve posted a couple of questions and had some great responses from people who really knew about the subjects in question and had great advice/tips etc.

    The only platform I’d ever recommend as a blogging platform is one at which I have access to the hosting and servers – simply because that way I know I have control of what goes on there, who has access, and I can regularly backup and export all the content and move it elsewhere as needed.

    Quora is simply a Q and A site which has a reasonably interesting techy crowd on there, in the same way as Hacker News is a social voting site with a reasonably interesting techy crowd on there. None are inherently better or worse than rivals, but the culture and crowd on there are the things that make the difference. I can take it if my questions and answers aren’t up to a certain level of quality, if it means I can expect the same level of quality in the answers I get, and the moderation itself, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens if and when it becomes more mainstream.

    For me, that’s the difference between Digg (which I didn’t really ever get into), and Reddit or Hacker News which I really like – both of the latter sites had a far more communal feel about them, and a feeling that people were really there to communicate about specific subjects with a bit of knowledge and passion.

    But the technology for that has always been around. Over 10 years after I started officially working in digital, I’m still using and visiting forums on specific subjects to learn about various things, and finding them as good as ever for that…

  44. Quora is simply a Q and A site which has a reasonably interesting techy crowd on there …

    I totally agree , it is a great place to ask questions and share knowledge . End of

  45. After a bit, I too found Quora snippy and intrusive. Someone corrected a minor spelling error, someone else said I said veering off-topic, and yet another added links to a comments. WTF? This is way too locked-down as well as deeply unfriendly and humorless. I had no idea Quora was the equivalent of being in 7th grade and being constantly monitored by grumps.

    Also, as you said, you can’t put any personality into comments and I’ve yet to see any humor. Apparently it might offend the Quora Police.

    It was a good idea, but they’ve blown it with their schoolmarm approach. I won’t be back.

  46. Quora discussions were interesting when it was just high-value, interesting people discussing things (the cool kids?). But the one question I joined in on resulted in comments ranging from banal to offensive (a serious answer about the relevance of attitudes in education to the proportion of women in technology that generates suggestions to look at blog posts from the National Organisation of Men Against Amazonian Matriarchs – without anyone pointing and laughing; really?). It looked like any other high-volume, low signal commentfest. Scaling out from the cool kids to the mainstream is a hard problem for a content site; Quora isn’t making that jump for me – for the opposite reason you’re seeing. No moderation – from users or the site – turned a diatribe back into a discussion.

  47. Based on your post, I checked out StackExchange. For my information security and compliance interests, I found it to be superior to Quora in both quality of questions, quality of answers, and maturity of the site’s functionality.

  48. What benefits are the people who answers the questions get. There has to be a social capital and reputation building feature for all these Answer services. All these companies are trying to make money by framing ads against the wisdom of the members. We have to change that. Everybody should protect and copyright their content and then post it on other sites. Everything you post is linked to the topic and you and it builds social reputation and social capital for the members. Check out http://www.socialpulse.com where we are working on such a a project. Hope you will check out and post your comments.

  49. I love the service, but would agree that the quirky moderation mechanics give self-interested parties the ability to block out an answer they don’t like.

    Case in point, when someone wrote a question about why Garry Tan left Posterous, a service that I have written over a 1000 posts on, most of the answers were pretty sugar-coated, so I wrote a beefier answer (IMHO) about the questions raised when a founder jumps ship so early in the game.

    The next I know Tan himself and someone who I can only guess is a friend write an unfavorable comment (there was zero heated in my answer), and the next time I log in, the answer’s collapsed.

    You can read the answer if you like:

    http://www.quora.com/Why-did-Garry-Tan-leave-Posterous

    There is clearly nothing inflammatory or off-topic, so it seems more a case of a party not wanting an uncomfortable ‘Why?’ to be raised.

    That said, I think it’s a bit early to be falling into the typical Silicon Valley all-or-none of a service is Totally Great until it Totally Sucks. Quora is a work in progress, and you raise a very valid issue for which I have direct experience that it’s a real issue. Great products are like wine. They get better with age…or they don’t.

    Cheers,

    Mark

    1. Mark, I don’t think it has anything to do with an “uncomfortable why” – rather it appeared that you were a bit off-topic when looked at the question that was asked. From what I can tell, the #1 rule on Quora is answer the question as well as you can. You’re a bit off-topic and then sort of throw out an answer at the end (perhaps as part of an edit).

      As a rule of thumb (from a reference librarian), I suggest the following: answer the question as succinctly as possible, then provide as much background info and opinion as you like.

      In that order.

      1. Well to me, your assertion raises a fundamental question. Should we have a lowest-common denominator approach that is defined by protocol police (please, re-categorize), naysayers (there are many in commenting forums, right?) or the self-interested (who might simply vote down a topic of interest because they are more motivated than the typical answerer)?

        Should answers be thresholded on the premise of universality of understanding (e.g., a 14 year old or a newbie could understand the answer), or is more targeted “insider talk” type of responses allowed?

        The bottom line is in the case of my particular answer, three people voted it up, so it was obviously a resonant point for them — yet some chunk of others were able to bury it.

        I don’t think that’s ideal, especially when you consider that, by contrast, both a commenting system like Disqus and Facebook’s model is focused on the ‘Like’ as the metric of value, probably for the simple reason that such a workflow rewards unique or valued answers without pushing too much power to the aforementioned “down vote” constituencies.

        1. I agree that the ease with which an answer can be buried should be looked at
          very closely. Especially with new answers, one downvote can be the kiss of
          death before the people that might upvote it can even see it. That said, I
          find down-voting to be useful, actually, and I have nothing against it, but
          I think that the lowest an answer should be able to drop is back to an even
          0, and that voting should not tie in to whether or not answers get
          collapsed.

          Quora makes new changes every day, though, and I get the impression that
          they are actively trying to work these issues out. I’ve seen instances where
          suggestions for change have been made and the change has followed within
          hours, so they’re definitely listening and adapting, and that’s part of why
          I continue to have faith in the service.

  50. Robert your assessment of one of the flaws of Quora is of course accurate, but I don’t believe that a reviewer with “special powers” is a fix; it creates to much bias and potential for abuse of power.

    The problem exists because there is no currency in the platform. The answer lies in regulating the number of votes one has based on merit. Everyone could start with specific number of votes (per day perhaps) lets say 10 and then earn additional votes for both asking and answering questions, as well as, earn more when others vote for their answers, or answer their questions. A vote can be used either to vote a answer either up or down. Once people find that they are limited to the amount of answers they can vote up or down they will be more careful in how they vote and the results will become meaningful. It may even be conceivable that a use could seed their votes to another user who would act as their proxy.

    Of course there are other issues that Quora will need to resolve, but that would be outside the scope of this post.

  51. I think I still love Quora, though. I wish it were an open-source CMS type thing like WordPress so I could deploy a Quora on a custom domain that would attract a different audience. Sort of like how I can deploy Disqus on my own domain. Imagine a Quora deployed on a Justin Bieber fan site. On interface and functionality level alone, Quora is super well designed and easy to use. What Quora needs is a product strategy that lets this platform permeate the Web as subtly as Digg did with its ubiquitous buttons. Letting webmasters put Quora deployments on their own sites would help each deployment (such as the original one on their own site) retain their own unique characters, develop unique styles etc. Quora is better designed than Facebook Questions but seems intent on creating its own community, unique from that of Facebook. Allow other webmasters to do this, and they’d jump at the opportunity. This would give Quora a chance of owning the “dominant design” of a “question-and-answer section” on any site anywhere on the Web, with opportunities of licensing for commercial usage for instance. I don’t think Quora should try to make the pennies associated with advertising, but rather the large dollars that would come should a brand like Nike decide to deploy a Quora of their own.

  52. Quora is not a blogging service. It is a specialized type of forum, a strict form Q&A service.

    As centernet noted, there is a chance to lose attention of some of your blog followers when posting only on Quora. As Jeremy said, Quora needs integration with blogs, so that it would be easy to cross-post and to integrate blog comments and Quora answers. (I noted Robert said he is using Quora for different topics, ones he wouldn’t put on his blog, but integration would allow him to use Quora for *all* kinds of topics.

    Sure, Quora has some really neat features (like ability to follow a topic, to suggest topic to someone, etc.) and very interesting users, but it has serious issues too. That also true for Google Buzz, where you can find a couple of interesting discussions about Quora and this post by Robert Scoble:
    http://goo.gl/oAGA0
    http://goo.gl/Y54KC

  53. Robert,

    I do agree with what you are saying and primary problem that for startups like that exists is that people don’t have control over their content. Myspace, AOL and soon Facebook had those issues and look what happened to them. Why do you think people have own blogs? They are in control of their own sh** not you, not Danny, Not Michael not Buzzy or whatever the name is…it’s you who is in control of your own content and that is what people like.

    Few friends of mine were not aware of their Facebook privacy setting, once I pointed out that their phone number and email is displayed to public they reacted in panic, took them between 20-45 minutes to do the whole privacy setting the way they wanted it.

    I think if Quora goes the route like FB does as far as privacy, they will soon plundge. After all…why is everyone freaking hyped about quora…seriously? I did use it recently to see if I can change my mind, but then again Yahoo answers to me is 100% better and as far as development stock exchange is even better. Quora to me is yet another answering website like zinf etc…

    Anyway, I reached my comment limit for today, be glad I stopped by :) …ttyl …

  54. Wow it has been a long time since I read all the comments on a post of yours Robert… But you still attract a diverse set of opinions!

    The weird thing is that awhile back, I went back to Quora *because* of you suggesting it was worth another look.

    I agree – it couldn’t be worse as a blogging innovation. But maybe I’m crazy because I didn’t see it as one. I’m trying really hard to wrap my head around the difference between how I perceive it and how you seem to have. I’m just not quite bridging the gap.

    Would it be a fair description to say that previously you thought of it as more of a “Questions that inspire people to write sort of mini-blog posts”? That’s sort of what I’m seeing through the rest of the comments and I’m wondering if I’m way off base – because it’s just such a foreign concept to me!

    As I understood it, the intent of Quora was to get the best answers to a question, but that those answers were not necessarily going to be authored by just one person. My impression of the concept of ‘editing’ was exactly that – edits. Kind of the same way that if 4 reporters worked on the same story, there was eventually a pair of eyes belonging to an editor that would catch typos, inconsistencies, and well, things that a newspaper or copy editor is supposed to catch. Only instead of one pair of eyes, you had dozens. Which is why the editing was “suggested” but refusable.

    I am a little baffled by the revelation that someone collapsed your answer ‘anonymously’ though. I didn’t think that was possible.
    In the interest of disclosure – when I was asked a couple of weeks back if I would help with ‘reviewing’ (not unlike the interview you had with Kaiser Kuo in Davos – yes, I listened to it!) I agreed because I honestly thought it was a good way of participating in the community that has been growing there. But it would never have occurred to me to abuse that responsibility. In fact, it was incredibly daunting to be faced with the sheer size of the queues that arose during and after the ‘post Christmas rush’ on the site. I have been absolutely terrified that I might insult someone by doing the job. In fact, I have also put lengthy explanations on any decision that might adversely impact someone’s input. I couldn’t imagine doing otherwise.
    I think this is the part where normally someone quotes Spiderman… “With great power comes great responsibility.” Only I’m going to mangle that… and make great into “greater” – because seriously? Reviewing peoples’ questions and answers and random commentary that is tossed off as an answer isn’t exactly some power-filled fantasy trip. It’s not “great power” it’s just “minor power to administer, more responsibility to make sure you do it right.” If it is a power trip for someone? That person needs to get a life.

    I’m sad that you’re disillusioned with Quora, Robert. I’m not yet. I think they’re going to become something awesome. Not “just a Q&A site” as you describe. Then again, I’m reminded of your anger at Facebook when they banned you briefly over that whole Plaxo script issue. I kind of hope this incident ends in the same light. That being that I know you still use Facebook – and I hope you find your groove with Quora again – even if you don’t end up being their biggest cheerleader.

    Plus, I hope they hear you about the “anonymous moderation” – that should NEVER be the case. Posting anonymously has it’s arguments, but editing anonymously never does. :

    1. I have evidence that a group of reviewers have targeted me for marking my answers as “not helpful.” That isn’t evidence that it will become anything less than a private club.

      1. *sigh*
        I was afraid that you were being unfairly targeted.
        I concur – as long as there is a “group of people” with an agenda and the ability to further it as in this case? It won’t become anything other than a club.
        Hopefully, then, this is just a growing pain.
        You are a high-profile kind of guy, my friend. That means you end up being either the standard bearer (in which case you get accused of being too enthusiastic by some) or the target (because if someone can ‘take Scoble down’ they think it sends a message.) Sometimes it must seem as if you just can’t win.
        Personally, I think your answers added value. I upvoted most of the ones I saw because I read them and believed they deserved it.
        I’m still optimistic, though. Every service has it’s growing pains – and hopefully your incident will cause a few changes in the processes.

    2. I have evidence that a group of reviewers have targeted me for marking my answers as “not helpful.” That isn’t evidence that it will become anything less than a private club.

    3. I have evidence that a group of reviewers have targeted me for marking my answers as “not helpful.” That isn’t evidence that it will become anything less than a private club.

  55. Haha nice Robert. I got on Quora because you just kept raving on and on about it.

    Gotta confess, I wasn’t too impressed. If I want to find out information, I usually just ask my friends. If I want specific information from a power user like you, I just do it on Twitter. Quora was just a confusing platform that I didn’t find to be particularly useful.

    Glad you’re disillusioned with it. If you’re going to spend huge blocks of time writing, you want to have it on a platform that’s going to last, and one you’re in control of. Blogs meet those specs. Quora doesn’t.

  56. I have an account there (Word Press recommended it). Like you, I don’t see how it’s going to succeed. The closed nature of the platform is just too limiting.

    Quite frankly I think that Slashdot is better, and Slashdot is a disaster in many ways.

    Wayne

  57. That is an extremely unfair post. No efforts were spared to explain to you why your hundreds of answers were superficial, self-promotional and shot from the hip. After repeating countless times what you should improve, some of us (not me, I just didn’t log in for three days that you were in Davos) were tired to ask you to change. They were fed up to YELL at you to stop leveraging the audience on your blog to game Quora and turn it into a feast of self-promoting marketers. Dozens just downvoted you because that answer is bad. If you want to know why, just ask your usual critics, Yishan Wong, for instance.
    You are supposed to be this great listener. You are better than that.

    I understand that you are now sour from the many, detailed, specific, repeated critic that you got—but you have no right to pretend that those were unspecific.

  58. I never thought Quora was a good blogging platform, but I did think it was a good place to eavesdrop on the answers to some uncommon questions. The people on it seemed to be smart and thoughtful. Of course the bigger it got, the less that was true.

    One thing I didn’t like was the narrow interests of the questioners/answerers. StackOverflow is very transparent about being for geeks. Quora isn’t, so people like me ask questions about health care or education expecting thoughtful answers and get nothing.

    Ultimately, I tire of things that are not helpful/useful to my everyday life. Think TripIt. TripIt is useful. Not pretentious, just useful. So’s Google, up to a point. In fact, I can type most questions into Google and get some valuable information. No need to be all social and gamified about it; just give me the facts:-)

    I can’t even remember how many tools I’ve exited because my experience on them was unmemorable.

    As for Dave, I have always been thrilled that you introduced me to him. As far as I’m concerned, he is brilliant.

  59. I signed on quite early to Quora but never had the time to participate seriously. I don’t quite understand why the folks that ask the questions don’t get to own/moderate them as they see fit. This way there would be ownership of content and the “owner” would also be able to include the Q&A in their own blog as well through some sort of plugin…

    1. Interesting that no one at Quora ever talks with me about what it is or isn’t so who knows what it is or isn’t? This is part of the fun figuring out what new systems are good for. I put a thesis forward and it was disproven. Onward to the next thing!

  60. I agree that some transparency is a hard requirement for these reviewers with the power to “hide” entire responses. I think it might even be enough for them to be allowed pseudonyms, but only one each – I can think of good reasons to conceal an individual’s identity, but the body of work of each one needs to be made clear, so that … well, for a whole host of reasons, many of which should be almost obvious.

    I also think that once several readers have up-voted a submission, it should no longer be a simple matter for one of these “judges” simply clicking to hide it.

    *That* problem of Quora could be fixed. But there remain quite a few others.

  61. that lack of initial user guidance on Quora has led to a certain type of chaos which the new features are implicitly trying to address. I regard the ‘comments’ section on Quora a place where bloggish behaviour is acceptable, the Posts less so and the Topic posting much more of Switzerland place. The challenge is everyone is going to approach it differently during the bell growth period and ultimately anyone who is popular and informed like Robert will also attract cantankerous reactions. I counted 35 days between Robert’s + and – post about Quora, roughly in line with a lunar phase, that’s longer than most Honeymoons ;)

  62. Keith Olbermann didn’t have commenters on everything he posts. This is a two-way media, and is completely different than the one-way media that Keith was big in.

  63. Hate to say I told you so … well, I’m not actually. I think I was the first blogger to jump ship?

    Let’s not have a Quor-gasm http://bit.ly/dIvOZ7

    The thing that was remarkable about writing this post for me was that the entire blog community agreed with me. Couldn’t believe it. Confimed my suspicions that Quora had big problems. It’s become a shlock-fest.

    Any way, I still think you’re one of the smartest guys out there. Chin up Robert!

  64. I’m torn about how to feel about this whole dust-up. On one hand, I appreciate that you (Robert) get out there as an early adopter and try things out. On the other hand, I do think you have a pattern of falling deep for something, telling everyone how great it is, and then falling out of love with it.

    The comments provided here have been illuminating. I signed up for Quora some time ago. In fact, I had completely forgotten that I registered for the site. My issue was that it was yet another network to sift through. I was just coming off a social media sabbatical, and wasn’t really compelled to jump into Quora. What I found interesting was folks like Scoble jumping in with both feet into the deep end of the pool. That’s something that troubles me a bit. No longer does it seem like anyone wades into something, It’s feast or famine. Given then I’ve been prone to that all-in/all-out way of handling things, I’m sensitive to the compulsion.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I am looking for some objectivity, and it becomes increasingly difficult to know when respect or learn from someone’s opinions when they, themselves, didn’t really take much time to learn about the pros and cons of the “thing” before hyping or trashing it.

    1. Well, humans fall in love and out of love all the time. More than 50% of marriages end in divorce, and that takes a far bigger commitment than falling in love with Quora (and costs a LOT more to get out of!)

      1. Ha! Tell me about it…I’ve been there.

        I don’t know if it’s all humans or whether it should be limited to Americans. I’m not versed on the divorce rate in other countries.

        Nevertheless, going on your divorce theme, I think that the high rate of divorce is because a lot of people are impulsive and don’t weigh the pros and cons about a potential mate before going on and on to friends and family about how wonder this person is. Yet, some weeks or months later that relationship is toast. It was doomed from the start because one or both people didn’t spend enough time digging below the surface.

        Again, as an early adopter, I appreciate your unbridled enthusiasm about new technology. I think your “Hey I love it! Oops, I hate it!” assessment is appreciated because we’ve all experienced that feeling with some piece of software and technology.

        There’s nothing wrong with realizing that you are not quite as enamored with Quora as you once thought were. However, I guess what I’d like to see is a little more restraint and objectivity before you start preaching the gospel of “It’s next best thing!” and “Why ___ is better than everything else (particularly, Google Buzz).”

        Finally, I find it interesting that you mentioned commitment, because based on your tremendous upsell of a service or product, a lot of people will make a commitment of time and energy to explore these things. It’s a little deflating to see your love unravel so quickly after offering a glowing endoresement. Meanwhile, those of us that went to check out the service you hyped are left there thinking, “What the hell? I came here because of Robert, and now he’s jumped ship.”

    2. Well, humans fall in love and out of love all the time. More than 50% of marriages end in divorce, and that takes a far bigger commitment than falling in love with Quora (and costs a LOT more to get out of!)

  65. Wait, so some kid on the Internet that you don’t know disagreed with you and used the auto-text to say it was ‘not helpful’ and you left?
    That seems a bit extreme of a reaction. Why not just ignore the comment as you would if someone walked up to you on the street and said “I don’t like your tie”? You wouldn’t stop walking on that street because of one incident with a teenager you don’t know whose opinion should mean pretty much nothing to you. Why would you leave Quora over something so minor?

  66. TL;DR: Quora was awesome when I, the great Robert Scoble, got to brag about meeting famous celebrities because I am the great Robert Scoble. Now that people no longer think me bragging about how many famous people I have met is all that interesting, it has become a stupid platform that will die soon.

  67. Robert for someone who’s comment above shows such a profound misunderstanding of Quora, it’s up voting and down voting, and how moderation on Quora works. It’s amazing that you consider yourself to be a well informed critic of the product. When you so obivously spent no time reading any of the FAQs or other questions and posts on Quora that are there to help new users understand how the system works.

    I’m sorry you don’t find Quora to be bloggers nirvana but it was never meant to be in the first place. Trying to use Quora as a means of self promotion is a profound misuse of the, product. This has been a stumbling block for many of those new users that followed you to Quora. Thinking that the number of followers one has will automatically make you an important Quora user is an idea from Twitter that has no traction on Quora. Quora is a meritocracy it’s not concerned with follower counts or how funny a post is.

    Answers are up voted because they provide value in a number of different but similar ways. Facts with citations are important, new ideas are important, useful insights are important, inspirations are important. Qoura’s culture is still underdevelopment but it remains tied to some core beliefs about what Qoura wants to become. Quora is “a continually improving collection of questions and answers” not a blogging tool, not a networking tool, not a place for social networking experts to find clients, last but not least not a place for humor or self promotion. All of those items I just listed are secondary benefits that serendipitously may occur as a result of using Quora in the manner that it’s culture requires.

  68. Robert for someone who’s comment above shows such a profound misunderstanding of Quora, it’s up voting and down voting, and how moderation on Quora works. It’s amazing that you consider yourself to be a well informed critic of the product. When you so obivously spent no time reading any of the FAQs or other questions and posts on Quora that are there to help new users understand how the system works.

    I’m sorry you don’t find Quora to be bloggers nirvana but it was never meant to be in the first place. Trying to use Quora as a means of self promotion is a profound misuse of the, product. This has been a stumbling block for many of those new users that followed you to Quora. Thinking that the number of followers one has will automatically make you an important Quora user is an idea from Twitter that has no traction on Quora. Quora is a meritocracy it’s not concerned with follower counts or how funny a post is.

    Answers are up voted because they provide value in a number of different but similar ways. Facts with citations are important, new ideas are important, useful insights are important, inspirations are important. Qoura’s culture is still underdevelopment but it remains tied to some core beliefs about what Qoura wants to become. Quora is “a continually improving collection of questions and answers” not a blogging tool, not a networking tool, not a place for social networking experts to find clients, last but not least not a place for humor or self promotion. All of those items I just listed are secondary benefits that serendipitously may occur as a result of using Quora in the manner that it’s culture requires.

    1. “When you so obivously spent no time reading any of the FAQs or other questions and posts on Quora that are there to help new users understand how the system works.”

      I’ve spent hours looking for those. Where TF are the answers? Almost all I found were unanswered questions.

      Quora and the people who want to promote it have collectively done a terrible job of making a proper understanding of it accessible to outsiders. Perhaps you take far too much of your own experience for granted.

  69. Quora has become more like Wikipedia than anything else, but with a Q&A format. The moderator and vote up/down approach is a great way to block trolls and marketers, and to establish consensus (if that is the objective), but it inherently evolves into an rigid orthodoxy. Once you’ve have your questions “quorrected” by one of the high priests or one of your answers voted down, you start to feel like maybe this isn’t the place to add your input.

    I am in no way a Quora hater, though. In fact I love it. It could grow to have answers to every question imaginable, cultivated and curated by people who care enough to find the “right” answer. It just may not be the place where the “crowd” participates as authors, leaving that task to those who are more academic, and more interested in the disciplined curating of responses than how contributors feel. Wikipedia has a lot of problems, but is still a valuable information source.

    If this is the future of Quora, a question for the investors is whether or not to just turn it into a non-profit foundation a la Wikipedia, and see if there’s a secondary business opportunity in it’s wake.

  70. Robert, you did good job underscoring some of the shortcomings many of us find via Quora. I’m flabbergasted at their valuation. I wonder if “bubble” comes to mind when you think about the latter? It certainly does with me. Cheers….

  71. Robert – I think Francine (Hardaway) is right on here. When Quora debuted,. I thought it was the greatest thing since chicken soup. I hesitated … and became a ‘fly on the wall’ there …. which was fun and interesting (AND educational). Why hesitate? What I call Friendfeed syndrome. You, I and many, many others considered Friendfeed the best thing to happen to ‘social networking’ in a long time. The idea (and controls) were brilliant. The community smart … very smart. I found myself logging in before I checked my e-mail. Many of us became unpaid evangelists. Facebook buys it. The service goes on but changes .. never to be the same again. I understand your enthusiasm and evangelism but getting carried away positively has it’s downsides. Then again, I’d like to meet the person that really knows where any of this is going and only know a tiny amount of VCs that can actually put a realistic number on any of these products over the long haul. The rules have changed. We all need to take a deep breath and realize it

  72. Robert – I think Francine (Hardaway) is right on here. When Quora debuted,. I thought it was the greatest thing since chicken soup. I hesitated … and became a ‘fly on the wall’ there …. which was fun and interesting (AND educational). Why hesitate? What I call Friendfeed syndrome. You, I and many, many others considered Friendfeed the best thing to happen to ‘social networking’ in a long time. The idea (and controls) were brilliant. The community smart … very smart. I found myself logging in before I checked my e-mail. Many of us became unpaid evangelists. Facebook buys it. The service goes on but changes .. never to be the same again. I understand your enthusiasm and evangelism but getting carried away positively has it’s downsides. Then again, I’d like to meet the person that really knows where any of this is going and only know a tiny amount of VCs that can actually put a realistic number on any of these products over the long haul. The rules have changed. We all need to take a deep breath and realize it

  73. Robert, this was one of your best articles for a long time.
    It’s good that you still can say you were wrong, and I’m glad you pulled away a little from that Q&A hype platform.
    I came to this article by accident. But it’s so good, you will be back on my social network accounts today.
    Thanks for that insight, and the link to Stack Exchange.

  74. Robert you said “Totally agreed. I’m still seeing FAQs float by that I never have seen and that’s after spending hundreds of hours on the system.”

    Again another sign your not using the site as intended if you type “Quora” in the search box the second item listed is “Quora Frequently Asked Questions” the third line is “Quora Product” these are both topics that can be followed so you never miss another new question or post on Quora or a new FAQ. If you want to see what’s all ready there you simply click on the entry in the search box and it takes you to the topic page were you will see all existing FAQ related questions and answers.

  75. Robert you said “Totally agreed. I’m still seeing FAQs float by that I never have seen and that’s after spending hundreds of hours on the system.”

    Again another sign your not using the site as intended if you type “Quora” in the search box the second item listed is “Quora Frequently Asked Questions” the third line is “Quora Product” these are both topics that can be followed so you never miss another new question or post on Quora or a new FAQ. If you want to see what’s all ready there you simply click on the entry in the search box and it takes you to the topic page were you will see all existing FAQ related questions and answers.

  76. We all realize the potential of the service but also very clearly identify issues that could kill it soon. My take on how to approach most of the issues Quora is facing now and will in the future is to introduce Trust Networks and Gamification. Read my blogpost on the issue for more details: http://bit.ly/hYYCzl

    1. I have been saying all along Quora is just a Silicon Valley fad. Why do the tech “main stream” media always for fall for the marketing spin and hype of Silicon Valley? Frankly this elitist thinking just propels bad products and enrich the rich even richer. For a true experience that is unique there is a better site called Koowie. Koowie connects people based on each of our thoughts but is in a question format so it can act as a Q&A site but much more. http://koowie.com.