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.

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

190 thoughts on “Why I was wrong about Quora as a blogging service …

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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….

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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?

  13. 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!)

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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 ;)

  17. 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.

    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!

  18. 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…

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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 …

  25. 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

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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

  34. 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…

  35. 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.

    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.

  36. 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.

Comments are closed.