The mistakes I made in Quora

So, I woke up early in Davos, Switzerland, excited to go skiing, and look at Techmeme and see that the Quora Review has published a post which could be titled “Scoble stay off the Quora lawn.”

Ouch.

Then I look at email. In my email I’ve been sent evidence by some of the 53 reviewers that a small group of reviewers has been marking posts of mine as “not helpful” in retribution to some things they don’t like about my behavior there.

Ouch 2.

Then I see Mike Arrington has posted that Quora is not about my hopes and dreams.

Ouch 3.

I should have just gone skiing without looking at my computer, but now I thought I’d recount some of the mistakes that pissed off these people.

Why?

So you can avoid making the same mistakes and getting the ire (and collapsing button) of them aimed at you.

1. At first I tweeted just my answers to questions. This ensured that my answers would be seen by a pretty sizeable group of people and would gain at least some upvotes, which would ensure that my answers would appear at the top of comment threads. Later, after getting this pointed out to me as a negative bias, I would link to other people’s questions, without my answers, and also to the entire question, so you’d see all answers. On Quora you do this by using the Twitter link on the right side of the page, not the one on the bottom.

2. I broke convention by using photographs in many of my answers. More than anything this seems to have gathered the ire of the reviewers and others. I did it partly because I know that posts with photos and images get more audience and more consideration than posts without, but partly for fun, and partly to, well, get more upvotes. But Quora is already being seen as a place that’s free of photos and videos so this gathered a great deal of hate.

3. I participated too much. In a little more than a month I wrote 400 answers. These made it seem like I was attempting to dominate the service. In reality I was just addicted and liked participating, but when most of the other people answered only a few thoughtful times (Mike Arrington, for instance, has only answered 15 questions) it was behavior out of place and got people to wonder about my participation there and the reasons behind it.

4. Some of my answers were controversial and caused flamewars. Quora is a place that’s free of flamewars and controversy. Why? Because when it happens reviewers pull those answers out of the stream and mark them as “not helpful.” I’ve seen this happen many times, not just to my own posts, but where I’ve answered in a way that got a flamewar going I’ve seen my answers pulled out too.

5. I answered questions too quickly, Part I. Why did I do this? Because, well, I was living on the service. At one point a week ago I was the number one user according to OneTrueFan and most other users, even reviewers, didn’t have the commitment to stay online all times of day and night just to answer the question first. First answers tend to get more visibility and upvotes. Why? Well, let’s say an answer gets five upvotes in first two minutes, because it shows up on the home feed, then it is very hard for a following answer to get the six upvotes it needs to beat the first answer (especially since the first answer keeps getting upvotes after that).

6. I answered posts too quickly, Part II. By answering posts too quickly, and because I knew that first answers were treated better than following answers, especially if the quality of the answer is the same, I would answer first with a poor quality answer and then come back and improve the answer over time. Again, this behavior pissed off people who couldn’t type as fast, or live on the system. Not to mention they saw the first, poor quality answer, and made up their minds that I was a poor quality answerer.

7. I was narcissistic and self promotional. It just leaks out of me. Why? Because I have 4,600 photos I’ve done on Flickr, 694 videos I’ve posted on YouTube, and the hundreds I’ve done on Building43, etc etc. and I pull upon that body of work to answer questions. Yes, many of these things augmented answers, but they pissed off people who don’t have a large body of photos, videos, and blog posts to call upon.

8. I didn’t understand soon enough how my participation in the system, which was mostly due to my own addiction and excitement, pissed people off. IE, I didn’t have my ear to the ground quick enough.

9. I really did think it was potentially a blogging service, not just a QA one. It looked different to me, and based on the answers I was reading (and the feed it generated for each user, here’s mine) that it was closer to a blogging service than to Wikipedia. I was wrong, but funny enough, no one at the company refuted my posts about it.

So, what can we do now? Well, I’m not addicted to the system anymore (partly because I was at Davos and DLD conferences for past two weeks — Louis Gray even noticed I’m not the top user anymore, but also partly because I have learned that if I want to participate I’ve gotta change the way I participate here, which means learning from these eight things myself).

That said, Quora had a huge impact on me the past month. It got me through writers’ block, and I learned some techniques to get me to post more here on my blog. For that I’m very grateful and you’ll see a different kind of blogging here thanks to it.

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.

162 thoughts on “The mistakes I made in Quora

  1. I can’t believe I waded through this entire thread – now – I know what it means to be Scoble-ized!!! If nothing else, you get the juices flowing both, pro and con – and then some! While I honestly don’t understand the need for an apology – except in the case of dominating the site during it’s early adopter period – I have to agree with Tinu, the retired Website Promotions Specialist and localized ball of joy – for skewing behind the “ooo-so-shiny curve” and feeling that when any of us are so close “to the bleeding edge of everything,” we sometimes lose perspective. And while wearing our digital hearts on our sleeve is not a fatal flaw – at times, it can come off as being self-absorbed! But then again- you apologized for that as well! So confession accepted. You are absolved – after 10 votes up, and reserving all future flame-wars for your blogs! All the best!

  2. Eventually everybody goes away, unless they pay to be revived. Scoble has probably got enough cash to make sure he is revived. You will certainly go away. So go away already!

    Let’s start a flame war for fun!

  3. Oh hey, Robert you know I got reading some of these other comments of people who need to grow a pair. “Your answers on Quora did not meet the measure of quality maintained by the QQD – Quora Quality Division in Geneva and the metrics established by the International Stupids. Your answers and pictures where not properly framed with a shade of apricot under the wrong moon.” Give me a break.

    Yes from now on – on all social media, everyone shall have the same of friends, same number of posts etc. That way people born with small embarrassing sized members wont feel like projecting low self esteem on others. Oh hold on – thats communism. Look how that turned out. What a joke.

    Keep rocking Robert dont look back.

  4. Yes Robert LOL, How DARE you get invited to a startup and actually start using and promoting it. Ohhhh the Humanity!!!!!!!! LOL. WTF? Are they kidding me, when I start my iPhone Apps I’m working on – you will BE the first invite!

    Holy crap Quora should be writing you a check for $10 million for putting them on the map. Even now this PR is helping them.

    The other thing is you dont do is do this to get followers – you just love the applications.

    You played on Quora more than most, so what. The world and social media has masses of lazy jealous people who dont like someone who reflects their laziness back on them. They are twisted sycophants. Its easier to hate than create. In the end they act like playground school children. People where taking the time to downgrade your answers on Quora – how pathetic. Who has that kinda time, they need to get a life.

    Do whatever you want Scoble and enjoy yourself. Dont apologize. Is Charlie Sheen with you in Quora rehab?

    Quora owes you a huge part of their company’s success.

    Rock on.

    Chris Voss

  5. In fact I have been looking a bit at one specific question and I think maybe Robert owes Quora an apology, and an explanation. A recent question on Davos was responded to by Robert. His response, being actually in Davos got 59 votes, putting it well above any other answer and making i impossible that anyone could come close.

    Frankly I found your answer a bit shallow and full of pictures, with really addressing the bigger picture of Davos and the overall economy, but still you are there and you have lots of pictures to show of what happened.

    The thing that concerns me and I am sure concerns a lot of people using Quora and working for Quaro is that you got 59 votes on a question being followed by only 41 people. More people were ready to vote for your answer than follow the question.

    If you can’t see the possibility that there is a concern that Quora could become a high school beauty contest well then maybe you have been a internet celebrity a bit too long.

    But then using your blog to bad mouth a start up was low class Robert and for that you should apologize to the people. If you have a story that Quora is showing poor results or hyped fine, but to say you personally feel slighted is an abuse of your influence in the industry.

    And web influence, as Jorn Barger and David Winer can tell you, i quickly lost if abused.

    1. I don’t agree with your conclusions. Most people don’t follow questions, by the way, for one, even if they particularly like a certain answer.

      I won’t apologize for getting the most votes. If that bothers you, vote up another answer.

      1. Well at least you could acknowledge that having 59 votes up, way more than anyone else on the same question, and only 41 people following the question looks strange to Quora owners.

        They must be afraid of Beiber and Lohen like personalities coming on to Quora and crowding out all the other votes for a question?

        I think you have accomplished a great deal with blogging and micro-blogging, but perhaps Quora needs to do something different to keep celebrity bloggers with large followings (followers who really want favors from the people they follow many times) from taking the site over.

        I am very excited about the possibility of a site which will have some mechanism built in to it to work against the Power Law distribution which has made the A-list blogosphere more white and male than the MSM.

  6. I dont understand how Quora can penalize users for using the service well or to it’s limits. If everyone is invited, don’t be upset that some people are better informed, skilled, or simply louder. Especially if it stretches the service to innovate. Imagine if Twitter had blocked John Mayer or any celeb to say “this is a site where people talk about what sandwich they are eating in short status updates; Gary Vee, you and your success need to stop being more interesting than that” If crowd control is an issue than it shouldn’t be a public service, maybe some kind of Q&A Facebook group

    1. Its not a question really of better informed, louder, or having more free time. The issue is that certain people will bring a existing Twitter community in to Quora and game the site so that there answers are always on top. This would ruin the value of the offering while simply serving the branding issues of a few people

      This is really not so much an issue on Twitter where people can form lists and groups as they like. But in a system of Question and Answer a few celebrities can potentially be confident that their answer would always be voted to the top. For example Robert S’s Davos answer go 59 votes even though only 41 people are actively following the question.

      If there were say 100 people on Quora with Robert level Twitter following and influence and no system of checks on them, they could easily flood the thing out.

      This is only one form of gaming that Quora faces. I wold imagine Quora is going to have to implement a lot of system to insure cable of voting don’t evolve, or that groups don;t organise to determine who gets the top anwers

      1. Well Twitter is designed that it can function for small scale and still allow the power law big players to have the majority of followers. For example I have never seen a single Beiber post. Most people I follow also only have followers in their hundreds.

        But with Quora it is a real risk. Just 10 massive whales with 100,000s of Twitter followers could essentially decide the answer to almost every hight focus question.

  7. Robert, can you fix this post? I would offer suggested edits but I don’t think this blog supports that ;)

    First of all, the web site is The Quora Review, not the Quora Reviewers. You seem to be misspelling this as some form of psychological diversion, which seems to implicate Quora Reviewers (those who review content on Quora).

    The Quora Review is not associated with Quora Reviewers, it is just a blog. Certainly some reviewers contribute.

    Next and more importantly, the post on The Quora Review by Dan Kaplan who made the post is NOT a Quora reviewer or admin.

    Also, you said you have evidence from some of the 120 reviewers? Well throw that evidence out because there are only about 53 reviewers, see this post: http://www.quora.com/Who-are-all-the-reviewers-on-Quora

    If you want to be picky, then the admins also have review abilities (plus more), they are here: http://www.quora.com/Quora-Admins/Who-are-the-current-site-admins-of-Quora

    This brings the total to about 79. There may be some missing, but there aren’t 40 missing. Furthermore, not all these reviewers and admins are active.

    I was the one who pointed out that your answer looked as if it was collapsed by A reviewer, I am also the one who made a significant effort to get in touch with an admin, despite the ‘Quora Active User Party’ happening that night.

    I don’t work for Quora but I do want it to be a great resource and I do go out of my way to make it so. I feel like you are doing Quora a disservice by repeatedly over-speculating about the details here, especially since I have provided plenty of information that should have adequately removed that speculation.

    You are right to criticize Quora, there is a lot of work to be done, but you are criticizing the wrong things and it is pretty much invalidating everything you say, which suck, because you have such a powerful voice.

    Finally, I don’t think you did anything wrong on Quora, so stop playing the victim and please, just get back to providing quality content, questions, answers, upvotes, thanks, edits and fun to Quora.

    1. I fixed these errors, thanks! But I do have proof that some of the reviewers were marking my posts as “not helpful” for fun. That does make me a victim, even if my behavior invited that kind of action. A rape victim is still a victim even if she wore a short skirt.

      1. Fair enough, but you don’t have to play the victim regardless, and you probably shouldn’t compare getting downvoted on Quora to rape. Honestly, your reactions to the rogue reviewers has come across as if you feel that you were somehow raped.

        For the several reviewers that degraded your experience, there are dozens more who are interested in making it great.

        Also regarding point #5, I’ve found that the only answers of mine that get significant upvotes are the ones that I answer in a very timely manner.

        This is kind of a negative on Quora, I am not sure what the cause is but if you get a first answer that is pretty decent, it seems to be pretty dominant.

        Also, as you continue to talk about this incident, maybe you could do others who have experienced unfair moderation a favor and point out that they should email moderation@quora.com

        This email is not manned by reviewers, it is manned by admins, which is significantly different.

        Thanks, by the way, for fixing the small errors in this post!

        You have had so much experience on social networks and general internet interactions, that I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but if you give in to the ‘Scoble get off Quora’s Lawn’ message that you feel you received, you let the few complainers win.

        One up them by being an excellent contributor and by educating others on how to do the same.

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