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Quora’s Two Greatest Challenges

By: Guest | February 15, 2011 | 
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Joe HackmanJoe Hackman is the founder of Managed Solutions and a blogger, podcaster, technology enthusiast, and fan of conversation.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you’ve probably at least heard of Quora. It has been particularly hot among technophiles in recent months.

When I joined, I noticed that within my Gmail address book it found only two technology startup CEOs. Both of them had interaction on their accounts and, knowing and respecting their level of tech/business savvy, it meant to me that Quora was something I should not ignore.

So I played for a short time then proceeded to ignore it anyway, for several months anyway.

Why are we really there?

Amidst all the flurry of activity I started posting again on Quora. Why?

In addition to considering it my business to know and understand any new relevant tool I didn’t want to miss the boat. I actually think that this has more to do with why people are flocking to Quora right now. I also think it is probably going to be the very thing that ruins it.

Vivek Wadhwa recently wrote a piece “Why I Don’t Buy the Quora Hype” and he made some great points. One sentence that invoked one of those “captain obvious” moments for me:

The quality of answers will decline.

Vivek also goes on to suggest a very different future:

What is more likely to happen and makes far more sense is that a new generation of private, gated communities will grow and evolve. This is where people with common interests will gather and exchange ideas.

Anecdotal evidence that Wadhwa is right about Gated Communities

If any of you were present on IRC networks back in the 1990’s you will understand what Vivek was driving towards in his piece. In the mid to late 90’s I participated on EFNET where a lot of IT geeks asked and answered questions about technology. When I joined it was relatively civil and by the time I left it was like a warzone with servers frequently disconnecting, getting attacked and channels being taken over. Where did we go next? We relocated with a small group to a private channel on a much smaller network that lives on to this day 10+ years later! Which reminds us all:

Gated communities have longevity.

Voting Issues

You can find abundant questions about the number of upvotes on Quora having to do with everything from how good looking someone is to how famous they are. There is plenty of evidence that simple voting is not the best way to determine the best answers. To find out some insights on this I reached out to Hutch Carpenter at Spigit and he provided me with these insights about voting “weight” and community involvement:

Properly involving the crowd to identify top contributions is critical to a successful innovation community. If you only apply simple vote counts to identify top ideas, innovation is little more than a popularity contest. People earn reputations via peer responses to their contributions in the Spigit platform, which are used to weight their up-votes and down-votes. These weighted approval ratings go deeper than simple vote count, and help surface the best ideas which don’t necessarily have the top number of votes. This fosters an innovation meritocracy and ensures that top ideas don’t get overlooked.

As it sits today Quora is lacking this functionality and it will take time and great effort to produce better quality. They will of course have to achieve this while their system is being scaled up, challenged and gamed by users.

I will still visit Quora, particularly if I have a question to ask. It is one more place I can go in addition to LinkedIn answers or social sourcing via Twitter, Amplify, Facebook or my blog.

Joe Hackman is the founder of Managed Solutions and a blogger, podcaster, technology enthusiast, and fan of conversation. He helps businesses use technology more effectively.

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20 Comments on "Quora’s Two Greatest Challenges"

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rachaelseda
5 years 3 months ago
Great post Joe! I have been curious myself to see what others thought about Quora (especially those whose opinion I value). I have signed-up and visited Quora once. Although I keep thinking, “I need to log back in & check it out!” I just haven’t found the time. I also feel like the reason I signed-up in the first place was to stay up to pace with new social media tools etc. It’s part of my job and it’s something I’m interested in. Which is why I keep reminding myself I need to spend a little more time with Quora… Read more »
hackmanj
5 years 3 months ago
@rachaelseda Thanks for breaking the ice here Rachael. I realize today that aside from following back some friends that have joined Quora I have not been back since I wrote this post a few weeks ago. I think the shouting matches that were bouncing around turned me off more than a little bit. I will try to keep an open mind but really the importance of gated communities is a little understated right now but perhaps for good reason. There is a lot of opportunity on the open web but it also creates a need for curation and filtering. I… Read more »
dcfemella
5 years 3 months ago
Great post! Quora still needs a lot of work, but hasn’t every social networking site that we are on? Therefore, there is still some hope that they will fix the issues that plague them. They are attempting to use crowdsourcing to create answers that are of value to the community. However, like you said, you have to deal with people who are trying to undermind other people’s efforts out of maliciouness. I remember one guy telling me if I could please remove my answer because it will steer the conversation in a way that he didn’t want it to (I… Read more »
hackmanj
5 years 3 months ago
@dcfemella thanks for reading, thinking and responding to this post. I am surprised that someone would ask a person who had taken the time to respond to something to remove their comment. That for lack of a better word is nuts. To your point about being a work in progress, you are right, that is the case. I think the short term velocity of growth led a lot of people to ask questions, it’s good that they did because it has led to some suggestions on how to make the site better. I see your point about gated communities –… Read more »
JMattHicks
5 years 3 months ago
I don’t know if it’s because I’m set in my ways or because to me (and I admit that I’m speaking out of a degree of ignorance right now), Quora seems like a glorified Yahoo! Answers. I just haven’t feel the need or desire to give it a try. Maybe I’m missing out, maybe I’m not. But from the description you give Joe, it seems like a tool that could be very useful IF properly used…and that’s the problem: you can’t trust a large number of people to properly do ANYTHING, especially on the internet. I may give it a… Read more »
lisagerber
lisagerber
5 years 3 months ago

I just updated Joe’s blog link (above) to the correct one: it is http://joesgonesocial.com/

hackmanj
5 years 3 months ago

@jmatthicks @dcfemella I like where you went with your observations Jeremy, even a step farther in the need to participate. Also I think I need to save this quote:

“you can’t trust a large number of people to properly do ANYTHING, especially on the internet”

What do you think it would take for you to feel compelled to check out a new service like Quora?

hackmanj
5 years 3 months ago

@lisagerber Thanks for updating that Lisa, you guys run a tight ship! 🙂

JMattHicks
5 years 3 months ago
@hackmanj @dcfemella For me, I think it’d take they offering extremely valuable and exclusive information. It seems to me that they want “something for nothing.” Sure, they offer a forum to offer up questions, have a discussion, and share, but I can do that in a LOT of different places, why should I choose Quora? I know I just said a mouthful there. But I honestly ask myself that: why even bother? Granted, I’ll admit that I can’t ask that in all fairness unless I’ve tried it out. I’ve been relying on word-of-mouth from my friends in the community and… Read more »
DannyBrown
5 years 3 months ago

I’ve been hugely underwhelmed by Quora. Yes, there are some great views there, but I’m finding more posts from people trying to sound important, or questions that a quick Google search would have given.

I see far more value in private Facebook groups, blog communities and the crowdsourcing on Facebook Pages.

hackmanj
5 years 3 months ago

@dannybrown I think you might have just helped me understand one of my challenges with Quora, the good content is difficult to find. Your experience speaks very well to the robust eco-system that you play a leadership role in Danny. I could see as someone who is plugged in to that environment you have a network that covers a large swath of expertise. Where would you recommend that someone that might be building that network go? Linked In Q&A? Yahoo Answers?

DannyBrown
5 years 3 months ago
@hackmanj Cheers, mate. I guess it depends on your needs. – If I was a small business owner, I’d look at something like Small Biz Nation on LinkIn (great group). Or if you’re on Twitter, one of the #smbiz or#smallbiz chats, and make lists of the people you find interesting. – MeetUp.com is also a great place to find local networking opportunities with like-minded individuals that can help you away from social networks. Try and think where you want to be (set a timeline of 3, 6, 9 and 12 months) and then map out how you can get there.… Read more »
HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 3 months ago

@hackmanj @lisagerber yes so glad Lisa is on board. She keeps @ginidietrich in check and behaving.

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 3 months ago
First off this was reposted on Social Media Today and it was confusing because I could not tell the author until arriving here! Anyway blogs confuse me in general. Just ask @dannybrown who reads my posts on his blog. Yes @jmatthicks I think Quora is kind of an elitist Yahoo Answers. Here is my view. All these fancy names that come to play, why? Ego. They are bored. They want to show off. Feel everyones stroking their egos. Most of them got lucky even if they worked hard. Right place right time right people to help sold at the right… Read more »
hackmanj
5 years 3 months ago

@dannybrown thanks for the excellent tips Danny. A friend of mine jonathanfleming really likes the meetup model. I’ve been to his localpreneurs group, it seems like a great tool for making new meaningful contacts.

I have another blog post in mind Danny, you’ve got me thinking! Thanks.

hackmanj
5 years 3 months ago
@HowieSPM @dannybrown @jmatthicks I thought that was pretty cool that it was posted at Social Media Today! Don’t you mean comments on his blog? Actualy maybe you have it right. You write comments that could be blog posts. 🙂 How much of the presence by “fancy names” do you think has to do with feeling the need to be there, to protect whatever house it is that they’ve built around their web/social media presence? New technologies are great equalizers, for example when I started in the IT industry Windows NT4 was hot and a lot of the existing providers were… Read more »
eschumpert
eschumpert
5 years 3 months ago
Great article, Joe. I must admit that I too had a similar experience with Quora. Initially, I joined and navigated through a few questions, even contributed an answer or two. But the issue I came accross echo’s that of Hutch’s discovery: a lack of an effective voting mechanism. As Vivek spoke to above, Quora’s user base is growing and with the growth will come A LOT of questions followed by A LOT of answers to those questions; the quality of answers will surely deteriorate. In order for Quora to scale, they’ll need more than a simple vote (up/down) system. It’ll… Read more »
hackmanj
5 years 3 months ago

@eschumpert as you’ve suggested the key is really how Quora handles this, certainly easier said than done based on what they are trying to accomplish. It’s interesting that one of the first questions that is almost always asked with web technology projects is “will it scale”. We’ll find out, but if these issues are any indication at this level of use, getting bigger will not help, that’s for sure.

Thanks for joining the conversation,

Joe

JMattHicks
5 years 3 months ago
@dannybrown Long time no talk brother! Great to be in touch with you again! And you make a great point in saying this: “I’m finding more posts from people trying to sound important, or questions that a quick Google search would have given.” I don’t care what information service you offer, Google is THE place to go information. I know I know, they’re sort of a 3rd-party service linking to the original destinations, so the information isn’t technically theirs. But you’d likely never find it without Google. And that’s where I go when I need answers. If a Quora question/response… Read more »
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