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Gini Dietrich

Quora Is Not for Normal People

By: Gini Dietrich | March 9, 2011 | 
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Although she meant it for Facebook question of the week, Abbie Fink asked us about Quora and I thought I’d answer it today AND do a video question of the week, from another Facebook friend, tomorrow.

She asked, “Quora: Do or do not. Why or why not? Figured I’d rather ask you than ask Quora.”

My response?

Do not.

At first I was really pleased with Quora. Want to know which parts of The Social Network are true? Dustin Moskovitz (Facebook co-founder) is there to tell you.

Want to know how to successfully pitch Mashable? Ben Parr is there to tell you.

Want to know how to successfully pitch TechCrunchRobert Scoble, Ben Parr, and many others provide answers.

Want to know if Amazon is working on an Android eReader? One of the guys who is working on the programming gives you the answer (yes).

Pretty cool, right?

Well, it turns out it’s just a place for the insiders. If you’re one of those named above, your question (and answer) gets published and ranked higher than, say, me. And there has been a lot of chatter about the editors changing your question, if they don’t like the way it’s stated, sometimes taking it completely out of context.

Your question or answer can be voted down. And you can even be kicked off the site. All because one of the editors doesn’t like the way you’ve stated something.

So it’s not really an open web forum that allows you to get true and honest feedback. It’s a Q&A site (albeit a pretty cool one, even though Yahoo! Answers has 100 million users and they, well, do not) that is run by people who can change your question, mark down your answer, or remove you altogether.

The cool part is that there is very little spam (has anyone noticed a significant increase in spam on LinkedIn lately?!) and you have to use your real name, but brands aren’t allowed there yet.

Sure, your employees can get on there and represent you, but until they allow companies, it’s not going to be a very useful tool and one we won’t recommend to clients.

My recommendation: Check it out. Search on there for answers, if you have a question that is too large for Twitter (see what New York Times columnist David Pogue has to say about that). But don’t spend a lot of time or effort on it.

What’s been your experience with Quora? How would you answer Abbie’s question?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

89 comments
CharlesWood1
CharlesWood1

I was extremely offput by Quora because I couldn't even -look- at it without signing in with Facebook, creating a password, and validating my email address (which signed me up for a newsletter). And then it mined my Facebook profile for as much information about me as it could, which it fed into its question engine without telling me.  It looked like I was going to get a useful answer out of it, but instead I got so irritated with them that I stopped looking for an answer to my question and googled their contact page (which is not clearly listed) so that I could send them a rant about this behavior.


Very bad form, Quora!

estgomdna
estgomdna

I signed in on Quora looking for some answers about a product who boasts about using linux servers but don't offer linux based desktop support and to express how hipocritical these companies can be and was blocked from Quora because I have to use my real name. These people actually use the information you provide on your facebook and can censor you freely if you express anything that sounds incoherently (against their ideas). So for me QUORA SUCKS! and big time. 

cendrinemedia
cendrinemedia

Hello Gini:

Thank you for posting this! I have to admit that Quora looked promising at first sight. I signed up and tried answering some questions. Then editors started changing most of the things I was writing. While typos happen (and I am grateful for people pointing them out), what I do not like is when someone tries to completely rewrite my answers.

So, I figured that since I was not deemed good enough, I had rather focus on other sites.

To me, the service is not worth the hype.

OldMrBill
OldMrBill

Signed up w/Quora in late December 2010. Have had nothing but wannabe MLM'rs following me and sending me emails about their miracle methods for making millions on the Internet. What a waste of cloud time!

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

I have zero use for Quora. I signed up. I said 'meh'. I love how new sites and networks come out make a splash everyone goes crazy then it fades away. Chat Roulette anyone?

brelow
brelow

Gini, how long have you been on quora? Have you had a lot of interaction?

Ari Herzog
Ari Herzog

As I tweeted you the other day, Gini, I created a Quora account a few weeks ago as a latecomer (despite normally being an early adopter of such trends) and was unimpressed. I clicked around, answered a question here or there, but have not returned. It didn't inspire me in the way LinkedIn Answers inspires me to constantly ask and answer.

Part of my skepticism stems from the fact too many so-called A-List bloggers are referencing how amazing the site is -- but nobody else is writing about it. Makes one wonder why, eh?

AbbieF
AbbieF

Thank you, Gini, and thanks to all the commentors. Some good information here. I appreciate the insight. I'd been poking around in Quora a bit; it is nice to know others are sharing similar challenges. I knew this would be the right place to ask the quesion.

AlanMorrison
AlanMorrison

I've had fun experimenting with Quora. It's interesting to see, for example, what answers get the most votes. I try to post the answers with pictures (via URLs) to make the answer more appealing, and that helps. I've tried being pithy versus being comprehensive, and both can work, depending. Answering a question lots of people are interested in helps. Providing a really useful answer to a popular question helps. And you can cite someone else's wonderful answer out on the Web, and link to it., and that helps. I did that with this question (http://www.quora.com/Which-place-should-a-technophile-visit-on-a-first-trip-to-San-Francisco-and-Silicon-Valley-in-March-2011), and it was great to see that people from several different countries appreciated it.

The Scobles of the world get tons more votes than I do because they've stored up so much goodwill elsewhere that it plays out anywhere they dwell online, including Quora. The people who matter are smart enough to realize, though, that just because someone got 158 votes for an answer doesn't mean it's the best answer.

You learn what you're passionate about by the questions you answer and the questions you search for answers to. It's nice to know that some people actually read what I posted, in some cases liked it, and in others suggested improvements to it. I haven't had much trouble with editors--they made small, reasonable suggestions for changes. It's a good service. I wish the personalization were better, but they've made strides in that area.

Preferences differ depending on what you care about. I like Twitter, but don't use Facebook much. LinkedIn has some value, but I don't post or dwell there. It doesn't bother me that Quora's not for everyone, or that so many of the commenters here dislike it. I do a lot of research, writing, and analysis. Quora's thoughtfully designed; it's highly interactive, and gives you good feedback. I don't like the other Q&A sites at all, except when I'm troubleshooting a computer or something.

Why can't it be good for just some of us? The probability of finding someone interesting to follow on Quora is higher than on Twitter. But maybe I'm too much of a wonk.

CesLSU
CesLSU

Not for normal people???? I'll be signing up immediately!

Shonali
Shonali

I haven't used Quora a lot, and am still trying to get my arms around it. I certainly don't think it's a "Twitter killer" or anything like that, and I can certainly see its value in getting answers directly from CEOs and true experts.

One of the things I'm trying is, rather than follow people back automatically on Quora, just because we're connected on Twitter, for example, is to follow questions instead. I get more value that way, and I really don't see the point of following someone just because they're there (and that goes for my "follow attitude" across the board). If anything, following a range of people will probably dilute my Quora stream to the point where completely random Q&As - that I have no interest in - will show up, making my experience even less valuable.

SocialMoves
SocialMoves

Hey Gini, great topic! Quora is a great research tool to bend the left/right brain curve. I'm continually AMAZED at the amount of time some folks put into their answers (aka: find the time). I've had people edit my answers, but one guy actually took the time to send me a personal message to explain the rationale behind each of his edits of my stuff. That's learning community. Certainly you have the insider clicks gaming the votes for their incestious MO's. Seen that video before. But otherwise good research tool. Keep up the good deed of calling out The Spin!

ladylaff
ladylaff

I really like Quora and have received some really generous, detailed answers to very specific questions, the quality of which I just don't get on LinkedIn and other sites. I actually like the downvoting because I think it makes the system more balanced and real. It helps me understand how my answers are genuinely perceived so I don't get too full of myself. I have had one answer downvoted and frankly, having read it back over and the question it related to, I could see why. And I really appreciate the absence of spam and blatant self-promotion. Finally, if you use Quora for non-work related interests there is some truly amazing stuff in there about music, philosophy and art. I'm digging it for sure.

Rachel
Rachel

I'm with you. I poked around it and found it hard to use and time consuming. Some of the answers are cool, but it does seem like a popularity contesthat I don't have the time, energy, or right jeans for : 0

Todd Lyden
Todd Lyden

All the Quora rocks folks selling the opportunity to share your knowledge somewhere other than your own space is funny. Like Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, and others were not enough?

staceylamiller
staceylamiller

I think Quora is useful in some ways, and in other ways causes some frustration. I've used it both to crowdsource answers for blog posts, such as my post on "Pitching through social media, yea or nay?" (which received answers from techcrunch and PR pros like Richard Laermer) and also to respond to inquiries about press releases (I work for Vocus/PRWeb). To me, it has been useful in that aspect. However, the "voting down" of answers is a downfall of the site as competitors can vote down an answer anonymously and the editing of questions and answers makes me uneasy and worried that something might be taken out of context, or edited beyond its meaning, which causes a lot of confusion (it's happened before and I received some unnecessary backlash).

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@cendrinemedia Sucks, doesn't it? I'm with you - if they're going to change what I say, I don't want a part of it.

AlanMorrison
AlanMorrison

Hmm... I haven't had this problem at all on Quora. Must be your oodles of charm and joie de vivre that attracts them. @OldMrBill

brelow
brelow

@HowieG Chat Roulette and Quora are two entirely different entities. I don't think it gets more opposite than those two actually haha. That's a tough comparison to make.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@brelow I was on there early on - spent a lot of fourth quarter last year using it. I had a lot of interaction - asked some questions and gave some answers. But when they changed a question I wrote from PR to publicity, I nearly blew a gasket.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Ari Herzog Ha! That's a great point! Did you see Robert Scoble say it was great and then recant?

Todd Lyden
Todd Lyden

@Ari Herzog ARi- which big names are still talking about it? most of it seems to have died down...

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@AbbieF It definitely is something you should poke around on, but it's not the end all, be all nor is it something you should advise your clients to use.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@AlanMorrison Wonk? Or not normal? :) I definitely think it can be great for some, but not all. And next time I go to the Bay Area, I'm checking out your Quora answer!

staceylamiller
staceylamiller

@Shonali I agree with Shonali...I don't follow people on Quora, I haven't seen the value yet. More value in following topics and questions. Also agree that it is NOT a Twitter killer...I feel like it was popular for like a week and now it is getting a little stagnant (in the categories I'm following, at least).

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Shonali But you are following me. RIGHT?! :) I don't think it's a Twitter killer and I don't think it's going to replace blogging. But I don't think it's all cracked up to an $86MM valuation, either.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@SocialMoves Talk more about this left/right brain curve. And I'd like to know more about your answers being changed. For facts? Or opinion?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@ladylaff That's because you're an overly positive person! Be cynical with me! :) Actually, a really, really great point about the personal side of Quora. I can totally see that. I just don't think it's something businesses should run to try to understand.

timjahn
timjahn

@faybiz The Q+A format of Quora feels more intuitive for answering questions than the fragmented nature of Twitter or Facebook. I've yet to do much with LinkedIn, I know they're supposed to have a great Q+A product too.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@sacevero That's pretty much the same experience I've had - I LOVE that you get information from the insiders, but hate the non-transparency of it all.

OldMrBill
OldMrBill

@AlanMorrison Yes Alan, that's it. Or maybe it's just my past history of gullibility. No, it's definitely the charm and joie de vivre.

OldMrBill
OldMrBill

@ginidietrich Oh, I've already made my millions on the Internet, that's why I don't need anymore new methods to do so. NOT! Today, I am in the business of "making water" from air and selling it. Not making millions, but I am making a living.

Shonali
Shonali

@ginidietrich Since we're sharing... :p - what turned me off of it was a couple of experiences. First, I came across a question that asked, "What do people in India eat for breakfast?" I mean - hello! I thought that was absolutely ridiculous - does anyone remember that India is a sub-continent!!! - so I replied saying that that was like asking how people in Alaska have sex.

Oups! People didn't like that (though I think a couple did).

Then, I asked a question about Amplify v. Quora. Someone then asked ME why I was such a fan of Amplify, and did I "do PR" for them, and it was a completely stupid question. That's when I blew a gasket and in my most frigid tone replied that I certainly did NOT do PR for them, and that since I'd had good experiences with Q&A style posts on Amplify, I was trying to see if Quora stacked up.

I mean. Really. At least a few months ago, I would see very silly and what I thought were some fairly mean-spirited answers; like I said earlier, I haven't been on it much lately. When everyone's an expert, no one's an expert.

brelow
brelow

@ginidietrich What's your username? I'd like to follow you. I haven't had any types of experiences like that yet. I've only been using it for a few months though..

Todd Lyden
Todd Lyden

@timjahn I don't disagree with the case that it is a nice format, but I don't grasp how its better than linkedin's or facebook's http://www.facebook.com/questions/ - how is that fragmented?

I do have issue with Quora turning into a "memememe" promotional thing contrary to what others have said. I've been on the site almost since it started and it went downhill fast once they linked everyone and auto sent all those "follows"

Shonali
Shonali

@brelow You didn't come across as rude at all; I thought it was very nice of you to do that. If I thought you were being rude, I probably would have just swished my hair and sat on my high horse. :p

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Shonali That's right! I forgot about the Amplify v. Quora one! I wish I'd remembered that so I could have included it as an example here.

And asking how people in Alaska have sex - LOL!!

brelow
brelow

@Shonali @ginidietrich Yes, no problem! I hope I didn't come across as rude. Just thought it may help. I've had actual companies post answers to my questions while being very objective. Their goal is to seem informative about the industry and position themselves as thought leaders or opinion leaders within their field.

For example: I asked this question "How significant are directory-listings in regards to SEO?" Shortly after, I received a great answer from a Yellow Pages company Explore.To. See the question and answers here:

http://www.quora.com/How-significant-are-directory-listings-in-regards-to-SEO

Shonali
Shonali

@brelow That was so nice of you to go check! You know, I never thought about that; I pretty much use the same bio that I have for Twitter on sites like this. Particularly with sites like Quora and Amplify that are integrating Twitter & Facebook into their platforms, I just figured that would do. I've updated it with my business name - thank you for that. @ginidietrich

brelow
brelow

@Shonali @ginidietrich The marketing opportunities that Quora presents for companies is a growing concern among the site's users. At times one will step back and ask themselves, "Is this an honest answer or is this a company attempting to garner traffic?" That's why transparency is very, very important on a site like Quora. Shonali, I notice on your Quora profile you don't have specific information about the company you work for. I understand privacy but unfortunately, on a site like Quora, posting that information is necessary. It helps filter out the frauds and creates a more open/honest community.

timjahn
timjahn

@ginidietrich @faybiz I actually prefer the content of Quora over the social aspects. I've never found any useful information on Yahoo! Answers but I find plenty of information on Quora. Might depend on niche and what one is looking for too.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@faybiz @timjahn I think Yahoo! Answers and some of the other Q&A sites do a better job of the actual Q&A piece of things. But Quora definitely has the social aspect down.

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