Rumors of Quora’s death are greatly exaggerated

I’ve already blogged about Quora and would recommend you try out the service to help you come to your own conclusion.

Also, I’ve responded to a similar thread on Quora. Please up-vote if you dig the answer.

In the meanwhile, thought I’d help debunk some of the assumptions that Vivek Wadhwa makes about Quora without having tried the service. While, on the one hand Vivek Vadhwa’s TechCrunch post raises a few pertinent issues (I’ll address a couple of them below), on the other hand, he hasn’t tried Quora yet which completely robs his post of all credibility.

Here goes…

All quotes below are Vivek’s from his TechCrunch post : Why I don’t buy the Quora hype

Quora’s not the next big thing

But I just don’t believe that Quora will “rule” or become anything like Facebook or Twitter.  It has been a very nice private club; but it’s not for the general public.

Now, Twitter and Facebook in my opinion are two completely different services. I look at Twitter as primarily an information network, while Facebook is a social network. Quora has the trappings of a bigger information network than Twitter (key is that Quora’s set up to structured content on a slew of scalable topics, something Twitter cannot do today). I just think, conflating the two is erroneous and misleading.

Quora’s silly

Some of the discussions have been very informative; some, completely misinformed.  Some questions are of general interest, such as: Will there be a tech sector crash in the near future?; some are obscure: Who are the most successful entrepreneurs with Iranian roots?; some are just plain silly: How much does Netflix spend on postage each year?

I recall similar conversations when Twitter “hype” was doing the rounds (maybe we’re still hyping Twitter). While anyone who tried Twitter at events or conferences would rave about it, others took time to understand it. And, frankly Twitter was not something you could understand by listening to your friends ramble on. At the end of the day, there was a learning curve and you had to use the service a few times to get it.

Even TechCrunch commented on Twitter’s adoption cycle, Curiosity, Abandonment, Addiction, 1.5 years ago. Now, replace Twitter with Quora and assume a steeper learning curve.

I’m still befuddled Vivek chose to write an entire rant without ever trying the product. And, I’d like to add that the inherent silliness he finds in Quora (something Twitter was also accused of) is what adds to its interestingness (and is basically how Quora’s members socialize). Frankly, that’s one of the ways Quora can cross the chasm into becoming a more mainstream knowledge site vs. catering just to professors, technologists, and VCs.

Quora’s growing because of bloggers

Quora’s membership is growing largely because of the attention that TechCrunch has given it (including the Best Startup award).

Not sure if that’s rooted in facts. Earlier this year, many people noticed a spike in Quora activity. I suspect it has more to do with Quora tweaking their “Trending Topics and Followers” widget than any attention from one individual blog.

Now, of all the things that Vivek threw at Quora, there were two nuggets that deserve further attention. Frankly, Quora is fighting one of these two and I’d urge them to give some thought to the other problem.

Issue #1: Fighting Noise and maintaining quality of answers

But I believe that the excess hype is destined to make Quora a victim of its own press.  The quality of answers will decline.  The people whose opinion I value, such as Quora’s #1 respondent, Robert Scoble, will simply stop posting on the site when they get drowned out by the noise from the masses.

Frankly, Robert in my opinion is not your prototypical Quora user, but it’s rather folks like Yishan Wong and Marc Bodnik, non-bloggers who continue adding their $0.02 on topics they have direct experience in that makes Quora fascinating. It’s this long tail of knowledge that Quora is hoping to tap into. These folks are the ones who could make Quora a success, not bloggers.

That said, there’s a problem of noise and quality loss that Quora will inevitably face and that’s something they are gearing up to face. Here’s Charlie Cheever who just wrote a blog post a couple of days back on that topic. Interestingly enough, Quora is taking a Wikipedia approach to fighting noise, enlisting the support of their biggest users.

To start, we’re focusing on question and answer content quality, and after we get those under control, we’ll turn our attention to topics.  We expect that some of these efforts will be pretty successful and some will be dead ends.  After this round of things, we’ll come up with new ideas and try those until the system works in a scalable way.

Issue #2: Fighting Anonymity

It claims that the site does not allow anonymity.  But you can easily sign up for a Quora account with any of your Twitter accounts (you can create as many of these as you want—with fictitious names).  You can then vote down answers from people you don’t like, edit questions asked by others, and post your own views.  You can talk about your own products and services, and disparage others’; in other words, it is a spammers’ paradise.  How is Quora going to manage hundreds of thousands—or millions—of unruly users, when even the mighty Google seems to be losing the battle for spam?

My experience on Quora has been good thus far, but since Quora only allows Twitter or Facebook connect for their users, it makes it a tad more difficult for me to verify the authenticity of the person behind the comment. Yes, Facebook or Twitter are a good start but frankly, a short LinkedIn summary using LinkedIn’s API will authenticate my experience on Quora much more effectively (Disclosure: I work at LinkedIn and these are purely my personal ramblings).

The Next Twitter?

Quora isn’t going to be a Facebook or a Twitter. It is not likely to even catch up with the current market leaders in the Q&A space— and Yahoo! Answers (which both get more than 40 million unique visitors a month, compared with Quora’s meager 150,000).

Heck, Twitter wasn’t going to be the next Twitter. Predicting Quora’s future is futile and though I’ve tried and know how well the service works, I won’t make a random guess as to its trajectory. There are so many things that Quora needs to get right in order to scale their platform but predicting its demise before giving it a chance is a tad cruel.

p.s. Yes, I’m a sucker for link-bait.

Got thoughts on Quora, leave a comment. Here’s some rebuttal from other bloggers to Vivek’s post. I told you, I dig these smackdowns.

  1. Dare Obasanjo on Quora crossing the chasm
  2. Semil Shah (who originally blogged about Quora on TechCrunch) responds
  3. Robert Scoble started a Quora thread on this topic (of course!)

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  1. 5 reasons why companies should spend LESS time listening to social media experts |

    […] before anyone comments, I am not slamming Quora.  I have plenty of friends that love the site, and to be honest, I have barely spent an hour with it.  My only point is, I tend to tune out and […]

  2. Glenn Laudenslager

    Great post, is right on. He loses all credibility by never investing time in the community before professing its irrelevance.

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