Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Spero Ventures. Early LinkedIn, Twitter. These are my thoughts on tech, brand, marketing and community.

It’s time to unfriend Facebook and “the algorithm”

Why I quit Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok for good

Yesterday, I deleted my Facebook account. 1

Ditto for Instagram. And, Snapchat. And, TikTok.

It is time to unfriend “the algorithm” before it’s too late. The writing is on the wall. 2 (no pun intended)


It is time to reclaim our Attention!


“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” — Steve Jobs

Breaking up with the algorithm across Facebook, Instagram, & TikTok leads to a re-evaluation of our lives. Why this matters now, more than ever before…

Apple’s a company that doesn’t have most resources of everybody in the world.3

The way we’ve succeeded is by choosing which horses to ride.

We try to look for these technical vectors that have a future, and that are headed up, and, you know, different pieces of technology kind kinda go in cycles.

They have their springs and summers, and autumns, and then they, you know, go to the graveyard of technology.

And, so we try to pick the things that are in their springs. — Steve Jobs on Products

The beauty of great storytelling is that it’s applicable across the board. This analogy is true for Apple, true for Facebook, and true for me. Facebook, in my opinion, is in its autumn (I’m sure they might think otherwise), but more importantly, I’m in my summer.

And if you choose wisely you can save yourself an enormous amount of work. And you can put your energy to make those technologies great on your platform.”

What I do with my time in my summer (let’s hope) “if I choose wisely,” I could save myself an enormous amount of work or trouble in the long-run.

And I choose to put my energy in people, platforms and work where I see the greatest upside for my growth, and their success. To Dylan and Jobs, a huge debt of thanks, for articulating this decision, in words that I couldn’t have stated with any more clarity.


It’s easier to quit the mafia than Facebook!


Now, the beauty of any mafia, as the saying goes “once you’re in the racket, you’re in it for life.4” But that’s true for any institution; whether it’s your family or Facebook or the Catholic Church. 5

“Once you’re in the racket, you’re in it for life.” — Al Capone

But, institutions, are in most cases not built with the individual’s interest at heart, given the numerous conflicting desires and goals. And, someday, sometime, one has to do the right thing and move away, when it’s affecting your mental health. And, as you very well know, the institutions will not make it easy on you leaving.

To leave Facebook is akin to leaving the mafia you find yourself in, if you go by the many hoops they try to make you jump through to delete your profile. It’s such a cynical ploy, and an understatement on how they perceive you and your attention.

Unflappable in their relentless attempts to derail your finite attention. They make it near impossible to take what is yours and leave. But enough is enough.

I am compelled to write down my version of what I went through to simply delete my Facebook profile, since (shockingly, despite being extremely social-media savvy) it took me a few Google searches, rifling through Facebook’s own documentation, and sighing bemusedly at how folks who work there get a good night’s sleep.


Three Clicks to Delete your Facebook Profile:


Here’s a Cliff’s Notes version on how to delete your Facebook profile. I wish I had this when I was attempting to do just that. Amazing, how much leeway we give bad faith operators in power, in this world. But, I digress.

Step 1: Find your “Settings & Privacy” (Top Right Hand Corner), then “Privacy Shortcuts”

Strange, yet obscure way to hide your delete Facebook button. But, I’ll go with this flow. The word “shortcuts” also throws you off, and having “Privacy Checkup” right above, also makes you wonder which road to take.

Masterfully deceptive, egregiously stupid, and (I bet) extremely effective, at dissuading you and making you want to give up, before you even begin. But, fear not, I got you and will lead you to the promised land.

Hit “Settings & Privacy,” then “Privacy Shortcuts.”

Once you figure out “Privacy Shortcuts” is the magic door that will lead to your escape, you are confounded by this page. Now, this is the entire page on my desktop iMac and a cursory glance (will NOT show you the delete button). Go on… I’ll wait.

Also, the category to place it under “Tools to help you control your privacy and security on Facebook” is also so intentionally misleading to make you wanna throw up. Regardless, scrolling down just a second, scrolled all the way to the bottom, under a sub-heading that says “Your Facebook Information” — “View or download your Facebook information at any time.” Wow. The mind boggles at such a brazenly disingenuous ploy to throw you off.

But, if you persist, and don’t blink, you’ll see the “Delete your account and information” before it disappears.

Step 3: Download Information, “Delete Account”

If you’ve come this far, you’re that much closer to deleting your Facebook account. Now all that stands between you and peace-of-mind, is to Download your information before hitting Delete. As you can see I had 1500 photos and 2500 posts, which I chose to download (just in case), but on perusing them I realize I had stopped uploading my pics to Facebook a while back, roughly 10 years, and these photos were good to have, but I could have lived without em.

I suspect your experience may vary. Regardless, hit that Download button, before you consider permanently deleting your Facebook account.

And, just like that you’re just a click away from deleting 17 years of time spent (some fruitful), and a lot of wasteful minutes across the Mark Zuckerberg Universe (MZU).

Hit Delete, and, just like that — “Serenity Now.” I haven’t thought about it for a second since, and I doubt I ever will.


Matters of Mental Health


I’ve written about my odyssey through mental health, across grief and time, over a year ago 6. A couple of things 7 have changed since then.

A global pandemic, civil strife, rogue actors, bad faith, and Orwellian technology that knows no bounds, has no keepers and brooks no maker of it. But, people chose to react to chaos in different ways. My initial reaction, and I think for a lot of us, in the early disorienting months (Feb – May 2020) were zoom happy hours, and that goes for virtual habits, including ones inhabited by the social algorithm.

But, this abundance, this fantasy, these distractions fed by any of those sources only causes the chaos to spread. In the middle of chaos, only stillness matters.

  • Stillness matters. It surfaces meaning.
    • Abundance messes with our minds. The world doesn’t live with abundance, and scarcity is a feature, not a bug. Pain & Grief, might be the highest versions of this, and possess deep meaning to life & death. But, the only way we can confront that is in stillness.
    • What the algorithm seems to promise, is a fantasy, and it’s time we saw it for what it is.
  • Dependence isn’t good.
    • I realize how much I depend on Facebook Connect to log into sites, and increasingly on voice-activated Alexa and Portal, understanding both Facebook and Amazon now hear every word I speak. And, just like in any abusive relationship, being dependent, or co-dependent is not something one should take for granted. It’s better late than never.
  • A bad friend, is deleterious to health
    • Alcohol, cigarettes, Facebook. Or the Algorithm.
    • The algorithm is worse than alcohol. It’s worse than cigarettes. And, please don’t say we were not warned. It’s time to quit relationships that don’t serve us well.

Just the process of extricating myself from the Facebook rabbit-hole was reminder enough that this was an abusive relationship that has gone on for too long.

But, as I’d mentioned in an earlier post, unfriending Facebook has its immense benefits to mental health. More than alcohol, more than cigarettes, more than eating habits (salt & sugar), more than our physical well-being, the “algorithm” slowly, but surely wraps itself around how we process the world itself. We find ourselves staring into Medusa’s eyes, turning into stone, and the sooner we curb this enthusiasm for distraction, and fashion it after our purpose; the better.


Dylan: ’Til our error we clearly learn


As an early part of LinkedIn, a huge Twitter evangelist (from back in the day to now), social media continues to be a critical part of my daily life and work. But, there’s a difference between that naive take on social networking, with which I was schooled, to today’s attention land-grab, that has me (and many folks I know), rethink the purpose of social media itself.

Someday in the (near) future, we’ll look at this experiment in the human condition, giving kids iPhones like doing out cigarettes, and turning a blind eye to the various genocides that large behemoths have turned a blind eye to, as atrocious.

But, for starters, I wanna reclaim my attention.

For what am I, without my thoughts.

As with all things in life, I’ll let Bob Dylan bring it home 8, spittin’ words of wisdom on technology, our abuse of it, and what it all means.

Now he worships at an altar of a stagnant pool
And when he sees his reflection, he’s fulfilled
Oh, man is opposed to fair play
He wants it all and he wants it his way

Now he's hell-bent for destruction, he's afraid and confused
And his brain has been mismanaged with great skill
And all he believes are his eyes
And his eyes, they just tell him lies

Leave no stone unturned
May be an actor in a plot
That might be all that you got
'Til your error you clearly learn

I, for one, am in no mood to make the choice to repeat my mistakes, spending time blithely whether it’s on vices we entrust with a lot of good faith — whether it’s Instagram or alcohol. So, goodbye and good luck to Mark, his minions, and my next glass of scotch.

Good Night, and Good Luck!


  1. 17 years in, though a phantom-limb phenomenon at this time, it’s a fully-grown teenager if I had a child at that point in my life, and it’s strange that it has accompanies a lot of my wins and successes in these years past. Still, when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. Fin. ↩︎
  2. Who doesn’t remember Facebook’s original “wall” posts, before “the feed” took over. Here’s a great piece by Taylor Lorenz, currently at The New York Times, on the day the wall died. “Sahil Kapur, a journalist in Washington, D.C., echoed Zoe’s sentiment: “Posting on someone’s Wall is more about public consumption than a real conversation. The wall did have a certain appeal when Facebook was a tighter-knit community of college students, but that changed.” ↩︎
  3. Coming from a company at its peak at the D8 Conference in 2010, when they had just surpassed Microsoft as the most valuable company in the world, might seem specious. But, Steve is right about one thing, no company has unlimited resources. No human, has unlimited attention. And, focus, is imperative for any and every goal one has in life. ↩︎
  4. Yep, that was Al Capone who said it. ↩︎
  5. As a recovering Catholic, I understand the role dogma plays in the vice-like grip that religions have on your “soul,” and hence your actions, your inability to make choices as you might freely. ↩︎
  6. Losing a parent, for the first time, will be the hardest thing you ever deal with in your life. The ground beneath your feet, and mind, shifts irrevocably. Now, toss in a breakup, work turbulence and you have a perfect storm. I did, and this was before the pandemic. Meditation, running and staying fit — mentally and physically — saved my ass and my life, arguably ↩︎
  7. Finding passion in career and a partner unlike any, is a start, and boy, did 2021 make up for 2020’s absolute decimation ↩︎
  8. Dylan’s “License to Kill” is a diatribe against technology’s wayward eye when we have major problems right here on planet earth. How resonant today, when there’s a debate about billionaire’s pet projects to Mars and the Moon, when we are faced with climate change, a pandemic and political unrest. ↩︎

Filed under: Facebook, Facebook, HOW-TO Use Social Media, Mark Zuckerberg, Mental Health, Productivity, Productivity Tools, Public Relations, Social Media Tools, TikTok, , , ,

Give me that reason. A reason to write.

I am 35 years old. Today.

Feels odd, since I haven’t shared that on Facebook and here I am for the first time sharing this with all you guys – my readers.

But this post is about you and me.

And, Justin Timberlake. Ha.

About Me

Sometimes the past 5 years seem like an achievement.

Other times, I look forward to the next 5 years and given my unique predicament (I’ll tell you about it someday), I’m filled with trepidation.

But 6 years ago, right around the time I should have packed my bags and gone back to India, I chose to stay. And it worked out great.

So there you have it.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

And that truly made all the difference.

Bonus: There’s nothing like hearing Robert Frost read the poem himself.

About You 

Right around the time I should have packed my bags and begone, the world saw the democratization of writing with blogs.

We finally had an opportunity where writer met reader and talked. The key was talking. Like Humans Do.

With that I started my blogging. I know I may have neglected you at times, but now that I’ve picked up the pen again; it feels natural. Like riding a bicycle after a hiatus.

This time the words flowed more freely.

The motivation followed:

I had one of my most successful posts – on writing – that has already seen tens of thousands of views, and hundreds of shares on Twitter, Facebook, and over a hundred upvotes on Quora.

People who care about good writing and whose writing I love, shared it – Daniel Pink, Chris Brogan and Marc Bodnick (on Quora) – and it found an even bigger audience.

It’s moments like these that give you the motivation to write more.

For your applause. Your retweets. Your likes.

Keep me writing… creating. 

So thanks for your feedback! For reading, for sharing, for commenting on my writing. Writing which at times may seem to make sense only to me.

But if you don’t do the above, I won’t have a reason to write.

So thanks for giving me that reason.

And for the birthday wishes, guys!

Filed under: About Mario Sundar, Writing, , , , , , ,

Is Facebook’s Graph Search a Giant Killer?

Will Facebook’s “Graph Search” be a threat to Google, LinkedIn, Yelp, or Foursquare asks a question on Quora?

jack_the_giant_killer_version9-movie-poster

No, No, No and Definitely Not. Yet.

The key is expertise.

Beneath the obvious user delight, Facebook is betting a lot on Graph Search’s core ability to connect people with what they’re looking for accurately and immediately. And obviously as the middle man, they stand to gain. Fair enough.

But will Facebook’s imminent functionality be a threat to well established vertical searches like Google, Yelp, LinkedIn and Foursquare?

All of the four kinds of search you can do today: Photos, People, Places and Interests, bear commercial implication. But the most immediate remain People and Places, which as bloggers speculate may pose a threat to Yelp, Foursquare, Google (Places) and LinkedIn (People). So, let’s take simple examples and compare Facebook Search with the other four searches.

Facebook vs. Yelp

I started with a simple search for “bars,” something I presume will be a common search on any local product. Here’s what I got with Facebook. For starters, along with actual bars it also pulled up law and bar associations or offices which was a bit odd.

Photo Jan 19, 6 50 08 PM

Now try the same with Yelp and you see how right away, they try to segment that query into the different types of bars you’re potentially searching for.

Photo Jan 19, 6 50 33 PM

Once you get a set of results, Yelp then allows you (and this is the most useful feature on yelp currently) to convenience sort by “rating,” “proximity,” “price,” “open now,” or even better by neighborhoods.

Photo Jan 19, 6 50 58 PM

I’ve gotta tell you; if you go out often, this filter is magical. But again, the filter is by utilitarian ratings by foodies and not by friends around you. More on that in just a second.

But before we leave Yelp, the third most useful feature on Yelp is their surfacing key elements of the review. So you’re at a restaurant and you’re wondering what’s the best thing on the menu. In days past, you’d have had to ask the person serving you but now you can rely on “the wisdom of an expert crowd” what’s the best food here and it works. Like magic.

Photo Jan 19, 6 51 23 PM

Facebook vs. Foursquare

Back to the topic of friends which is Facebook’s biggest competitive advantage. If you do wanna take into account which restaurants your friends are frequenting (ignoring the fact that expertise is the key), then try Foursquare.

The first thing you’ll notice yet again is the structured data (categories like Bar, Sports Bar, Salon) right up front (similar to Yelp) that Foursquare now provides you; though not as in depth as Yelp, can still be a tad useful.

Screen Shot 2013-01-19 at 7.10.49 PM

Digging deeper through the results, you’re gonna find them sorted by Foursquare’s own proprietary “Zagat number” that they conjure based on multiple data points.

Foursquare comes up with its score by looking at tips left by users, likes, dislikes, popularity, check-ins and it also weights signals more heavily for local experts.

They also show you a self-selecting group of folks who you know. Chances are most of these folks are more prone to bar hop than your other friends. But still Yelp really nails it with their community that they have nurtured for many many years who continue to write meaningful reviews that makes a world of difference when it comes to local search.

Screen Shot 2013-01-19 at 8.36.37 PM

Facebook vs. Google Local

While on the topic of a Zagat number, Google recently bought restaurant ratings site Zagat which now powers their Google Local ratings.  Zagat which originally started off compiling restaurant ratings of the Zagat’s friends, does something very similar to Yelp and the model here is yet again – expertise.

Photo Jan 19, 7 22 43 PM

Facebook vs. LinkedIn

Shifting gears to people search, Facebook’s people search is three years after LinkedIn launched its faceted people search. I know because I helped launch it at TechCrunch Disrupt where product manager Esteban Kozak demoed it right before CEO Jeff Weiner went on stage. (Disclosure: I no longer work at LinkedIn and don’t own any stock either) My mind was blown when I first saw what we could do with faceted search on LinkedIn both from a user experience perspective and I’m sure recruiters have found even more value from it.

Take a look at this demo video we shot in 2009 that shows you the plethora of signals a site like LinkedIn uses to hone in on the right professionals in a search. Easier said than done, and much like with Yelp, these signals have been gathered over many many years and such a search isn’t something you can turn on willy-nilly.

In all four instances the quality of Facebook’s search is insipid today compared to the robust community based expertise that the four sites have either built or bought .

The key is expertise. 

Now granted there are many things Facebook could do to build or buy their way into each of these verticals but the key point is that strength in local search across People and Places is not “friend” related, but rather “expertise” dependent and it takes years to build that. And frankly, I’d go with the critical reviews from experts in these fields and that’s an area that Yelp, Foursquare, Google and LinkedIn have Facebook beat.

Filed under: Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, LinkedIn Features, Local Search, Location, , , , , ,

Bad Communication, according to Larry Page

I’ve written about great communicators like Steve Jobs, I’ve called out lame attempts by Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos who tried copying the master and failed, and I now gotta write about bad communication, courtesy of Google CEO Larry Page.

012_larry_page

Scott Edinger’s recap of Aristotle’s three rules of rhetoric helped me pull together the three elements of Larry Page’s bad communication skills.

1. Lack emotion and logic

Aristotle’s rules of rhetoric are credibility, emotion and logic. While credibility is a given with folks like Page and Zuckerberg, it’s emotion and logic (!) that these CEOs stumble upon.

gallery_62_233262

Let’s take Page’s comments on Google+, an area that’s obviously not Google’s brightest spot today. In Dec 2012, this is how Page addressed its “success“:

Fortune: It is a big bet. What’s most important to you? Is competitive with Facebook (FB)? Is it about weaving identity across all of Google’s products? You’ve talked about adoption being higher than you expected. What’s the measure of success going forward?

Page: I think it’s gone pretty well. I’m very happy if users of Plus are happy and the numbers are growing because that means that we’re on to something. We’ve got a huge team actually in this building. If you walk around, you see everyone’s excited and running around and working hard on it. I think that they’re doing great stuff. They’re making it better and better every day. That’s how I’m measuring it.

That made no sense. After months of touting meaningless numbers to showcase Google+’s “success”, the past couple of months have seen Page just bullshitting us with nada.

Take a another example just a few days ago, in Wired Magazine:

Wired: What’s your evaluation of Google+?

Page: I’m very happy with how it has gone. We’re working on a lot of really cool stuff. A lot of it has been copied by our competitors, so I think we’re doing a good job.

Now, obviously there’s no way in hell this is how Google (one of the smartest companies on the planet) measures success for a key product, ranging from “excited employees, running around, working hard, doing great stuff” to “lot of is copied” so we’re doing good.

Now who does this kind of talk remind me of: Dubya!

He answers questions like an 8 year old does when they didn’t read the book.

He just describes facts.

People always say: “President Bush. I think he’s stupid.” He’s not stupid. When you listen to him you realize, he talks like he’s talking to someone stupid.

And that in essence is how Larry Page sounds most of the time. Especially when he’s talking about Google+.

Wanna know how it’s done right? I can give you so many examples of Jobs’ masterful answer to tough questions.

Jobs was one of those rare leaders who was able to combine both emotion and logic in his answers, much like he presented Apple at the intersection of Art and Technology. Even when heckled, Jobs knew how to respond to it with a unique blend of emotion and logic.

intersection

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the key here is to earn the respect of your audience.

2. Badmouth your competition

An unwritten law of communication is to not badmouth the competition, but somehow Larry Page sounds either condescending, like a douche (more on that in just a second) or plain clueless.

Wired: One area where people say that Google is indeed motivated by competition is the social realm, where in the past two years you have been working hard in a field dominated by a single rival, Facebook. That’s not the case?

Page: It’s not the way I think about it. We had real issues with how our users shared information, how they expressed their identity, and so on. And, yeah, they’re a company that’s strong in that space. But they’re also doing a really bad job on their products.

The part that really gets to me, is you can’t just throw stuff out like that without getting examples! It’s a whole other problem that the interviewer didn’t ask the obvious question: which Facebook products are you referring to? Wouldn’t that have made for a fascinating follow-up.

And it ain’t just Page; others in his “L Team” (yuck!) have done it earlier to which Jobs responded:

Just because you’re a competitor, doesn’t mean you have to be rude.

3. Sound like a douche

Finally, as I said earlier, you don’t wanna come off as condescending to your competition (or worse still) sound like a dick about your users.

Fortune: While the company has touted the success of Google+, its answer to Facebook, many analysts say they see little activity on the social network.

What you should want us to do is to really build amazing products and to really do that with a long-term focus. Just like I mentioned we have to understand apps and we have to understand things you could buy, and we have to understand airline tickets. We have to understand anything you might search for. And people are a big thing you might search for.

And so we think about it somewhat differently. We’re going to have people as a first class object in search. We need that to work, and we need to get started on it. If you look at a product, and you say the day it launched, “It’s not doing what I think it should do.” We say, “Well, yeah. It just launched today.” Part of this is you have to interact with it and you have to claim your name and make it work for you. And so I think for me I didn’t have any issues around that. I think that people weren’t focused on the long-term. And I think again it’s important if we’re going to do a good job meeting your information needs, we actually need to understand things and we need to understand things pretty deeply. People are a component of that.

As you can see in both instances people always seem to be “a component of” Google’s “need to understand things pretty deeply.” People are a necessary cog in Google’s need to “understand apps and things you could buy and they have to understand airline tickets.”!!!

Jobs on the other hand always began with the user in mind. Even in the example I gave above, he says:

One of the things I’ve always found is that you’ve gotta start with the customer experience and work backwards the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re gonna try to sell it.

And as recently as with his last interview at the D Conference, this is a word cloud of his responses and as you can see “People” figures quite prominently.

steve-jobs-d8-wordcloud

So if I can leave you with two last words, two more lessons from Jobs, it’d be transparency and consistency. Transparency because every word you say on stage has to be backed up by your product actions not the other way around. Consistency because what you say today should match with what you say in your last interview.

And that’s something we can all learn from Steve Jobs. Especially if you are a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company.

Filed under: Best-of, Larry Page, Leadership Communication, Public Relations, Public Speaking, , ,

Quora’s Vision, Competition

Quora’s Adam D’Angelo penned an interesting year-end post where he articulates Quora’s mission better than they’ve ever done before. As a huge fan of the site, I’m glad to see Quora returning to its roots.

Quora’s mission is to share and grow the world’s knowledge.

LIBRARY-OF-ALEXANDRIA

Much of Adam’s thoughts reminded me of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s The American Scholar, which predicts the beauty of Quora and its goals many years ago.

I read with joy some of the auspicious signs of the coming days, as they glimmer already through poetry and art, through philosophy and science, through church and state.

Instead of the sublime and beautiful; the near, the low, the common, was explored and poetized.

Give me insight into to-day, and you may have the antique and future worlds. What would we really know the meaning of? The meal in the firkin; the milk in the pan; the ballad in the street; the news of the boat; the glance of the eye; the form and the gait of the body; let me see every trifle bristling with the polarity that ranges it instantly on an eternal law; and the shop, the plough, and the leger, referred to the like cause by which light undulates and poets sing; — and the world lies no longer a dull miscellany and lumber-room, but has form and order; there is no trifle; there is no puzzle; but one design unites and animates the farthest pinnacle and the lowest trench.

That to me, was and is, Quora’s highest ambition: to educate, organize and share the world’s knowledge  from the sublime to the mundane (which is very different from Google’s “organize the world’s information.”) And, it was refreshing to read echoes of that in Adam’s recent post:

We hope to become an internet-scale Library of Alexandria, a place where hundreds of millions of people go to learn about anything and share everything they know.

Or as Emerson said from the users point-of-view:

The scholar is that man who must take up into himself all the ability of the time, all the contributions of the past, all the hopes of the future. He must be an university of knowledges.

Matthew Ingram over at GigaOm suggests this pits Quora with Wikipedia, while Owen Thomas is more like Google v. Quora. Frankly, it’s neither of them.

The battle lines are drawn. It’s knowledge platforms that Quora will find itself facing off.

1. Knowledge Platforms: The Old Guard

WordPress, Typepad, etc.

Frankly, any site or service that dabbles in knowledge dissemination is competition to Quora, the only difference here being Quora could be both the platform (like WordPress) and the connector (like Google). I’d have counted Answers sites in this mix but they’re either too niche (Stack Overflow) or dead (Yahoo! Answers and LinkedIn Answers).

So, blogs. There are close to 150 million blogs in the world with Google doing a pretty decent job of corralling that information, sometimes connecting the highest bidder with the rest of us with questions. But that’s not the market Quora is going after. It’s knowledge; a higher quality of information. And where do people share the knowledge they have – mostly on blogs and niche social networks. Think about this: the biggest drawback of most blogs is the ability to build an audience (the more influential, the better) but Quora is great at helping you find that audience and helps you connect with those who seek that knowledge (like Quora credits?)

But before they get there they need to scale their knowledge platform; hence, I’d guess, the push away from Q&A to everything that constitutes knowledge.

2. Knowledge Platforms: The New Wave

Svbtle, Medium & Branch.

Increasingly I’m seeing sites that aim to one-up the WordPresses of the world with “a curated collection of great people who have things to say, “a new way to talk to each other,” or “the sharing of ideas and experiences.”

Oddly enough, two of the above come from the House of Obvious Corp. (the brainchild of Twitter co-founders, Ev and Biz), both of whom “would rather build the next Wikipedia, than Zynga.” Guess who’s building the next Wikipedia – Quora.

While Branch forces us to take a second look at commenting systems, cryptic Medium seems to be aimed at publishers and media companies or something like that. Either way, all of the above are aimed at scaling the quality of knowledge that’s distributed on the internet. And by doing so they aim to become the Google at connecting knowledge with those who seek it.

You may notice I didn’t mention Tumblr because I feel they’ve carved out a unique niche for themselves far from either “quality” or “knowledge” by becoming a social entertainment platform with a specific audience (teenagers and time-wasters?), much like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post both of whom feed off of Tumblr.

3. Social Platforms: News and Blog Niche

LinkedIn Blogs, Facebook News

Much like Tumblr and Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have a distinct purpose that immunizes them against Quora. But increasingly, both of these social networking giants, especially LinkedIn seem to make subtle inroads into knowledge sharing. Heck, LinkedIn even recently launched a curated blogging platform. As LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner, says in his recent post “It’s Not Just Who You Know, It’s What They Know.”

I’m also personally looking forward to posting on a number of subjects I’ve grown passionate about during the course of my career: how to scale a company; the most valuable management lessons I’ve learned; thoughts about the future of work; how to close the skills gap; and many others.

Topics that you can find answers to on Quora along with the more mundane questions that professionals across the various spectrum have asked questions on, but LinkedIn’s scale makes this an interesting one to follow.

Granted, this is but a hobby for LinkedIn; their very own “Apple TV” but as I see it, 2013 is shaping up to be the year of knowledge networks.

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