Quora: The Facebook for the inquisitive among us

quora

I must admit. Quora still baffles me. I’m flabbergasted at the willingness of people to provide such exhaustive answers to questions from posters, many of whom appear anonymous. It baffles me that Quora is also getting closer to a saturation point, meaning why bother answering questions that have already been upvoted a thousand times or more in the first place? Sort of like YouTube. Why make another video about video marketing to add to the already more than 5 million videos on the same subject? Yes, every profession in general grows and develops and there are more tips, tricks, strategies, etc.. to be learned and thus the content does need to be refreshed. But good luck trying to compete for it. It ain’t easy as Tara Hunt discovered in her quest for more publicity about herself and her new video marketing savvy but now appears to be enjoying some success at it.

Here is my first answer on Quora.

oldI received only one vote. I posted this answer back in 2012. It was when I first came across Quora. I chose to answer this question because it seemed so stupid of a question to even ask. I actually think it’s a pretty good answer. Did I spend hours on it? No. Did I spend months on it? No. Is it in anyway creative? No. Compare this answer to that of Stan Hayward. His answer was upvoted 11,000 + times. He included pictures of himself and received responses from people who just loved what he shared. Boy, I feel pathetic in my first attempt at answering a question on Q&A website.

What bothers me is just how much Quora is LOVED by those POWER USERS. You know, people like, David S. Rose, Prarthana Bhat, Aman Anand, Yishan Wong,  to name but a mere few who’ve each had more than 1 million views and thousands of votes to their collective responses on Quora. They find it to be the greatest platform for providing articulate and authentic content that is evaluated on its own utility. These avid Quora users describe themselves as “Quorans.”

You don’t need images or video to rank high or get voted to the top of Quora answers. Unlike Facebook which actively wants you to promote via imagery or video because you will get a higher view count or number of clicks rather than just posting one long essay. Google seems to enjoy Quora. What sort of deal did Adam D’Angelo strike with Google? Why does Google consider Quora a qualitative and authentic portal of content to feature some of its results at the top of their search algorithm? Answer.

David S. Rose provided a solid answer about why he spends so much time on Quora. I shall repost now without his approval but am linking to it just the same:

davidrose

I responded to David’s original answer to the Quora thread about how Quora makes money. He gave a concise answer and then I followed-up again asking him if he truly has received investment opportunities by virtue of his presence on Quora. He responded with an emphatic yes. But then, David is a bit of “hotshot,” isn’t he? He runs his own VC firm, is an angel investor, an “Inc. 500 CEO,” etc… I’m not sure he’s the standard by which to compare other Quora profiles.  Or is he? Actually, Quora attracts some very serious intellects, exceptionally talented and accomplished individuals. I’d almost call these people “Type A,” or in this case, “Type A+++.”  Good luck to you if this somehow inspires you. For some reason, I’m left wondering why bother?

So, it appears Quora has not pulled a “fast one” on those who might still be a touch too cynical about providing something for free because you truly want to help or it’s out of the goodness of your own heart. Sincere respondents fill the answers of Quora by flexing their literary talents, crafting content they’ve spent hours upon, fine tuning for posting to the 100+ million monthly Quora visitors.

Quora is an intellectual exercise that gratifies many of those “nerds” who use it for precisely that reason. In reviewing David’s response, the one item I find a tad disingenuous is that you frankly can waste quite a bit of time on Quora. Yeah, you can review answer after answer after answer and by the end of it, I’m like…so what?  Actually, I found myself growing restless with Quora, mainly because I find it to be one big vanity project serving those individuals who like to compete and stand out among their peers and seek gratification for its own ends rather than finding it through serendipitous means. The biggest contributors love to be recognized as “experts” in their field. Just ask Raj Ramanan, who openly admits this in his first response to why people answer questions on Quora.

RajRamanan

So much for humility. In addition, Quora purposefully lends itself towards competition as respondents compete for best answers as voted upon by the general public. It’s strokes the ego and promotes one’s brand. Facebook is certainly less an intellectual exercise given its appeal to mass media consumption. You’re less likely to see cute animal videos on Quora, for example, than on Facebook. Oops! Wrong again

Quora, for the time being, encourages a more thoughtful approach towards answering questions relying upon the written word and less upon image or video content. Not that images are not used in responses. It’s just that Quorans, in general, (or so it seems to me) like to spend more time crafting a measured and comprehensive response. It’s the competition, however, that sets me off. Contributors, if voted by enough fans, can earn the title of “top writer.” I mean, I understand giving credit where credit is due but am I on Quora because I only want to read responses from the “top writers?”  Or am I on it because of the wealth of human experience that I can find, even if that answer is not from a “top writer?”

It bills itself as the “the best answer to any question.” Advice is generally free. And it’s worth as much as you value it. The same applies to Quora. There are some spectacular answers to questions and it is a relatively new platform to explore when searching for answers to serious questions that are on your mind.

But even someone like David S. Rose admits he spends an “absurd” amount of time on Quora. He’s sort of become a “partner” similar to YouTube’s partners even though Quora doesn’t currently have a program like that in place for its leading contributors. I think what continues to bug me, like pretty much anything in our social darwinist world is how people compete for best answer. It just annoys me. Even if I were to like a response by someone who obviously spent hours or even months to craft the most superlative answer possible, I still see it as one huge ego-driven project. One example is Physics Professor Richard Muller of UC Berkeley. Muller is on Quora what seems like constantly. It’s like he’s out to corner the market on answers that relate to physics. He provides some excellent answers, of course. Good luck trying to compete with him if you think you have knowledge about physics that surpasses what he’s already contributed.

In the end, maybe it’s all sour grapes. I admire those who have bothered to share their knowledge in crafting a thoroughly engrossing response to a particular question. Though there are some terribly stupid questions that I don’t see why anyone would waste time answering. I also noticed that there seem to be a lot of Indians who love Quora. Quora’s director of engineering is Tanya Shrivastava and she’s completely obsessed with the platform, admitting she looks for “interesting answers and goes on upvoting sprees.” One added note. Just to give you a sense of how Quora speaks to the “inner geek,” take a look at this response by Elizabeth Knopf on the question, “Why is e-commerce such a hot area in venture capital right now?”  Do you even dare try to compose an answer that competes with hers?

Quora is a for-profit company and it’s a venture-backed to the tune of 150 + million dollars.  What will become of it?

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