A Brand New Social Community Where Inquiring Minds Run Wild
K. Boehret; January 19, 2011
If quick communications like Twitter's 140-character messages, Facebook status updates and text
messaging abandon you longing for larger discourse, you may be in luck. This week, I took a look
at Quora, a question-and-answer site that promotes considerate—even premieredconversations.
Quora (Quora.com) was launched about six months back by 2 former Facebook workers that wished to
develop a forum where in-depth questions could be posed and answered. Users vote responses up or
down based on how beneficial they are, the concept being that the best responses get pressed to
the top of the line by the community of users. Number of these questions can be answered using a
simple yes or no. For example, one topic requests, "What part did social media play with regards
to the revolution in Tunisia?"
As soon I signed up for Quora by submitting an email and password, I went through steps to
"follow" certain subjects that interest me—just like technology, journalism, media and news—so
whenever those topics are talked about, the related questions and answers appear on my Quora
homepage. I also connected my Twitter and Facebook accounts to my Quora account, that clued Quora
in on some topics or people that might interest me based on the details in those accounts. Once
these accounts are linked, it is a lot easier to share Quora queries or answers with people on
Twitter and Facebook.
People, like topics, can be followed. If someone I follow posts an issue, answers a question or
votes a solution up or down, this activity shows up on my Quora webpage.
Though Quora may sound easy, I found it uninviting, geeky and badly explained. The site lacks
instructions regarding how to use it; individuals have to decipher it out as they go. For
instance, a beginner might not know that Quora responses can be voted up or down by seeing 2
small triangles that show up beside every solution. If I pick the up triangle, this indicates I
voted for that reply, and news of this vote is shared on the Quora home page of anyone who
follows me. A number next to each answer indicates how many votes it has acquired so far. However
unless you've used the site for some time, you wouldn't know any of this.
After a couple of weeks of usage, I discovered I preferred using Quora less for prompting my own
questions and more for reading other's questions and answers regarding subjects I liked. I
sometimes voted on responses to show whether I promoted them or not. One user inquired about a
direct question, which I answered. I asked a thought of the Quora community, but nobody replied.
I found Quora's answers and questions to be fairly smart and entertaining. Its Silicon Valley
roots are apparent in its numerous technology-related answers and questions. I typed "tennis"
into a box towards the top of the screen and one of the very first questions that surfaced was
"Is tennis preferred in Silicon Valley?" Rather than that query, I picked "What's the background
of tennis's strange scoring system?" and read through the solution most abundant in ballots,
which appeared right to the very best of my understanding. Interestingly enough, this solution
also included a hyperlink to a connected article on Wikipedia.
But in contrast to the rest of the Web, in which images, videos, animations and sound entertain
readers, Quora's text-filled pages can come off feeling a little like textbook reading projects.
This is because all but a number of questions are responded to with simply text. Video is not
enabled on the website, though creator Charlie Cheever explained that this may be possible in the
More problems with Quora is that most people who use the Internet are trained to rely on search
engines like Google, Bing or Wikipedia for questions, typing the best keywords to find the
intended results. And individuals are often searching for fast answers that take just a couple of
moments to go through.
Plenty of different question-and-answer discussion boards are present, such as Yahoo Answers,
that has been around since 2005, ChaCha.com and Ask.com. Facebook introduced Facebook Questions
to a small number of its users over the summer, but when questioned, a business spokeswoman would
not state whether this particular offering will be open to all customers anytime soon, if ever.
Quora's combination of social networking (following topics and individuals) and in-depth answers
assists distinguish it from those services.
Private messages can be sent from one user to another through Quora, and new messages are showed
with a red number that appears over your individual "Inbox" at the top of the Quora site.
Similarly, when new notifications show up on the home page, a red number is shown above Home at
the top of the page. This home page can be viewed in one of three views: Your Feed, All Changes
or Followed Questions; users can toggle in between these types of views.
Only people who have produced accounts can browse the Quora.com site, though links to content can
be opened up by anyone. This is different from Twitter.com, which can be visited and explored by
anyone no matter whether or not they have a Twitter account. Quora additionally is lacking in one
main homepage where everyone is able to visit every Quora question and answer, or which answer
received the most votes on the entire site. Mr. Cheever told me that the site intentionally tries
to maintain your world small so you can concentrate on the topics or individuals you follow.
Quora relies on its community members to police one another, like Wikipedia, and fewer than one
hundred users may also be given administrator privileges to do much more serious operations like
removing responses which use hate speech or other offensive remarks, that are not allowed based
on the site's guidelines. Every change designed to a solution is logged within the Quora system
for everybody to view. This can help users understand an entry's background on Quora.
This site doesn't put much focus on conversation with others, though you're notified whenever
somebody follows you and you will be prompted to recommend topics for somebody who starts
following you. Like Facebook and Twitter, a listing of users whom you may want to follow is
suggested in Quora.
For the time being, Quora feels like a web site designed for techie insiders without having
instructions for general users. Nevertheless its intelligent community, interesting questions and
way of displaying users just the information they would like to observe will maintain people
returning to the site. With plenty of polishing, Quora might be a social network individuals use
every single day.