Unless you've been hiding under a rock you've probably at least heard of Quora. It has been particularly hot among technophiles in recent months.
When I joined, I noticed that within my Gmail address book it found only two technology startup CEOs. Both of them had interaction on their accounts and, knowing and respecting their level of tech/business savvy, it meant to me that Quora was something I should not ignore.
So I played for a short time then proceeded to ignore it anyway, for several months anyway.
Why are we really there?
Amidst all the flurry of activity I started posting again on Quora. Why?
In addition to considering it my business to know and understand any new relevant tool I didn't want to miss the boat. I actually think that this has more to do with why people are flocking to Quora right now. I also think it is probably going to be the very thing that ruins it.
Vivek Wadhwa recently wrote a piece "Why I Don't Buy the Quora Hype" and he made some great points. One sentence that invoked one of those "captain obvious" moments for me:
The quality of answers will decline.
Vivek also goes on to suggest a very different future:
What is more likely to happen and makes far more sense is that a new generation of private, gated communities will grow and evolve. This is where people with common interests will gather and exchange ideas.
Anecdotal evidence that Wadhwa is right about Gated Communities
If any of you were present on IRC networks back in the 1990's you will understand what Vivek was driving towards in his piece. In the mid to late 90's I participated on EFNET where a lot of IT geeks asked and answered questions about technology. When I joined it was relatively civil and by the time I left it was like a warzone with servers frequently disconnecting, getting attacked and channels being taken over. Where did we go next? We relocated with a small group to a private channel on a much smaller network that lives on to this day 10+ years later! Which reminds us all:
Gated communities have longevity.
You can find abundant questions about the number of upvotes on Quora having to do with everything from how good looking someone is to how famous they are. There is plenty of evidence that simple voting is not the best way to determine the best answers. To find out some insights on this I reached out to Hutch Carpenter at Spigit and he provided me with these insights about voting "weight" and community involvement:
Properly involving the crowd to identify top contributions is critical to a successful innovation community. If you only apply simple vote counts to identify top ideas, innovation is little more than a popularity contest. People earn reputations via peer responses to their contributions in the Spigit platform, which are used to weight their up-votes and down-votes. These weighted approval ratings go deeper than simple vote count, and help surface the best ideas which don't necessarily have the top number of votes. This fosters an innovation meritocracy and ensures that top ideas don't get overlooked.
As it sits today Quora is lacking this functionality and it will take time and great effort to produce better quality. They will of course have to achieve this while their system is being scaled up, challenged and gamed by users.