Quora – Some Quick Thoughts

When I see the excitement and 24/7 coverage of Quora lately, these song lyrics jump in my head:

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear

The rest of the song doesn’t really fit — but the buzz and sense of wonderment is ever present. From the people I talk to, nobody seems to know exactly why this is happening with Quora — a relatively young questions & answers site — but it’s growing fast and attracting great people.

Here is a good example by way of a tweet on how people are feeling about Quora 😉

No doubt, the site is solid, well built, and takes advantage of the facebook/twitter socialgraph in a very smart way. But Q&A sites have been around for a while, and most haven’t become a part of my day-to-day the way Quora has lately.

For me, the signal/noise ratio is incredibly high, and from it’s early days, it’s felt like a site for us internet industry people — lots of questions about startup life, funding, and valley specific stuff. I think a bunch of hand curation is going on to keep things very clean and smart. Here is a great recent example that I just wouldn’t expect to find on other q&a sites – and with people I know and respect answering the question: I run a SaaS company that just turned profitable…

But there are some mysteries too. For example, I hadn’t logged in for a few weeks, and when I did, I had over 150 followers — and was pretty sure I had close to 0 only a few weeks ago. How did these people find me ? I haven’t answered any questions yet — only voted up a few answers. Part of the answer might be because of this thread which alluded my google alerts for my own name: Who are the best business development people in Silicon Valley? (nice to just be mentioned among some of these rockstars).

The other mystery to me is that all these Quora pages are indexes in Google, but didn’t trigger a google alert — so maybe Google doesn’t see these responses to some of the questions. But where is the follower discovery happening ? Could it be just the facebook/address book import plus that sidebar ? Maybe ? Reminds me a bit of Instagram too — these social graphs grow very quickly now, without a ton of in-your-face promotion.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this develops. I don’t quite see a general q&a site taking off – in that it gets diluted like some of the previous q&a efforts, attracts lots of spam, and most importantly it’s hard to trust people from outside your industry — you just can’t be sure they are subject matter experts. It also feels like niche sites win over time — if I want travel/hotel advise I’m still checking out tripadvisor.com. If I’m researching a new gadget, I’m heading to gdgt.com . But maybe this time it will be different. I can’t wait to see how this turns out.

4 thoughts on “Quora – Some Quick Thoughts

  1. For example, I hadn’t logged in for a few weeks, and when I did, I had over 150 followers — and was pretty sure I had close to 0 only a few weeks ago. How did these people find me?

    This may be a new thing that your membership pre-dates, not sure, but when you authorize it to access your Twitter account Quora will auto-follow anyone that you currently follow on Twitter. That may explain where they came from.

    The auto-following isn’t entirely obvious, or wasn’t to me at least, so I was surprised and somewhat embarrassed when it happened.

    • ahh — maybe that explains it, but not sure if they had that when I signed up. But I also didn’t get email notifications when someone followed me, but after logging in last week I started getting them and ended up turning them off. To me a ‘follow’ means that someone took explicit action to get your updates/activities.

  2. Agree with most of your sentiments, though having spent some time in q&a, I think they’re doing a lot of things right and creating an incredibly viral channel by drawing in the early adopters and industry folk, who they regard as the most influential. The product is simple and doesn’t try to do too much early on. I had a similar experience with logging in and seeing tons of new followers despite minimal activity. Facebook Connect and Twitter OAuth make that easy today. Keep in mind, Trip Advisor is notorious for spam and inside reviewers skewing the rankings. They’ve buit a valuable property, but the rankings don’t always add up. Quora seems to be sidestepping the spam by targeting influencers first. We’ll see how long it lasts.

    • ya, definitely some smart viral stuff going on — and just the ability to share that you’ve answered a question via twitter and facebook makes a big difference.

      And agreed that spam is a huge issue and your comments on tripadvisor are definitely true. I guess my larger point is that subject matter experts have tended to congregate around fairly niche sites. Another good example — if you want info on buying a new TV, I bet you’ve spent time on http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/ 😉

      But it could be different this time, and as a platform, as we have done with WP.com, you can definitely have thousands and millions of verticals / sub communities thriving on one platform.

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