I try to keep my eye out for new websites and my ear to the ground. However, not all new websites catch my attention. It’s impossible given the cambrian like explosion of new blogs, social websites, and online innovation.
What I look at are websites that are interesting to me or have an interesting/unique concept. Another important factor are the people behind the website.
Now, Quora was interesting because the team is made up of ex-facebookers. Not just ordinary employees at Facebook but “Adam D’Angelo, who was previously CTO and VP of engineering at Facebook, and Charlie Cheever, who led Facebook Connect and Facebook Platform”.
So I signed up to Quora a while back, and one day a beta invite popped up in my inbox.
Beta invites are cool because they are not open to the general public and you need to sign up and register your interest. Websites are in beta for a number of reasons, one of these is that they are still in development and might not be able to handle the load if it was open to the public. Having a beta limits the number of users and allows them to get feedback and develop iterations rapidly. The other thing is that it generates a level of excitement in tech geeks who think they have exclusive access (see @inspiredworlds).
Que es Quora? (What is Quora?)
According to the website:
“Quora is a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it. The most important thing is to have each question page become the best possible resource for someone who wants to know about the question.”
The closest analogy I can come up with is Yahoo Answers. Quora aims to be the best place to find answers or knowledge about a topic. They do this by having the community ask questions, and having the community answer it. Sounds like any forum right ala stackoverflow, or a wikipedia or google’s attempt at knol.
A particular feature is that certain people have expertise in an area, so their answer should be given more weight. The analogy Quora likes to use is if Michael Jordan answers a question about basketball, its not the same if you or I answer the question (though I do claim to know a lot about bball!). Clearly, an expert that answers a question knows a lot more about the topic.
In addition, the community can vote up the answer similar to a forum. The community can also edit the question, summarize answers, categorize, etc…similar to wikipedia. Quora tries to use people with real profiles and real names.
Here is an example below of a question about Firefox’s growth:
Right now, there a lot of interesting questions and insightful answers being posed like the above pic. Mostly, they have a tech skew because these are generally the first adopters of these kind of websites. The quality of the answers and the experts answering them are also really good. You can see in the example above, one of the original co-founders of Firefox answered, then the current CEO, and a bunch of people that use to work there or developers that have worked with it.
So much of the web is uncategorised. When you search in google, you are presented with web pages that best match your keywords. It might not actually ANSWER your question or search intent. What Quora is trying to do is create some sense of order in the web by having the community organise it, and giving priority to experts. The community also help shapes the answers by giving feedback.
Here is an example of a question I answered on Yammer. I corrected the person below who answered Blellow as a competitor. Yes, most people would see it as a competitor but its actually a different service.
One of the issues that I have is that right now there are a lot of really good answers from credible people at lot of tech companies. What will happen when Quora scales? When the questions drift away from tech, will the quality of questions and answers decline? Will it become like Yahoo Answers?
Honestly, I find Yahoo answers a bit of a hit and miss. It comes up often in google searches, but there are a lot of crass comments as well useless junk in there. Much will depend on the quality and willingness of Quora’s community to curate and moderate the content.
You can find a lot of interesting and insightful comments all over the web. Its buried in blogs, forums, reviews, wikis. A major problem is that you don’t know how authoritative or useful that information is. I mean, you can’t believe everything you read on the web right? You don’t know who posted that information or who answered a question, what their experience is with the subject matter. Maybe Quora will help bring some categorisation + order + expertise into topics.
As of this moment, this website is best described as Yahoo Answers meets Wikipedia, with a dash of facebook engineering =)
I’m out like beta invites,