Que es Quora?

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.

quora v2

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,

Matthew Ho.

Projections for ’09: A good year?

After completing the lengthy 2008 post,  I’m going to write briefly about 2009 so far and what I hope to do.

From a professional perspective:

– Work more with websites. I would like to work with Umbraco, Sitecore, Reddot, Fatwire etc.., which are open source content management systems. More like finding out what the client wants, developing a strategy and design, managing the build and overseeing the process.

– Online Display Advertising – I’ve very keen to look at stuff like banner ads, learn about adblaster, open ex ad serving and the like.

– Become involved with social media. I would like to experiment with online marketing campaigns involving social media. I haven’t done any yet, but I am eager to do a viral campaigns using Youtube, social bookmarking, etc….I’m really into social media from a personal perspective because its interesting. However,  it’s hard to see how it can be monetised & the commerical appeal – there’s no real formula.

– I’ve started up a work basketball team @ Alexandria. Unfortunately, I’ve sprained my ankle but hope to be back soon. It’s the first sports team @ Next Digital, Sydney so should be an interesting ride.

– I’m attending a few events in the next month or so:

I would like to attend events,  every now and then to hear industry thoughts, meet people, etc…The event that I really want to attend is Wiki Wednesdays if they ever hold it again. Its for people that are involved in wikipedia’s which leads to……..

– Working on a wiki using Confluence. Its my pride and joy at the moment, and I’m currently the residential expert. I hope to evangelise a wiki culture into our business and show others how to use it. It was my suggestion back in October when I posted about it on my internal work blog, and it slowly coming to fruition.

– continue to find out more about folksonomies, search engines, cloud computing (my favourite topic area at the moment), and RSS.

– I currently have an allocation of work time to study search engines and I will be going for the Google Advertising Professional Exam.

– I hope to find a mentor at work or outside of work.

From a personal perspective

– I would like to do some travelling this year around Australia. I’ve seen so much of the world (Europe, states, Asia, etc.) but I’ve never seen Ayers Rock, WA, Great Barrier Reef, etc… This year I will tick one of them off my list.

– International travel – if not this year then the next. I just had a look at tickets to South America, maybe somewhere like Brazil or Peru would be cool.

– Get my own car & move out!! These two things have long been overdue. They both will be done (or a least one!) by the end of the year.

– I would like to sign up for this local mentoring service. I saw a notice at the library asking for mentors, and I feel like I could help someone. I also believe that I should do some volunteer work if I can find the time (there always is time, I just can’t find it :P)

– Fix up this website and get a proper website. It’s ok having a stock standard blog, but I would like to upgrade the website.

– Sign up for a gym – something I’ve also been meaning to do. I have the form on my desk and was about to complete it, but then my ankle injury hit.

I’m out like moving out,


My first customised digg result: Building a blog cheatsheet

I mentioned previously that I had subscribed to the Digg’s RSS feeds. I now get updates on my twitter account by the minute and also in my Google reader account. The other interesting RSS feed i subscribed to was a customised search on “social media”. The purpose was to find out what people were “digging” or recommending as interesting social media websites.

Initially I was quite disappointed, because nothing came in over several days. I kept checking back into my Google reader account and there was nothing. However, this result came in and its a beauty. It’s about how to find the top blogs and the top posts within those blogs. Then on a systematic basis, you only subscribe to those top posts. Basically, it a social media cheat sheet.

It’s looks incredibly useful. I probably do some of the steps in trawling for new blogs and adding the feeds, but this directs you to the top posts within those blogs. I also probably haven’t fully exploited the usage of social bookmarking and readers.

I’m out like blog cheat sheets,

Matthew Ho.

It’s Official – I’m a shareaholic

You’ve probably seen that I’ve been sharing a lot of stuff lately over Facebook. I’ve also been sharing items through Twitter, Delicious and Google reader. The problem I had was that these were all separate accounts located on different websites, so you had to log in everytime. I was looking for a Delicious plugin for my browser, but I discovered something much greater…..

There’s a firefox plugin called “Shareaholic“, which has made sharing a whole lot easier. It gives you this little green icon on your browser, and from the drop down menu you can select which sources you want to share it on (like twitter, facebook, etc…).



Its an ingenious application, which is only made possible through Mozilla open source for firefox, the various API’s (application programming interface), and the hardwork of developers. So I’m giving something back to these guys by giving them a shoutout!

Great work! Try it out here.

I’m out like Shareaholics,

Matthew Ho.


The Wisdom of Crowds (with bookmarks)

You’ve probably seen these symbols at the bottom of a webpage and you’ve wondered what they were:


Well they are social bookmarks and reader feeds. It enables you to share the items with other people and to also subscribe to the website for updates. Lately, I’ve been really into bookmarks and I don’t mean the kind you put into books.  I’ve previously written about social bookmarking, tagging, taxonomies and folksonomies.

But essentially, for the uninitiated, social bookmarking is a way to publicly share bookmarks (i.e. websites). So instead of just saving it to your internet brower in “book marks”, your letting the world know what your interested in.

Initially, I thought it was pretty cool because I get to access my bookmarks wherever I am. Whether I’m using firefox or IE, at home or a work, on my desktop or laptop, in Australia or overseas. I was saving all my websites onto a webpage for all to see and for me to refer back to. But that was just for my own benefit. However, social bookmarking was wider benefits:

1. Quickly see what websites / newstories / trends are popular

I’m starting to on a regular basis scan the top ranked stories on Digg and Delicious to see what’s happening. With Digg and other social bookmarking websites, the more people that “digg” the article (recommend it) or save the article, the higher it moves up the ranking. It’s very useful to seeing pop culture trends.


For example Digg was able to call the US election well before the opinion polls with credible evidence. It had an option where you could “digg” whether you voted for Obama or McCain. Of course, it was a little bit skewed since people like me voted in the Digg election, but it had a basis for calling the election in Obama’s favour given his popularity on being recommended on Digg. Another skewing factor is that a proportion of Obama voters tended to be younger and more technologically savvy than McCain voters.

2. Results in finding more interesting articles that are relevant to you

There’s a team of thousands if not millions of people on Digg, Delicious, Slashdot, Stumbleupon trawling the web, so more people are going to find more interesting content. The web is an enormous place, kinda like a massive goldfield. When someone finds something, by bookmarking, they are letting the world know that this is interesting to them and they want to share it with other people. By bringing attention to it, they are drawing other people to their discovery and if they find it interesting, they’ll share it with even more people creating a multipler effect. So more interesting discoveries are found.

It becomes more relevant because users can apply tags, categories, and comments to the things they save. Essentially, its like trawling the web with a team of people that are cataloging it into a library. The benefit of a social bookmark like Delicious is that users can write their own tags (similar to labels) for websites. For example, I might come across a website with a DVD review of the TV series Entourage. So I will label it as “Entourage”, “HBO”, “DVD review”, and other relevant labels.  So when you browse categories for TV shows or Entourage or DVD reviews, that website would come up. You can funnel the search so your only looking at stuff in that category. If I am only interested in Entourage, then only search results labelled as “Entourage” by users would come up.

You can also follow the bookmarks of like minded people and also share them with groups. Say for example, you and your friend have similar interests such as hip hop, basketball, travel and instead of sending the websites back and forth, you can see the websites that he or she is saving. Or if you are working in a team on an academic project, everyone in the team can see the collective links that are being saved.

Which leads to……..

3.  Better search results, creating a more perfect search engine

Some proponents like myself think that having more chefs in the kitchen, will over time generate better tagging (labelling), offerring a more refined search engine. This is because users can elect to search exclusively within Delicious, Digg or other social bookmarks, and find things that actual users have tagged as opposed to Google’s web crawl agent which uses mathematical algorithims. Actual users will decide what category a website belongs in and what keywords to associate with it.


The problem is that this system of taxonomy (the science of classification) relies on the individual user and there are often no rules around it. Going back to our previous example, I might label the above website as “tv series” or even mistakely as another tv show. Different people will apply different tags according to their views, perspectives, and tagging patterns. Some people are more comprehensive in their tagging while others might tag at a minimal level.


If there are enough users, over time and through the collective wisdom of a group of people, more popular tags will rise to the top. If 1,000 people tagged the website, then more likely than not, they will develop a set of tags which have consensus. For example, Delicious will recommend to users certain keywords to tag, assisting in developing group consensus. Again, a lot of this will depend on how many users they are in the social bookmarking network.

Catch me if you can

For me, the main thing now is sharing with other people the websites that I am interested in and having a reference to go back to websites that are interesting to me.  You can find me on:


I also have a Stumbleupon account but I don’t use it much. And I’m starting to get into the subculture of Digg. Check it out here.  What I have also done is added Digg to my twitter account. So I get frequent updates on the top stories on Digg with over 2,000 Diggs – its basically my way to keep my pulse on what’s hot. I also subscribe to an RSS feed for the top results for “Social Media” for Digg.

I’m out like saving bookmarks,

Matthew Ho.

p.s. Check out the music on Delicious! You can listen to hip hop music feeds.