Sorry, Scoble, Quora is not your playground

January 30, 2011 § 86 Comments

By: Dan Kaplan

“This used to be my playground. This used to be my childhood dream. This used be the place I ran to…whenever I was in need.”   -Madonna

So Robert Scoble, it seems you don’t like the heat. In the bygone days of what feels like ten minutes ago, you, the ubiquitous tech evangelist, larger-than-life personality and Rackspace blogger, couldn’t stop gushing about how great Quora was. Was Quora, you asked in the halcyon age of last December, the biggest blogging innovation in 10 years? Of course it was. Back in them days and throughout January, you could post answers to a wide range of questions and your ardent Twitter followers could upvote them en masse and each upvote and congratulatory comment could generate that awesome squirt of dopamine in your brain. And wasn’t it grand?

But, my, how quickly things can change.

This morning, after seeing some of your favored Quora answers down-voted into oblivion and experiencing the anonymous sting of an overzealous reviewer, you decided to lash out. Quora, you wrote, was  “a horrid service for blogging.” Sure, you said, “it’s fine for a QA site, but we have lots of those.” As if to administer a finishing move, you added that Quora’s competitors are actually bigger and better and badder – especially Stack Exchange, where “the answers are broader in reach and deeper in quality.”

Well, sorry, Scoble, Quora is not your playground.

You see, back in the way-back days for Quora, around the time you wrote the site off as just another “damn thing on the internet,” the community/reviewer/admin nexus was quite good at ensuring that the highest quality answers were the ones at the top. But when you decided that Quora would actually be an excellent place to exercise your influence, the Scoble Effect kicked in. And while the Scoble Effect can be a wonderful thing for a startup – see Flipboard – in a finely balanced ecosystem like Quora’s, it has landed like a Category 5 hurricane.

This is not really your fault: Quora’s auto-follow logic was not built for edge cases like yours – cases that have 125K+ followers attached to their social graphs. The logic that made early Quora’s on-boarding experience so effective has transformed your Twitter army into your Quora horde. And this horde has been rampaging like a bunch of 12th Century Mongolians.

These raiders, insensitive to the cultural norms of the civilization they are pillaging, give you up-votes despite your fluffy rambling, despite the showy photos and links to yourself that you stuff into your answers, despite the names you drop with catastrophic aplomb. They vote up your shit because that’s what hordes do when they are yours.

The consequence has been a number of prominent questions where your answers rise to the top, leaving the objectively more sophisticated answers languishing below the fold.

Well, Robert, no civilization likes to be raided by Mongols. On a long enough horizon, its constituents will develop better defenses, build bigger alliances and do what they can to mitigate the damage from the raids.

Sometimes, in the rush to combat the chaos, a reviewer or two will get out of line. And the fact that he or she can anonymously shut down a popular answer with no clear means of recourse is surely unfair. But Quora is young, yet, and the minds behind the site are hard at work designing a salve for its growing pains.

Until the salve can be applied, I implore you: tame your ego, chill out with the fluffed-up rambles, the pointless photos and the naked self-aggrandizement. Exercise restraint. You may find that the community will stop treating you as a hostile Khan, stalking its frontiers from the Social Media Steppe. It may even come to embrace your presence, sending you up-votes as tribute for your newly peaceful disposition and the positive parts of the Scoble Effect.

Dan Kaplan is a Quora aficionado. You should follow Dan on Quora.

§ 86 Responses to Sorry, Scoble, Quora is not your playground

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