Cleaning up my Quora feed: experimenting with unfollowing all topics

February 15, 2011 § 2 Comments

By: Daniel Shi
A while back, I decided to clean up the clutter that I was starting to see in my Quora feed. Quora was something that I had grown incredibly addicted to when I first joined at the end of summer last year. But in recent months, the deluge of new users had started to dilute my experience.

I ended up trying an experiment: I would unfollow all topics. I got the idea from a post by June Lin. Usually, my stream on Quora was a mix of new activity on the topics that I followed (“China” and “Startups” I think were the most active) and the people that I followed. I would be cutting off all of the updates that would be coming in from the topics I followed.

When I was clicking thru and unfollowing more far flung topics, it was not a big deal. But when I started unfollowing the topics that I had grown attached to, I hesitated. Did I really want to unfollow “China”, “Venture Capital”, “Startups”, and “Christianity”? These were really great sources of information and stories for me. I was invested in them. But, in the end, click the unfollow button I did. Even those great discussion streams were starting to get a lot of traffic that I did not find particularly useful.

After about 2 weeks of using Quora, I started to notice a few things:

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I don’t use Quora, I play it.

February 14, 2011 § 3 Comments

By: Kartik Ayyar

I have never enjoyed writing.

I’ve never particularly been a heavy user of social networks either.

Yet, over the last year, I’ve written a fair amount on Quora and I’ve become fascinated by Quora despite being mostly immune to the charms of many other web based services.

I found myself asking the question “Why is Quora so addictive?”

How can a mere inanimate internet service empower me to crystallize floating thoughts in my head in a form suitable for writing and make my fingers convert them into answers?
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On Quora, Journalism and Disintermediation

February 10, 2011 § 74 Comments

By: Kim-Mai Cutler

When I turned down my parents’ Tiger Mom-like ambitions in favor of journalism years ago, the technology and media industries were worlds apart.

The best-known tech companies of my parents’ generation were plodding giants. Take Your Daughter to Work Day was kind of like this video of Conan O’Brien visiting Intel. Drab, gray cubicles. Rows of thousands of people staring endlessly into glowing black screens with command-line interfaces. It seemed draining and bureaucratic.

At the time, many news organizations could still afford to have foreign correspondents. I admired reporters like Anthony Shadid, who is writing from Cairo this week with a historical perspective, eloquence and empathy that few in the Western world can match.

Today, the worlds have switched places. Jobs like Shadid’s have all but disappeared. Now reporters are the ones who must stare into screens, hunting the confines of Tweetdeck or Quora for an extra nugget of insight or a quick hit that can meet their pageview goals.

Technologists are the ones who are giving voices to the voiceless and are able to tie people in distant corners of the world together in profound ways. On Instagram, I follow a young woman from Kazakhstan who one day randomly started following me. I see the world through her eyes – what it’s like to stand on the docks by the Caspian Sea, how the snows in Aktau still have yet to recede. I know that she has a long scar on her left-arm. From what? I have no idea. She says, “Sometimes it saves me.”
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Sex, Death, and Anonymity on Quora

February 9, 2011 § 4 Comments

By: Anon User

1. The Price

The price of sex, it turns out, is death.

Four billion years ago, the earliest life forms were born immortal and capable of reproducing alone, without any mating partners. Asexual bacteria, if given infinite food and space, could theoretically continue to reproduce and live forever; they would “continue clonal expansion through [their] progeny indefinitely….we would likely never find a single dead cell in such a culture.” [1]. Asexual bacteria do not gradually get older, become creaky, or die of natural causes; they do not senesce. When these organisms had the planet to themselves, the end of life was either predation or an accident.

Two billion years later, eukaryotes evolved when one bacteria was subsumed into and subjugated by another, resulting in a more metabolically complex organism. About a billion years after that, during the Stenian period, sexual reproduction between two cells arose for the first time [2]; for these lucky eukaryotes, their offspring would be genetically different from them (and from their mating partner), allowing their species to evolve and adapt to changing environments faster than their more chaste competition could.  With sexual reproduction came the first multicellular life, organisms capable of differentiating their cells into specialized functions, allowing them to scale up in both size and capability. All plant and animal life today is descended from these sexual pioneers.
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What Is This, A Cult?

February 8, 2011 § 13 Comments

By Mona Nomura 

“The cool kids and big egos of Silicon Valley are busy colonizing a new social network — and soon you may want to as well” – Daniel Lyons via Newsweek

I’m just gonna come out and say it. Quora is cult-ish.

Now before you Quoreans go all out postal, allow me to back up. In 2008 I stumbled upon a site called FriendFeed I quickly became addicted to. FriendFeed became an integral part of my life once I figured out how to use it, was accepted by the community and my posts received hundreds of LIKEs. So much so, every time people would pick FriendFeed apart and complain how it was hard to use. Or how it was too niche. Or how clique-ish it was, the criticisms felt personal. It would upset me how people just didn’t understand its greatness.

The things Quora power users say to defend Quora? Are the same things I’d say to defend FriendFeed: It’s not my fault you’re new to the site. Why are so many confused about FriendFeed? Using it is, well, common sense. So on and so forth; sound familiar? It’s okay if it doesn’t, I was in denial for a while too. It took almost three years to admit my love affair with an inanimate object — or product to be exact.

Now as much as I loved FriendFeed, my initial reaction to its community was: What is this, a cult? And Quora is very reminiscent of FriendFeed – from how I use the site (people who’ve known me for a while even pointed it out) to crowning a princess (I was known as the queen of FriendFeed haha)

Now you can argue Quora and FriendFeed are different products serving two purposes and yes, I agree. However, Quora and FriendFeed are crowd sourced, community driven products and the fundamental workings are very similar. « Read the rest of this entry »

Why Quora & Social Media Experts Don’t Mix

February 6, 2011 § 44 Comments

By: James Hritz

As the Quora user base has grown, along with much praise, has come some criticism. Specifically, many critics view Quora as a snobby, clubby, and intellectually elitist place. It seems much of the loudest criticism about Quora and it’s community and moderation policies come from a Twitter ecosystem creature known as the “social media expert/maven.”

If you are even a casual user of Twitter, I am sure you have seen the social media expert more than a few times. The profile looks something like this: Following 20,545, Followed by 20,100, and 10,000+ Tweets. This user’s tweet stream is populated by a steady stream of retweets and tweets of well-publicized articles from publishers like Techcrunch, Scoble, GigaOm, etc.  Up until December, this creature was conspicuously absent from the Quora community.  Before I go on, lets be clear that this is not an attack on those of you who would call yourselves “social media experts.” For reasons I will lay out, these users do play a valuable role in the Twitter ecosystem.
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Q&A of a Q&A’er: I Interview Jae Won Joh

February 6, 2011 § 4 Comments

By: Andrew Cheung

There are a number of people on Quora who make the place what it is.  Yet for their prolific efforts I found that I knew relatively little about themselves.  This is an experiment to learn more.

This week’s subject is Jae Won Joh, Quora’s resident medical expert.  Strap in and turn your Instapaper on, this one’s a doozy. « Read the rest of this entry »

Why Quora Is Not Wikipedia

February 3, 2011 § 128 Comments

By: Seb Paquet

“Perspective is worth 80 IQ Points” – Alan Kay

Wikipedia‘s mission is “to compile the sum of all human knowledge”. And it does so amazingly well. But exactly what is meant by “the world’s knowledge”? The simple and quick answer is validated knowledge. Established knowledge. Validated knowledge is immensely useful. Basically, it represents the solidified sum of human culture: all we can take for granted. Wikipedia reflects consensus reality, or tries very hard to do so. In this respect, you could say that Wikipedia is past-bound: it offers knowledge of what has been known.

However, there’s another segment of the world’s knowledge that is hazy and tentative. It is emphatically not validated. It is contentious. It is controversial. It’s messy. You could call it pre-knowledge. In pre-knowledge territory, conflicting points of view abound, and nobody’s quite sure what is true. This is the evolutionary edge of human culture.
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It’s Not My Fault You Are New to Quora

February 1, 2011 § 3 Comments

By: Jamie Beckland

A lot of people – especially new users – think Quora is hard to use. And the sign up process is not as easy as it could be (as David Pogue recently pointed out). But Quora’s initial wonkiness actually helps it be a better site.

Because when something is great, you should have to work a little bit to get it.
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