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:

  • The quality of the answers increased dramatically. I came near the end of the early adopter phase for Quora. It was still early enough to be able to find and curate very high quality Quorans that post thoughtful, analytical, and very long answers to equally thoughtful questions. These are folks like Yishan WongXianhang ZhangMarc BodnickShannon Larson (she really does listen), Brandon Smietana, etc. Since I was following people I generally liked, my stream of content was also the content that they liked (or upvoted) or answered. Quora generates a lot of empty questions that awkwardly float by, hoping for an answer. Oftentimes they receive answers that are throw aways that don’t have the gravitas to rise to the top.
  • The quality of the questions also increased. Meaning questions that had yet to be answered. This can be attributed to many of the people I followed following questions that they found interesting.
  • In terms of broad topics, I found it limited. Most of my topics were along the lines of tech startups, Silicon Valley, etc. Again, this is not surprising. I joined Quora just as they were ramping up new invites. Most of the people who came before me were either in Silicon Valley, working in tech, or somehow related to the brainy and wonky parts of the world. Since they make up the bulk of the people I follow, that tends to be the bulk of the Q&A that comes thru my stream. (BTW, if you want to dive into a very interesting read on the virality and spread of social networks, check out this Inc. interview of Jonathan Abrams:, Founder of Friendster, especially page 5, when they talk about “Patient Zero” in the Philippines.)
  • But, good new stuff still comes thru. For example, I got the following two items in my stream just now: Poverty: Which is harder: being poor in America or being middle class in the developing world? and What does it feel like to be stupid? Although… there seems to be somewhat of a theme developing in my feed of certain privileged smarties wondering what life is like if some life variables hadn’t been cast in their favor.
  • I found myself answering less and less. This was actually a question posed to me when I first said I might try something like this by Jane Huang (another great user to follow) on Facebook. What ends up happening is that many of the questions that pass thru my way end up being answered by some Quora powerhouses and I feel a little inadequate to respond. I know, I know, it’s not a popularity contest, but in many ways, social media can be a harsh reflection on our own insecurities. When you have a feed of answers all with upvotes north of 300… you end up looking at yourself and wondering just what kind of content you can put out there?

There is a trade off in this experience. On the one hand, you are getting excellent content. If you curate the people you follow well, they act as a smooshy kind of filter so that what you see is high quality.

Ultimately, I have found this to be a great method of managing my Quora content since I am happy being a consumer of content, rather than a creator, for now. Right now, as I am about to hit the steeper slope of the business school workload, I am ok with being a consumer. Plus, I can tell the stuff we talk about in business school isn’t really what the average Quoran (in my network anyway) is that interested in ;-).

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