Are all questions equal everywhere?

March 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

By Net Jacobsson

As Quora is rapidly growing out of its Silicon Valley nest and is spreading its wings across the world, the question is: How will Quora deal with internationalization? Having experienced facebook’s internationalization efforts at first hand, I am intrigued by what approach Quora will take when the right time comes. After all Quora is a very different animal than Facebook.

Anybody who has been involved in internationalization efforts knows that it stretches far beyond than just translating a bunch of strings into a new language. It is said that, every translations is a new interpretation, but I wonder, is every question equal everywhere?

Assuming that Quora will crowd source the translation in a similar way to facebook , I dont’ think that the translation in itself is going to be much of an issue. I think the question the questions of identity and cultural sensitivity is going to be more challenging. That is, if Quora wants to stay close to it current identity.

Will Quora suffer from multiple personality disorder?

While Quora currently is perceived as an almost elitistic-like Q&A site colored by what is important in Silicon Valley , i.e. focused on  technology, venture capital, startup gossip and entrepreneurism. I can’t help to wonder if that “identity” is scaleable ? And even if it is, is that something that Quora could and should strive to guide & maintain at any price? Will Quora embrace and encourage multiple identities throughout different markets even if their nature might be very different from its original identity ? How will Quora deal with turning into a site where the questions and answers will be centered around political views and religious orientations rather than technology, startups and venture capital ? How will Quora deal with two politically opposed groups lashing out against each other in a fierce Q & A battle in Iran? Monitoring and managing the active Quora community members to ensure that they uphold and follow Quora HQ policy can be tricky. One the one hand, you’d like the Quora community to set the tone and give them “editorial” freedom within reasonable limits. On the other hand, what if that goes out of hand in a direction contrary to Quora’s original vision? Is that good or bad? It begs the question: Will Quora be able to live with multiple “personalities” ?

How will Quora deal with cultural sensitivity?

Are all questions equal in every country and region? What can you ask where? Are there questions that are off limits in certain regions for political, religious or cultural reasons ? If so, how would the Quora community deal with them?  What is irony in Bahrain and what is offensive in Poland? What is a sarcastic question in Italy and what constitutes a leading question in Russia? When does a question become antisemitic in Germany and racist in France? Can you ask how to make a Cheese burger in Israel, or where to find a bar in Saudi Arabia? Would it be offensive to ask where to buy contraception in Italy? Moreover, who will monitor the editors to ensure that the strike the “right” balance?

How will Quora deal with privacy and data protection in different countries?

If you’ve ever been involved in growing a company internationally, you know that it will come sooner rather than later. The privacy backlash. The data protection headaches. Every country has their own issue with privacy and data protection and Quora will have to comply with local laws and regulations  in each and every market they operate in. The question is, can a question be illegal in certain countries? Likewise, can an answer be illegal in some countries?  What will Quora do if it gets a request from the FBI via a foreign government to share the private data on one of its citizens for having asked “sensitive” questions? And if so, how will Quora protects its users from getting into trouble? These are just a handful of questions that comes to my mind when thinking about what challenges Quora might face with regards to internationalization.

The mother of all questions is: How will Quora approach internationalization?

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