Some Problems Recently Observed by a Quora Newbie

March 9, 2011 § 6 Comments

I am moreover inclined to be concise when I reflect on the constant occupation of the citizens in public and private affairs, so that in their few leisure moments they may read and understand as much as possible.
– Vitruvius

Recently, a new Quora user wrote about her on-boarding experience in a post on Quora and subsequently asked the Editor to publish the piece on The Quora Review as well. Although the piece was ultimately not published, the user did bring up some interesting points. The Editor asked me to provide a shorter summary of the issues raised in the original post. You can find the original post here.

The user had initially anticipated finding a Q&A forum and, upon arrival, encountered a “vast repository of knowledge created by an intelligent eclectic mix of individuals,” capable of providing “deeper analyses and interpretation of issues.” However, a cursory interactive experience revealed some flaws worth examining:

  1. Quora professes a commitment toward civil discourse, yet its upvote system and the cliquishness of its “old users” readily rewards sensationalistic language and streamlines the cyber-bullying process, hurling vitriol at an often arbitrary chosen “enemy of the mob” (e.g. Dan Kaplan’s virtual lynching of Robert Scoble).
  2. Though self-promotion is frowned up on by the Quora Collective, the platform itself has benefited quite a few who have gamed the system through self-promotion. This sends a mixed message to those who are using a variety of tools to build their digital social presence.  Is the off-label usage of Quora encouraged or discouraged? What is the prescriptive usage of Quora even defined as? It is hard to decipher.
  3. Upvotes are the de facto currency on Quora. Opening up the membership means that members who have “earned social currency” outside of Quora are able to import their “social wealth,” shattering the myth of meritocracy held dear by the active Quora contribution base. This inevitably causes conflict between “old users” and “new users.”
  4. On the other end of the “new users” spectrum, some users find it hard to accumulate social currency on Quora for the following reasons:
    • unfamiliarity with UI
    • unfamiliarity with community contribution guidelines
    • unfamiliarity with or intimidation by the contribution quality expectations
    • intimidation by the perceived social exclusivity among “old users”
  5. Failure to integrate new users. It is easy to see how Quora may risk “losing some of tomorrow’s wheat along with today’s chaff.”
  6. Admins and Reviewers, though acting in good faith for the most part, take a very reactive approach. A more proactive approach in addressing growth would have both encouraged the “old users” to be more civil and accommodating towards “new users” and offered new members a less bumpy introductory experience to Quora.

The user observed that the persistence of these issues means integrating into the Quora community will continue to be daunting to many new users. Failing to address these concerns may be what keeps Quora in the “white-hot” startup dream, never realizing the “game-changer” status that it strives for.

§ 6 Responses to Some Problems Recently Observed by a Quora Newbie

  • Quora says:

    Some Problems Recently Observed by a Quora Newbie…

    I am moreover inclined to be concise when I reflect on the constant occupation of the citizens in public and private affairs, so that in their few leisure moments they may read and understand as much as possible. – Vitruvius Recently, a new Quora user …

  • Wow Lynn, nicely summarized.

  • John Bagnall says:

    Christie-Anne Barakat’s original post (up-voted some 65 times at the time of commenting) deserves to be read in full. Its tone may be acerbic at times and I can understand should it make uncomfortable reading for some, but the issues she raises demand serious consideration and I’m disappointed that the Review failed to grasp the opportunity.

    Moreover,the quotation from Vitruvius and reference to “the level of editing that would be involved” implies criticism of the original post as being overlong and/or verbose and/or inarticulate. Quite the opposite is true; word count and concision are not mutually exclusive, and the precis the Review has published, however well-intentioned, does the original little justice.

  • John Morrow says:

    This “summary” would be a lot better without the editorializing aimed at insulting the Quora user in question.

    Anyone actually interested in the questions Christie raised should go read her original post and not this snarky summary.

  • If you’re going to post it, post it.

    As an alternative, stand by your convictions and don’t post it.

    As a last refuge, post a rebuttal summarizing the points.

    The option here with the insulting first paragraph is just mean. It totally devalues what you’re attempting to do here with the Quora Review.

  • Tom says:

    I’ve been using Quora for a while and I can’t relate to a single point on this list. I mostly get up-votes or nothing and most of the down-votes I did get made sense in retrospect. I have no sense of my accumulated social capital on Quora and I don’t follow anyone as it just adds uninteresting topics to my feed.

    But cliques and their animosity towards groups and individuals are everywhere, are they not?

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