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.

Tiger Prawn Mom

January 27, 2011 § 6 Comments

ti·ger prawn mom [tahy-ger prawn mom]
1. Mothers who, instead of of traumatizing her kids through musical instrument lessons, inflicts similar damage on their kids through excessive use of holistic health practices, hearsay through church bible groups or zen retreats, inconsistent disciplinary practices, strange rapport-building practices, insistence on serving home-grown fruits, and a ton of karaoke.
2. A failed prototype of Tiger Mom. « Read the rest of this entry »

Notable Quora Users

January 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

“Notable Quora Users” will be a regular feature on The Quora Review highlighting new or heretofore undiscovered interesting users.  It is currently curated by Lynn Tao, with help from many other people.

  • Gen Shibayama: full time real estate investor based in San Francisco. But most of my investments are in Austin TX. Specialized in short sale and seller financing transactions.
  • danah boyd: scholar, activist, half energizer bunny / half weeble
  • Will Schreiber: Sustainability consultant; ecological and carbon footprinting; supply-chain management; sustainability strategy; behavioural change; and communications.
  • Jonathan Kang: CPU Designer
  • Sridhar Ramesh: graduate student in the Logic program at Berkeley.
  • Jonathon Green: Slang lexicographer. Author: Green’s Dictionary of Slang.
  • Chris Gouveia: 4th year medical student UCSF.
  • Lukas Neville: Ph.D. Candidate, Organizational Behaviour (Queen’s School of Business)
  • Virginia Postrel: Editor-in-Chief at, biweekly columnist at WJS.
  • Steve Denton: Maths & theoretical physics graduate, IT professional, interested in all sorts of stuff.

Lynn Tao is a frequent Quora Lurker and an occasional Quora contributor.