Today I learned about Quora. Quora is an online Q&A service which launched publicly in June 2010, and provides a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited and organised by its (expert) users. I had heard lots of people raving about it, so I just wanted to see for myself whether it was worth all the hype.
My answer is: yes, Quora is definitely worth getting excited and evangelical about. Not that Quora is trying to change the world but I do think that it could be very effective in achieving its lofty aspiration of creating “a database of knowledge (…) with almost everything anyone wants to know”.
The basic concept is simple: users can post questions and answers or select specific users, topics or questions they wish to follow. Once you’ve selected a topic (e.g. through linking up with the “likes” in your Facebook profile) relevant info will be highlighted for you.
It’s not so much this ‘filtering’ aspect that makes Quora stand out for me. I really like the way in which Quora has implemented the ‘live engagement’ aspect of many good social networks and features:
- Vote on the quality of answers given – Users can vote up and down on the quality of the answers given. It’s interesting to see the votes rolling in on particularly engaging questions.
- See who else is answering a question whilst answering – I really like the live engagement display that shows who is answering a question while they are answering it.
- Suggest edits to improve the quality of answers – There is a clear collaborative component to Quora, users can suggest edits to an answer and almost any public space can be edited by other users.
I guess the main challenge for Quora is twofold. Firstly, to keep up the quality of the answers provided. Ultimately, this is what will drive users to engage with Quora, learning from quality answers to their questions or a topic of interest. Secondly, will Quora be able to stave off competition from the likes of Yahoo’s Answers and Facebook Questions?
I like to think that Quora stands a very good chance of carving out a scalable niche in this area, focusing mostly on the more detailed and ‘intellectual’ answers, provided by a designated group of knowledgable and dedicated users.
Main learning point: Quora is an exciting new tool. I love the idea of it creating an “online knowledge market” and I can see lots of people benefiting from the information provided and from the interaction with other (expert) users.
Related links for further learning: