> First Impressions of Quora

First Impressions of Quora

Posted on Saturday, January 8, 2011 | No Comments

As I start to notice trends in how people flock to new Internet services, as a digital explorer, I very much like to sign up and give them a go myself for two reasons, the first is to see what all the fuss is about and secondly to see what that new service is designed to disrupt.

The most obvious service that I tried and stuck with is Twitter. I certainly wasn’t one of the first people to sign up to the service, but I certainly created my account before the hype really took off and it became mainstream to millions of users. This meant I saw a lot of the fuss being made about Twitter firsthand and I’ve also seen just how much disruption it has caused to so many industries; IT, technology, media, marketing, advertising, etc.

The chatter that I’m reading about right now is a service known as “Quora”, which seems to be gaining quite a lot of traction. As a result, I signed up for an account (actually, I signed in using my Twitter account using OAuth authentication), and decided to see what I was missing.

Quora is essentially a question and answers site, Wikipedia (in the sense that admins are controlling the questions and answers to ensure relevancy), and elements of Twitter (namely their ‘Follow’ feature), all thrown together. It seems like a good idea and a way to progress forums and message boards into the 21st Century.

However, after browsing around the site and reading some of the questions in categories that it seemed to select for me, I realised that the questions that are being asked are very specialist and I have absolutely no change of knowing about or even attempt at being able to answer (questions on computer and web obviously being Silicone Valley – and I’m far, far from the Valley by comparison). However, I looked beyond those and decided to ask my very own simple question to see how quickly I got a response and the quality of that response.

My question was thus:
“When does the Bill and Melina Gates foundation release their annual statement for 2011?”
Two days later, I’m still awaiting a reply of some sort from a fellow Quora user. Whilst this question might not have been ‘main stream’, I’d imagine that many people actively follow BillG’s Foundation or at least read his previous statements and therefore might have an idea of when the next statement is due, so my question isn’t exactly difficult to put some sort of answer to.

Here’s my issue; what does Quora disrupt? My initial thoughts were that this service is fantastic for reaching people who you don’t necessarily follow on Twitter and being able to ask direct questions surely disrupts ‘Search’. Alas not it appears, because I opened up IE9, Bing opened up and pasted my question exactly – within 5 minutes not only had I found many links to the Foundation, I also discovered that the statement from 2009 was released 27th January 2009 – I vaguely remember 2010’s statement being around the same time, so although I don’t have a definitive answer, I do have a much better idea of when its due to appear, which is ultimately all I really wanted to know in this particular instance.

I’ve no doubt that they’ll be other times and questions on Quora that require a much more definitive answer – and a definitive answer to my question would have certainly validated the service. But I’m left pondering whether Quora can really offer anything that search doesn’t already cater for? And if not ‘search’, then existing online forums and bulletin boards?

I’m now left wondering what exactly I’m missing with Quora; where are others are seeing the benefit that I’m not? Are other people more willing to trawl through the site and look for questions they can answer than I am? I’m not at all sure this is the case.

This leads me to think that this site is a bit of a fad, a site a bunch of geeks have signed up for and are using inside their community (much like the very early days of Twitter, a place where only the geeks would post to), and has somehow slipped out to others who are dipping their toe to see what the fuss is about. I’m willing to predict that this site will soon lose appeal and its numbers will drop off after the honeymoon period of them signing up.

Quora reminds me most of Google Wave, the collaborative tool where many users work around a single issue and we all know how Wave ended up? Then again, I might be completely wrong – this could be the next big thing and I’m just missing the point of it all.

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