Addicted to Quora

There are plenty of question-and-answer sites on the Internet-- places you can go to ask a question and have people you've never met provide their uninformed, unresearched, ill-considered and un-fact-checked answers that are little better than what you could have turned up with a simple search.  The concept is great in theory, but the landscape is so fractured that most sites lack enough voters to up-vote the best responses effectively, forcing you to wade through a morass of dumb people posting their opinions in response to questions of fact.

Quora solved the problem by getting rid of the dumb people.  Or more accurately, building their initial user-base around a core of smart people.  They started with the movers and shakers of Silicon Valley, enticing them to come to their service by asking questions targeting their areas of expertise and giving them a platform to share their knowledge.  Right from the outset, Quora built a culture of rewarding well-written, interesting answers.  And they came.  Ask a question about JJ Abrams, and JJ Abrams himself might answer.  Ask what it's like to fly on Air Force One, and people who have actually done it relate fantastic anecdotes about the experience.  The cream rises to the top very quickly through community voting.

I could wish for some better tools and interface.  It's actually rather difficult to just browse Quora and find coolness.  The site is structured around picking topics and people to follow, and then reading a feed of activity within those topics.  But a lot of the best stuff happens outside of your normal areas of interest.  That's why I love the weekly digest mails with links to the most interesting answers of the past seven days.  These digests reach outside my narrow interests and provide the most fascinating reading of the week.  How does Apple keep secrets so well?  What is the cheapest, legal thing a person could do to get front page coverage in the New York Times?  Why are e-mail scams written in broken English?  What is it like to be an Olympic athlete after winning (or not winning) the Olympics?  All of these questions-- and the fascinating answers-- have shown up in the digests recently.  If you haven't checked out Quora yet, prepare to lose the rest of your day falling down its rabbit hole.

Reading Quora is addictive.  You can heck out my profile, which links to all the questions I've answered (on topics that will come as no surprise to readers of this blog).  Another great place to start is with this Quora question, and its answers: What is the single best-written Quora answer?

Monthly Archives