Monday, August 13, 2012

Quora: A Question and Answer, Social Networking Site


Sometimes you hear something mentioned and file it away in your brain to look up later.  And if you're me, you scribble it on the back of an envelope.  Then you forget about it, lose the envelope, and go make a sandwich.

I've seen Quora mentioned in magazines, on the Internet and someone may even have asked me about it, so eventually I grew curious.  Quora is a question-and-answer site, with a social focus.  Or maybe it's a social network with a question-and-answer format.

It's like the Quora designers looked at Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo Answers and a half dozen other sites, then copied the features they thought would be helpful.  The primary way to interact on Quora is to post a question.  People with similar interests can respond, and the most popular answers get voted to the top in a Digg-like system.

The Quora login page is very simple, and reads, "Quora connects you to everything you want to know about."  Wow, that's a pretty big claim.  Especially if you have odd interests.  Until the user base grows into the hundreds of millions, you're probably not going to find answers to your more esoteric questions.

But for popular Quora areas like 'start-ups,' 'entrepreneurship,' 'food,' 'science' and 'venture capital,' you can get lots of answers.  It's also telling that many of the articles written about other Q&A sites say that they're like Quora.

One interesting feature on Quora is the ability to create 'boards,' which Quora describes as "lightweight blogs or personal notes."  This may provide people with a place to post something meatier than a Tweet, but still quick and easy for others to digest. 

People tend to seek out (and find) others online with similar interests, whether it's crazy political beliefs and or a deep love of wombats.  Social networks may streamline that search process, but I wonder if they are really much different from the online forums and bulletin boards of years ago.

(Here's an article on Mashable by Jolie O'Dell that has helpful graphics.  This article in PCMag by William Fenton does a good job of explaining what Quora is and how it works.  And here's a page from Tech Crunch that mentions Quora in multiple articles.)

(The pic is of penguins and it's from:igougo.com)

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