Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

Why Quora Might Stick Around

Yahoo Answers, Google Answers, Mahalo, Q&A sites have been around for over a decade which means forever in Internet time. Google Answers is no longer, Yahoo Answers (check compete and google adwords, and Mahalo (again figure it out). Yet Quora has caught the attention of the digital chattering classes as the”next big thing”. From my own cursory observations I’ve noticed that both the questions and answers seem to be of a higher quality than most other Q&A sites with the exception of some specialized forums and LinkedIn Answers (LinkedIn is an Edelman client)

So why is Quora getting everyone’s attention? Why does it seem Quora might make it where many others have stumbled. A combination of authentic identities, good functionality, and an appeal to ego.

Authentic Identities

Behind the veil of anonymity, people are more willing to ask silly questions and give silly answers. It also creates an environment conducive to troll-like behaviour. With Quora, while you can sign in anonymously, no one seems to do so. From my poking around the site, most people are signing in with their twitter handle. Since it’s their public facing self asking and answering questions, some thought (or at least some thought behind humour) has been put into most of the questions and answers.

Good Functionality

This is pretty much table stakes for any online presence. If the user experience sucks, no one will use it. Quora’s pretty intuitive and easy to use. Signing up was easy and the method of searching questions is fairly robust so you can see if a question has been asked. The twitter integration is great. There’s always room for improvement but it’s a pretty good for version 1.0

Appeal to Ego

I like how the site eschews points, badges, and honorifics and sticks to little surprises that delight. Rather than ranking answers a questioner can thank each sincere answerer. The most popular answers can get voted up. Answerers who need to further show off their brilliant response can easily broadcast it to twitter.

New Features I’d like to See

Geo-targeted search: Makes it easier for those who want to answer questions in a particular jurisdiction such as lawyers and accountants .

Specific Requests: Send out your question to everyone but a lot of questioners would love for certain people to answer. It would be great if you could notify them. Of course for privacy reasons, they would have to opt-in to receive notifications.

Authority Rankings by Topic: Most people know a bit about somethings and not a whole lot about others. No Q&A site has cracked this nut. Authority rankings cover the overall quality of a person’s answers but this means nothing. I want to know if they’re smart in the particular topic area of which I asked the question.

Games Without Frontiers

After seeing Gabe Zicherman at Meshmarketing 2010 and after watching several talks from TEDster Jesse Schell, I’m starting to drink the gameified kool-aid. I’m fully convinced that the “game” is the best metaphor for marketing.

This is a good thing. The old metaphor for marketers was military and the jargon in many a brand planning meeting would be riddled with military terms like “targeting”, “positioning”, and “mindshare”. The social media era had marketers turning to a new metaphor, two-way conversations and the jargon shifted to participatory language such as “engagement”, “shareable content”, “crowdsourcing”. The problem with the former was that it treated consumers as trophies of conquest. The latter metaphor often got so engrossed in solipsistic banter that it forgets about the business goals. Perhaps a new metaphor might be more approrpiate for the current times. The Game.

Gamification refers to a broader system of challenge and reward, it’s not all badges and points. It’s the process of using game thinking and dynamics to engage audiences and solve problems, The best games tap into key drives and motivations that govern human behaviour. Marketers as well can tap into these drives in order to influence consumer sentiment and behaviour.

Take the Costco shopping experience. A quarter of its products change regularly. One day it’s a designer sweater is for a really good price; another day it’s an LCD TV. It’s not just a big box store…it’s a “treasure hunt”.

Now look at Groupon. It’s not just coupons. You can’t just buy a coupon. Other people have to buy a coupon as well. You have to gather allies to get the prize and there’s a new prize every day.

FourSquare. It’s game potential is just starting to be tapped. Right now it’s points, badges, and mayorships with a few retail promotions thrown in. In other words, status, bragging rights, and prizing. But the company is just starting to really tap into the competitive and co-operative spirit involved in game play.
That’s right, competitive and co-operative. A study performed by Richard Bartle, a professor and game designer, identified four kinds of game players: Achievers, who seek success and prestige; Explorers, who look for new and unknown things; Socializers, who want interaction; and Killers, who thrive on competing against, and defeating, other players. A skillfully designed game directs the energies of different players towards the same, or mutually supportive, outcomes.

The applications of game dynamics are at their infancy and I’m excited to see where they lead down the road. I leave you with a thought from Gabe Zicherman: Were he born today, William Shakespeare might remark that all the world’s a game, and all the men and women merely players.