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.

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