Quora | A Better Q&A?

At first, I didn’t get Quora at all, it was just another Q&A website, and who needs one of them?

There are plenty of Q&A websites out there, and whether you are looking for specialist knowledge about programming, or just general trivia, it’s pretty easy to find the answer you’re looking for.

Historically, general answers websites have been keen to get the biggest possible user base – the more users you have, the higher the likelihood that someone will know the right answer to a question.  Yahoo Answers is pretty much the dominant force when you look at it:

Of course, more people on the website doesn’t necessarily mean a higher quality of answer, just chance of a particular person knowing the answer.

A key challenge of Yahoo Answers in particular is that a lot of the members use the service to self validate their knowledge, and aspect of the website that rewards contribution means that a lot of people contribute low quality content that does not really benefit other people.  This is mitigated to a certain extent by the voting process of ensuring that there is always a “best” answer, however this can be open to manipulation.

Why is Quora different?

The USP of Quora is the concept of using pre-validated experts to answer the questions – people like Jason Calacanis, or Biz Stone or Twitter are active on Quora and provide advice and answers in areas where they have valid experience.

In addition to the authority of the contributors in many areas, Quora also has a much stricter set of guidelines for users to adhere to than several other Q&A websites, with the ability for admins to edit answers for accuracy, or simply delete posts with low value.

This gives Quora a great deal of authority from a user perspective, and has also guaranteed the start-up a lot of coverage.

Early adopters see Quora as becoming the de facto resource for a lot of the information that they are looking for, and it has already developed a very strong community of editors.   In many ways, the community knowledge system of Quora could be described as being more akin to Wikipedia than Yahoo Answers.

What are the Risks?

Ironically, the biggest risk to Quora is its own success.  Size often comes at the expense of quality, and scalability is important.  At present, Quora’s position on spam content from people looking for artificial authority or free links to their websites appears to be one of almost ignoring the issue, and this could be a real problem for them – especially as quality and accuracy of information is the defining theme of the website.

Quora needs it’s community to believe in the goals of the website, and to date they’ve done a good job, and provided that they can keep themselves ahead of the spam game by maintaining strict editorial control over content on the site, and ensuring that they remove more content than they allow, they could be OK.

Will they ever be as big as Yahoo Answers in terms of traffic?  Probably not, because Yahoo Answers’ breadth means that it already has massive amounts of traffic and continues to grow at a huge rate in terms of the new content being added.

Will Quora ever be as big as Wikipedia? No.

The real question is whether Quora can supplant Wikipedia as the default reference source on the web?

And ultimately, there is only one way to find out… Ask.

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