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Ask HN: Why is Quora popular all of a sudden?
40 points by senorgusto on Feb 15, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 48 comments
It seems like Quora has been popping up in Google searches more and more lately, and it's doubled in popularity in the last year [0]. Does anybody have any idea why? They recently pushed out a snazzy new design (at least for Quora.com), but this can't be the only reason. What do people think?

[0] https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=%2Fm%2F0bm8t1r

I dunno about its changing popularity, but like Expert Sexchange before it, I actively avoid Quora. It was the first site I added to my Google Personal Blocklist, and the reason I installed the plugin.

Their unsubscribe form is (or was last I saw it in 2015) a nastier piece of work than I could imagine, even if told: Come up with the most annoying unsubscribe form you can. Make it really hard to unsubscribe from everything...make'em work for it.

Quora, I hope, will continue to lose to much better, much more ethical, Q&A sites. The Stack Exchange sites seem like the market leaders, as they probably should be. They do nearly everything right, and they do it without being smarmy. Sites that believe they have a right to my attention, and are willing to cheat to get it, really ought to be shunned in polite company. I'm not sure how they've managed to maintain a patina of legitimacy after all these years of being no-good, shiftless, internet hucksters. We, as a community, usually shun the hell out of spammers...and yet, when Quora (and LinkedIn, for another example of a spammer getting a pass) do it, most folks just shrug as though it's no big deal. Does a certain level of economic success lend credibility even when behaving in ways that deserve no credibility?

Not that I'm grumpy about it, or anything.

As a user of both SO and Quora I am annoyed by SO's strict policy on subjective questions. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to ask useful subjective questions, yet SO will close them as "not constructive". As far as I'm concerned this is a crude heuristic, it maintains good content quality at SO at the expense of prohibiting certain kinds of discussion.

It's totally understandable why they make that tradeoff, and quite possibly if SO relaxed strictness on that front I would be among those asking to reinstate it. It is, however, quite frustrating at times. So I think Quora is a nice alternative due to the more permissive policy there.

Honestly this is the main problem. As a developer is common for me to ask about good books about a new topic I'm going to study (new programming language), but on SO such things are banned. You cannot ask an opinion on something you are working on. And since a lot of stuff are subjective, the more experienced you get, the less SO becomes useful. Hence resorting to Quora

On mobile, they make you install their app to look at anything at all.

Any company that needs dozens of "dark patterns" and tricks to stay afloat probably shouldn't exist. LinkedIn is the same.

They suggest their app, but the web site is fully working on mobile (Android in my case).

I wouldn't say fully working. I'm using Chrome on a nexus 5X and whenever I go to their website I get a banner to install the app which is extremely difficult to remove. Tiny, tiny touch area. It then gets in the way enough to make the useable viewport ridiculously small.

Same experience here.

LinkedIn is bloody awful. I get email notifications and then i click them and they ask me to sign in.

Yeah, no thanks. I don't think looking up my password just to sign in is worth using the app on mobile.

I don't know how/if it helps the collective, but sites that behave this way receive a "Mark as spam" on gmail from me. It more or less guarantees that I never see them again, and I guess if enough people mark them as spam they'll actually get caught in the "global spam filter"?

You got to the unsubscribe form? Every time I inadvertently follow a link to that site, I get to their "show the article then cover it in a popup demanding I register" screen, think "to hell with you" and close the tab.

Which is a pity because it seems like they have a lot of interesting content, but there's no way in hell I'm going to give them my Facebook or Google+ account to get at it, and I can't be bothered creating a new throwaway email just for them.

I have been on Quora for maybe 4 years, I still get their daily digest; even though I hate it I have not had the energy to navigate the unsubscribe process.

It's annoying because although they initially attracted a lot of high profile members, as they become more popular they are doing a very poor job of maintaining quality. Unlike Stack Exchange the community moderation tools are not useful; not to mention the community itself does a terrible job of actually moderating for quality. It's Microsoft Q&A / Yahoo Answers all over again.

The number of highly-upvoted "answers" which are simply self-promotion links or conceited, self-absorbed nonsense is sometimes beyond belief. To give the community the benefit of the doubt, it's possible they have open holes that are allowing bots to upvote answers, or that they have a paid answer promotion service which is not vetted for accuracy or relevance to the question.

While they are both Q&A sites, I would consider quora and stack overflow to be in different markets.

+1 for "Expert Sexchange" :D

They did a very good job attracting core early contributors who wrote unique great content and then it snowballed. Reading answers posted by the top 10 contributors is just fun. All content is SEO-friendly. Much of it is authoritative and Google loves authoritative content. There is a setting to make my content appear as anonymous to search engines, but many of us associate our names with our content.

Most of Quora's content is evergreen. They improved question merging recently and that resulted in a high concentration of high quality answers to popular questions. Quora's management calls them canonical questions. The ask2answer flow also improved. You can now find people who can answer your questions. That feature was previously under-developed and didn't work very well.

Quora's top contributors enjoy the virtuous cycle. We write answers and people upvote them, which introduces other readers to us. Our audiences are massive. I only have about 250,000 views per month and about 5500 followers, but some other writers have several million per month and more than 20,000 followers.

Quora will collapse answers that are highly upvoted but incorrect. This helps with site quality and likely pleases Google.

I am one of about 800 Quora's Top Writers ( http://quora.com/Leonid-S.-Knyshov ) if you have any specific questions.

A lot of what you've listed have been true for a long time though. It wouldn't explain a sudden increase in Google search rankings.

The last time I checked quora put up a big "create an account to read this website", which seems to be gone now.

> "All content is SEO-friendly."

I think that's the crux of it. When I'm feeling lazy and google a specific question, their results pop up first because someone has most likely asked the same exact question verbatim on Quora before.

It's also really easy to fall down a Quora rabbit hole with the "associated questions" on the right side. I was watching a Star Wars marathon the other day following The Force Awakens and at one point had like 450 tabs open of associated Star Wars quora questions. Eventually I realized I could never catch up with 30+ years of nerd speculation and analysis and just simply didn't have time to read it all so I closed everything without reading them all! But I wanted to!!

In addition to wiseleo's comment, the key thing I think they got right was the weekly digest. It's never too frequent, it's relative, interesting, and fresh.

It was important to get the digest right because it granted Quora permission to keep getting user's attention even when away from the site (push vs pull) and also gave users a 'takeaway' - either information or topics of discussion to debate with friends through real conversation or an email forward.

This feature lets them have high retention rates and increases word-of-mouth to gain new users.

This so much. I usually unsubscribe very fast from these sort of emails - I accidentally left a checkbox marked when I signed up to read an article and it actually got me hooked. Lots of good material.

I would love to read an article about how to create such digest emails. Typically they are truly terrible but they managed to make it interesting.

Yep. I look forward to these weekly digests. Once I click a link hours go by quick.

I've seen some great answers on Quora, but their growth is possibly due to spam. I hate to accuse them of that, but...

Quora lets you sign up using a Google account. Normally, this means you won't need to create a new password. However, Quora immediately asks you to provide one.

With that in mind, what's the point of linking your Google account? Well, according to this recent thread, Quora tries to access your contacts:


That seems possible. Everything I've seen from that site indicates it's terrible.

Please login to see the answer to this question.

Do they still make you sign up to view all the answers? I remember being greatly annoyed that the site kept coming up at the top of Google results, only to be blocked by needing to login.

Whereas other rivals sites like the ___ exchanges didn't have this nag.

Shouldn't Google catch on to this stuff and demote their site ranking?

Google's policy is that the first link from google's results must be freely viewable, but any other links on the site can be paywalled, login-walled, etc. That's why you can often just google a WSJ article or the title of another Quora question and view the results freely. It's all based on the HTTP referer.

For the last couple of years I've been appending "?share=1" to the URL every time it asks me to login.

India is the reason! Look at the regional interest graph at the mentioned URL! Quora is more popular in India than in any other country!

Also change the country drop down filter below the search bar from Worldwide to India. You see an exponential rise in popularity, and the rise is not sudden. https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=%2Fm%2F0bm8t1r&geo=I...

Because asking a question on Stack Overflow is becoming a formal skill, for God's sake!

It gets more annoying and restrictive every day so that I have to think trice before deciding if I should go again trough that agony of asking a question and fight with SO admins to keep it from being closed.

I think I was on the site yesterday. Went there through a link on twitter and clicked a link on that page. I was presented with the dreaded 'sign up to see' overlay dark pattern.

PS: I deleted my account sometimes back because I thought they used too many dark patterns to my taste at the time.

Tip: when presented with the dreaded sign up to see overlay, you can add ?share=1 to the end of the URL to bypass it.

Or you can just stop using the site. I deleted all my content from the site several years ago as I only wanted to write public content, and have never bothered to visit since.

The question is -- Is it good for Quora?

Recently the site has basically become a plagiarism echo chamber. People copy/paste blogs verbatim in a bid for upvotes. Maybe Quora should stop optimizing for Facebook's key metrics like MAU.

Maybe the whole point of Quora is higher quality content, a special place which only allows for certain standard of content. If everyone can have a guard of honor, then it is simply a guard. If anyone is allowed to answer on Quora, it's simply a content mill. And the wrong kind at that.

To be what Quora is trying to be, you need a heavy handed deletionist culture. For that you need passionate people who spend time doing that, and you need an open platform. Both of which Quora is not. It's like they had a decent idea in 2010 but never really improvised.

My understanding from speaking with former PM's is they moved their sign-up-to-view "paywall" from the first page you view to the second page, at least when you come from a social network or search engine. That obviously increases the relevance and search score when the answer is high quality.

Google algorithms keep changing all the time. Personally, I haven't noticed Quora results come up in Google search more often.

It could be that Google is tracking your clicks with cookies and showing you more of the sites you click frequently in the search results. Or the queries you are using might be dominated by Quora.

While I dislike Quora for forced sign up (with an even weirder explanation for why you need to have an account), some of the answers there are top notch. I haven't seen such depth in any Q&A sites.

Why is Stack Overflow so popular? The website is full of very frequently asked questions and insightful answers for all topics, not just the few topics that Stack Overflow and its sister sites have. And often the highly upvoted answers in the "Life" category are stories, not just answers. It is a place to pick the minds of people more experienced.

Most importantly, the site is SEO friendly.

Going for the other comments on this thread, I guess I have a better opinion of Quora than most here.

I do appreciate the insider comments we get from a wide variety of areas.

My only gripe is a question of style, namely the style that comes when most content creators are in it for self-promotion (which is fine btw); in the end it feels like everyone is in a job interview.

Quora is probably the best social network-ish website ever. It probably gathers all the smartest people on the internet. After I started using Quora I quit fb and twitter. It's not an apples to apples comparison but you get the idea. There are much less trolls because most people on Quora are smart enough to do other things.

I believe this question will get insightful answers on Quora itself. You thought of posting it there as well?

a lot of the content they surface seems to be targeted to people's inner-13-year-old-boy. Grandiose fantasies of world domination.

1. how do i make a million dollars in a week?

2. who in history made $1 billion in the easiest way?

3. who is smarter Terrance Tso or Leibniz?

4. what's faster Ferrari or Lamborghini?

and finally:

5. who would win: Boxer vs. Ninja?!?!?!

6. Who is smarter Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?

7. Why do some people think Mark Zuckerberg is a good programmer?

8. What skills do people who work at Google have that other people don't have?

9. What are the top things to do before applying for a position at Google?

On the contrary I've been there less and less. There was a time where I was looking to contribute but the website is flooded with fake users generated questions. I guess they have to do that to fake the growth and attract more people but it just felt empty then...

Oh, you've been using it less? It must be the case for everyone else then.

I miss Aardvark :(

Because the network effect has started to apply. There are enough users now to make the whole ecosystem interesting.

but this can't be the only reason

Why not?

Because people have questions, all the time.

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