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Show HN: Review my startup: Quora, a topic based question and answer site
55 points by ccheever on Mar 16, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 43 comments
Link to sign up: http://quora.com/hackernews

Quora is a question and answer site focused on getting really high quality, authoritative content on any topic that people are interested in.

The big idea is to try to get every question page to be the best possible resource for anyone who wants to know about the answer. One way to think about it is as a cache for the research that people compile by searching the web or asking others. The feeling you get when you see a Wikipedia article and you think "Oh, that's going to have all the information I want about that" is the feeling we want to create across a much broader space.

The best things you can do are asking and following questions you're interested in, answering other people's questions, and voting or commenting on answers.

Right now, you need to use your Facebook account to sign up. We might add other ways to join later on.

We're still in beta and are making a lot of changes and have a lot of work to do but wanted to get some feedback.


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In follow up, I'm now receiving e-mails notifications about people following me on your site!

There are some major identity issues here. Are you a social network? Why am I getting notifications of people following me, which now I must clear, on a site I'm going to for answers on something specific? These social network tactics were fine for Facebook, but people are over it. You need to deliver meaningful relevant content, not spam users with meangless e-mail to attempt to get them to revisit the site.

Way too much Facebook in your Quora, so to speak.


Send me an email on:


Someone answers a question I'm following

Someone edits a question I'm following

Someone edits details of a question I'm following

Someone adds a topic to a question I'm following

Someone removes a topic from a question I'm following

Someone comments on questions I'm following

Someone edits the wiki on questions I'm following

Someone edits the short wiki on questions I'm following

Someone shares a question with me

Someone adds a related question to a question I'm following

Someone redirects a question I'm following


Someone comments on answers I've written

Someone votes on answers I've written

Someone removes my answer

A moderator edits my answerSuggested edits on answers


System notifications

Personal notifications

Someone starts following me

Someone asks me to answer a question

Someone shares a question with me

Someone makes me an admin

Someone removes me as an admin

An admin changes the status of my account

Someone edits my topic biography

Someone sends me a message


Someone gives me topics to follow

Someone endorses me on a topic

Someone suggests topics to me

Someone edits the name of a topic I'm following

Someone edits the wiki of a topic I'm following

Someone shares a topic with me

Someone merges a topic I'm following

Someone adds an alias to a topic I'm following

Someone removes an alias from a topic I'm following

Someone deletes a topic I'm following

Someone adds back a topic I'm following


More importantly, how does one delete their account?


Site is good, easy to use. Fix your e-mail validator (you can, afterall have a domain name that starts with a number). The facebook only signup thing is a bit of a hiccup (especially with the HN crowd) even with your priors.

As for the site itself, I would recommend ditching this whole "tagging" system. For example:


Having these tags: Compensation, Engineering in Silicon Valley, Salaries, Startup Compensation,Startups, Stock Options, ....

Is just going to be very overwhelming, and if you're letting users define these, it seems you're going to have a big problem with trying to eventually police the content, and thats just an endless can of worms..

How about some term extraction, fancy analysis, and leaving that to automated semantics?

On a side note, some of the main topic landing pages are pretty sensible, easy to use, and well defined. Some of the indexing pages seem to have an awful lot going on...

Mainly, the homepage once you're logged in. Very busy here, not even sure exactly what is going on, and its awfully repetitive..

There also seems to be topics/categories broken down, but no real way to browse them effectively -- although there is a "browse" tab which is really more of a "feed", adding a bit more confusion. It'd be nice to be able to consume these "Topics" in more of a directory type of style.. (eg, being able to look up "Dog Breeds" and seeing a list of breeds to click through/browse leading into the particular Quora for a specific breed itself..)

All in all, I think its an excellent start, but there's a definitive need to establish a much clearer picture of the companies identity.. Is this a new E-How, or is it a Wikipedia? More importantly, how is it really different from either? Right now there is a ton of grey area here for the end user, but hopefully a lot of this will work itself out as the ideas mature.

Best, earle.


Now that I really look at that homepage again (logged in), I really dont like it. There's almost no meanginful content on it -- everything is metadata! This needs to be rethought more in tune with identity/branding of the problem you're trying to solve. I dont think an end user ever wants to see a giant feed of a bunch of meta data if you're delivering a 'really high quality, authoritative content on any topic that people are interested in.' that should translate to content.

""" Follow-up question added to topic Programming. 8:22pm What are the disadvantages of having a degree in Math and working as a programmer? This is a follow-up question to What are advantages of having a degree in Math and working as a programmer?. 2 Answers • Follow • 2 Topics """

This "feed" stuff may work well for your news feed on Facebook, but it doesnt translate well to a Q&A site when I'm typing in something specific and you're dumping a giant list of unrelated meta-data with links all over the place. If someone is looking for advice on their health issue or tax problem, this is going to have to scale -- to potentially millions of questions and billions of answers. This feed and tagging system dumped into a "feed" just ain't going to get it done. This needs to be rethought, to better effectively deliver your stated vision of 'really high quality, authoritative content on any topic that people are interested in.' and that should translate to content thats relevant and easy to find.

Can you send the e-mail address you tried to use to bugs@quora.com? Our validator allows for domains that start with numbers so I think it was rejecting the e-mail based on something else.

In approximately inverse order of importance (sorry about that):

* Misc.:

- Don't like using my Facebook account.

* UI:

- Always find myself hunting for the "follow" button.

- Front page is a visually undifferentiated mishmash of 20ish different questions, most of which contain no more than a few sentences of content. Also: do we really need number of answers, number of topics, follow, star, time, topics (selected arbitrarily?), profile picture, answer snippet, answerer name, answerer description, and answer votes for every single one of these questions? You're making me sort through way too much stuff to decide whether I'm interested in the question or not.

- The options menu is cryptic and poorly located. Ex.: If I want to answer something anonymously, why do I go hunting at the right-hand side of the screen by all the navigational / related links stuff? Put that by the text box.

* Community:

- The personality types on the site are not substantially different from people I already know. Most of the questions (both from my feed and via "All Questions") drip Silicon Valley techie. I'd love to see intelligent questions/answers from people who have lives very different from mine. As things stand, I'm not sure whether, if I were to ask a question, I'd be getting a range of opinions or an echo chamber.

- Answers tend pithy. On the other hand, some of the questions encourage that. Is there some way to see only questions/answers with meat?

Summary: Right now I feel like Quora has a lot of features (too many features) and not enough content, even in what look to be active topics. I don't know how you get people to invest in writing high-quality answers, but that's the question you really need to be focusing on. I would say that you should try to to cultivate a sense of sitewide community, but the siloing of the site into a bunch of semi-intersecting topics could make that tricky.

But then, the only Q&A site I've ever really liked has been Ask Metafilter, so maybe I'm looking for the wrong thing here -- but I don't think so, since, for me, it's the first site that comes to mind when I think of your mission. (Put together a better-indexed version of Ask Metafilter and you'll have a winner in my book.) If I need to ask a short question that can be answered quickly, I'll consider Quora. If I'm looking for significant thought, longer meditations, a diverse range of opinions, or interesting browsing material, though, I'll head elsewhere.

Thanks for the thoughtful feedback. One thing we do need to work on for sure is making the good content that is already on the site get surfaced better.


Facebook already has enough of my data inside its walled garden. It's not getting control of my logins to other services. Add another signup method and I'll give your site due consideration.

The Facebook Connect stopped me as well. Seeing as the entire Quora team previously worked at Facebook (http://www.quora.com/about/team), including Charlie Cheever who "led Facebook Connect and Facebook Platform" it seems unlikely that this unfortunate requirement will be dropped anytime soon.

While there are certainly people (especially on HN) who are unwilling to give Facebook this kind of control, I don't think it will be a problem for the vast majority of users. In my opinion, the power of having an identity behind all of your users far outweighs the cost of the few who will not use Facebook Connect.

I'm not sure this is a reliable way to get an identity behind all of your users. It was reliable back when Facebook required .edu email addresses, but these days there are huge numbers of fake profiles, and it's easy to create a throwaway profile if you need one to sign up for a site.

I have 5 or so fake Facebook profiles I use for expressly this purpose.

It's true that this doesn't guarantee anything but it does help set the norms for how the site should work.

All the sites offering only 'sign up with facebook' just make me feel left out. Because I deleted my facebook.

Just adding the data point that Facebook Connect stopped me too. I'm touchy about associating apps with my Facebook account. Oh well!

We have our own login system. We just use Facebook to connect you to people you know and get your photo. Having real identities for people and having people connected to other people who know them are important for the system to work, and we found that the best way to get those things was to require Facebook to sign up.

We might add other ways to sign up later.

Your service sounds awfully lot like Stack Overflow/Stack Exchange, which seems to work just fine without the need to "verify" users or require users to login via Facebook. Why does your service need it? Also, I have no desire for a site (yours or otherwise) to take my picture and friend list from Facebook, and it's a little presumptuous for Quora to require me to provide this information.

Also, what's the main diff between this and Stack Exchange other than that this is all-purpose? Are you gonna let search engines index answers?

I tried it and liked it. Great job!

But I too am a bit iffy about the FB login. Mainly cos I feel it might post stuff to my wall. I am sure you guys don't do that. But I wanted to put it out there since that might be a concern other people might have as well.

Yeah. We don't post anything to any service right now, and we'll never do that except when you want it to happen, but I think you're right that people are worried about that since there are so many apps that do that kind of stuff.

This is a valid concern. I'm not too keen on connecting my Facebook account to things either. This may be an incredibly cool product...but I wouldn't know. I'm not clicking that blue button to find out.

To follow up with some potentially helpful feedback: Why not allow people to create "regular" accounts, and then they can associate their Facebook account with the account later? I'm not opposed to associating my Facebook account with services I value (for example, I connected to Flippa) -- I just don't want to do it upfront.

I got an invite to Quora from a friend of mine a few months ago but the need for the FaceBook id was a killer. As long as they have this requirement, I won't use the product. Too bad really, because I hear good things about it.

I did sign up using my FB account, just to try it out.

After signing-up I could easily disconnect my FB account from quora account.

So, the logic of asking to sign-up using FB, does not really make a lot of sense - if its affecting user sign-ups.

I've seen Quora referenced a bunch lately, and have been excited to try it out. The design (from the outside) looks really good, and I suspect that your team has crafted a really polished UX. I'd love to check it out. But ...

I'm not going to sign up via Facebook Connect, but it's not because I don't like linking that profile. It's because the Facebook ID approval page notes that you'd be publishing content to my wall. I'm not comfortable with that. Maybe that's a templated display that's shown on all Facebook Connect pages. I don't know. But it's enough to stop me from signing up.

Just another datapoint.

Quora is one of those really amazing sites that you really enjoy using a lot because the UI and UX are impeccable. Things are responsive, actions have weight, and it's just overall very pleasant to use. Congratulations on that—it's nothing short of a masterpiece.

I really like the concept of following topics. I think something that could be worked on is the following questions thing—last time I used it, it was difficult to figure out that a question I'm following has received a follow-up.

This is very well made, great job. A few things:

- Why do I have to choose the best square thumbnail picture? Facebook already provides you with pic_square through their API.

- Profile thumbnails are not loading unless I view the user's profile page first. Here's an example, where I have clicked through to Adam's profile but not the others: http://grab.by/36FP

- The main feed seems a little too text-heavy to me. Have you considered putting profile thumbnails next to questions and answers that appear in the feed, as you do for comments on question pages?

- Your buttons are awesome. As are your tooltips.

- re: profile pics. pic_square pics are only 50x50 (iirc?), and we needed square pics that were bigger than that.

- re: thumbnails not loading. i've never seen that before. it might be a problem with S3. If you e-mail a link to your profile to bugs@quora.com, I can look through our logs and try to debug more.

- re: feed.

We're making a lot of changes to the feed all the time. Thanks for the feedback.

- re: buttons.

All @artypapers.

I'll explain what the problem with FB sign-in is. Remember Eric Ries's IMVU, where people didn't want to link their IM accounts to IMVU because they don't want to endorse a piece of technology that they aren't sure of.

Similarly, I don't want to tell my friends on FB about Quora just in case it stinks.

Usually, FB login's do not pull in friends details. However, it appears that you are doing that.

I'd be happy to review your app if you can put some kind of assurance around the FB Connect logon to the effect that you are not going to announce on my FB status that I'm using Quora.

I'm not really sure why others are so paranoid about logging in via FB Connect. Honestly, going forward, I think FB connect / Twitter etc. are going to emerge as the primary means for logging in -

check out Dave mcclure's post about password friction below:


I like it, seems very cohesive and simple. May I ask how do you got people making questions and answer them ? I ask this, because I'm also creating a startup that will need user input in order to grow, so I'm trying to get some tips from others.

my hypothesis:

- choose a select group (eg. HNs,friends,family)

-deliberately create some questions that are highly relevant, interesting or controversial so that most visitors of this group cannot resist the temptation to answer.

-whenever there is a change to that question, email visitors so that they will come back and answer or ask more.

- copy most features of StackOverflow

-Some of these visitors may become loyal and then they might bring their friends or at least chat about it.

- repeat the process.

-When you have large enough user base (or question/answer_base), techcrunch or other media might cover you.

- repeat the process and you go big!

Great responses. Thanks guys :) I always love to hear how other startups do it. cheers.


Your signup form email validator is broken; i have a .es domain and it refuses it....

Awesome! I've heard great things about it so far. On my iPhone but will give it a whirl when I get back home.

Signup from it is a little tricky but we do have an iPhone (+ Android, Palm, etc.) site that works pretty well.

It worked pretty well with fb connect. Moreso, I'm at the gym and I want to spend some decent time with the app that's uninterrupted.

Clickable link: http://quora.com/hackernews

Quora rocks. It's a great product, i'm using it a lot. Once you start to using, it's addictive.


signed up. "Click on the best photo" showed me my profile photo (the same photo) 5 times.

Your photo was probably small enough that different croppings didn't matter, or at least weren't different enough for you to notice. Thanks for the feedback.

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