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Thanks to Quora, now you can’t read anonymously (gigaom.com)
290 points by ColinWright on Aug 3, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 178 comments

Quora is in the same boat as FB (and to a certain extent, Twitter)

They think that the experience of their largely 20-something staff is anything short of revolutionary.

A bunch of kids running a digital media company with questionable morals and no connection to digital history. I will delete me Quora account. So far I have gotten little value from it. Time for it to have no data on me.



I followed up with an email to FEEDBACK@QUORA.COM asking them to delete my account and data.. will see what happens. I dont like the idea of a limbo account that can be reactivated/mined.

I'd prefer to have it deleted.

I have to take the minority position and stand up for Quora here. I'm a huge fan of the service, and though I agree this latest move was a mis-step, I remain a loyal Quora user.

Unlike you, I've gained a ton of value from it. Unlike the trivial discussions or content spam posted on Facebook or Twitter, Quora features tons of interesting conversations. The closest comparison to it might actually be Wikipedia, at least in terms of general scale of ambition.

It's the one online community I've found that I think is better than Hacker News (though admittedly the quality of discussing has slid as the audience has grown wider). There's few other places where a question about politics might be answered by a Washington insider, or a question about startups might be answered by a top name Valley VC, or a question about snipers answered by an actual sniper.

Their real name policy has generally been fairly sensibly and sensitively implemented (http://www.quora.com/Why-has-there-been-an-outcry-against-re...) - they've always allowed anonymous posting, and they've been more flexible on the definition of "real name", than, say, G+. For example, danah boyd is able to post with the legal, lowercase form of her name.

Whether they'll begin bowing to advertisers once they need to monetise of course remains an open question -- but I'm hoping they can find alternative revenue streams. For example, a lot of consultants post answers on there to gain clients -- that's an example of the concrete monetary value Quora creates, and if they can capture some of that value they can build a great company without stooping to Facebook-style data mining controversies.

Yeah, I'm in the same camp.

One of the most appealing things about Quora is the extent to which it creates a pleasant community. When I saw this, I thought, "Hey, neat! I'll have a better idea who's reading my answers." But I understand why people are upset.

On the other hand, I almost murdered them when they started forcing people inbound from Facebook to log in with Facebook:


So I've got my eye on them. The extent to which they can square the community vibe and their relatively high moral standards with the expectations of their investors is still unclear.

apparently you have to e-mail privacy@quora.com to get your account deleted completely. That in itself is reason to delete your account btw. It speaks volumes of their regard for users and their privacy.

First I'm manually deleting all of my answers, then I'll ask Quora to delete the rest. I've had bad experience with deleting accounts in the past, where my content would remain on the website even though my account was gone. And not having an account, there's nothing I can do about that data afterwards. I want to be pretty sure that all my Quora content is gone.

Fun fact: There's no way to get a list of your anonymous answers on Quora. They don't show up on your profile at all. All you can really do is browse through your list of followed questions and manually check each one to see if you responded anonymously.

Unfortunately this bad practice is widely adopted and only spreading.

It's this kind of BS that makes me create fake facebook or twitter accounts to log on shady sites like Quora.

Wow. I'm certainly asking for a deletion now, too. I haven't used it in a while, but I hate these tactics of not allowing the user to delete the account when he wants to.

Thanks for the correct email id. I just sent out a mail asking them to delete my account.


It was non-obvious as to whom I needed to contact... Ill try that email as well.

EDIT: Done.

> anything short of revolutionary.

I think you mean nothing short of revolutionary.

Don't forget /etc/hosts: quora.com www.quora.com

I recommend using RequestPolicy for that. It's a lot more convenient and fine-grained.

While I see that - its not that I dont want to be able to access them it is more that I want all data associated to me to be deleted...

As far as I understand it, this /etc/hosts entry is not so much about you accessing Quora, but more about other sites that want your browser to connect to Quora (e.g. via embedded content or JavaScript).

syntax is wrong, should be: ip fqdn aliases/shortnames


Unfortunately it's too old to edit.

No worries, just thought i'd point it out is all, technically they'll both work.

That's not really necessary, after you delete your account they'll block you from reading by themselves.

Of course you could trust them not to track you. But for the same reason you prefer your account to be deleted (not just inactivated), you might want to make sure on your side that they can't track you (not just taking their word for it).

I agree with you totally, of course; I was just joking that they won't let you read anything and that is what prompted the initial outrage.

They could be morons for any number of reasons besides age. No need to speculate.

I believe the age thing is more about them not having an accrued history of personally-attributed content on the internet and how that weighed into making this decision.

Whether or not that's related to their age is debatable, but one would assume that people who have been publishing on the web for awhile -- bylined or anonymously -- would understand the negative impact this would have on their community or at least would have learned from previous companies' mistakes that just isn't something you do (both the deploying a global change that opts users into something they didn't initially sign up for and the very concept of making previously private things public). There are separate services out there that one can use if they want others on the web to know where they are and what they're doing. I'll use those if I want to be transparent.

ditto. I emailed privacy@quora.com to delete my account. Waiting for a response from them now.

Absolutely. Their policy to force your true_full_name is an absolute no-go for many users. A friend of mine from south India has a very lengthy name. Few parts of his name are direct reference to his ancestors and the villages they come from. Sort of like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._D._Deve_Gowda where H. D. parts of his name are references to ancestry, places etc.

My friend was denied permission to use Quora, rather insultingly blocked, for not revealing his ancestor name. We thought it was plain stupid on part of Quora to behave this way, so didn't bother to follow up with them either. What's amazing here is that even Government passports don't force revealing names of ancestors like they do.

My friend was denied permission to use Quora for not revealing his ancestor name.

Could you explain how it happened in this specific case, since it sounds like the name that your friend gave appeared to be real. That it, it wasn't something like "Fake Name" or "Bite Me", so how did Quora know?

And, in general, could someone explain how the likes of Quora and Facebook decide that a name isn't "real"? Does someone at Quora or Facebook manually scan new account names? Do they wait for complaints from other users? Is it something algorithmic like noting that you receive messages such as "Hi Mike" but where you registered as "Fred Flintstone"?

>Does someone at Quora or Facebook manually scan new account names?

At facebook they certainly do. When you change your name you have to wait for some period of time before it gets approved by a human. The person doing it doesn't seem to give a shit though. It is the fashion amongst a certain sector of the youth to use utterly ludicrous pseudonyms on FB - most of my friends do. I would love to quote some of them here because they're very funny but I don't want to jeopardise anyones privacy.

Personally I have changed my name several times on FB over the years and never had a problem. For a long time it was 15 letters with no vowels. That was fun at parties - "What are you called on facebook?" "I literally can't remember. Guess I'm going to have to add you."

I've noticed the same phenomenon (knowing tons of people on Facebook--to be clear, just "normal people" I knew from college--with ludicrous handles on Facebook). It thereby really bugs me when people hold up Facebook as an example of why real name policies are good, or claim that forcing real names is ok because Facebook set a precedent, when it is fairly clear that Facebook doesn't really care.

I suspect the wait time for changing names on facebook are there to give the illusion that a real human looks at it.

AFAIK if you try to change your name to something obviously fake, like "Superman", it will reject it immediately

It's likely that the system is setup to reject obviously wrong names instantly to save the manual reviewers' time.

I was contacted by Quora 2 days after creating an account. They thought "Ring" was a joke.

OT: my favorite "delete your account" is at buy dot com. At least couple months ago, there was no option to do so, so I called them and someone told me: just add "DELETE" in front of your account; this way you wont be able to login to it anymore.

I am sure changing your name to 'DROP TABLE users; works fine too in that case...

I suspect in this case, he just used initials for the last name instead of expanding it. It's a common style followed in India. For example He use Deve G. or Fred F.

I didn't mind their real full-name policy until now, since you could still answer questions anonymously. Allowing other members to see the questions I'm viewing by default, however, crosses the line.

Quora has gone the way of expert-sexchange, showing up in Google search results for interesting questions, but then overlaying/replacing most answers with blur and "sign up to read".

Borderline SERP cloaking, to say the least.

> Quora has gone the way of expert-sexchange, showing up in Google search results for interesting questions, but then overlaying/replacing most answers with blur and "sign up to read".

This shit doesn't fly with Google. Delivering different content to Google bot and the user coming through search makes Google looks like a fool, since the user is unable to find the content he searched for. That is why expert-sexchange shows answers at the bottom when Google is your referrer.

If Quora is pulling up this shit, Google will penalize it. I think it's more likely Quora is simply hiding content behind css.

It looks like what they are doing are obfuscating with CSS.

See for example: http://www.quora.com/Bayesian-Inference/How-do-Bayesian-algo...

The answers are in a span with class "blurred_answer", which has css styles: "color: transparent; text-shadow: 0 0 7px #777". Which in effect makes the text completely unreadable to humans.

This is just one step above "color: #fff; background-color: #fff".


I don't see missing or blurred text in your example,


I checked with two different browsers (Opera and Firefox under Windows).

Could this mean that the Quora PR machine is up in full swing trying to undo damage (at least in the case of specific links that people cite)?

Did you scroll all the way down? Still blurry here: http://imgur.com/Bbifs (on google chrome)

Although I see in the html source there are some html comments "googleoff". I've never heard of those before.

I guess "googleon"'ing the first answer is enough to get google juice while staying within the letter of rules, it's still really spammy.

(Plus, how does that play with other search engines?)

Yes, you're right, I can see the blurring in certain cases now.

If I go to the link you cited directly it is not blurred.

But I if search for "How do Bayesian algorithms work" in Google, then click the link that Google finds, then it is blurred.

Once you get the blurred Quora page, then even going to the link directly will get you a blurred page. If you delete all the Quora cookies, then it'll be back to being readable (non-blurred).

Interestingly, if you use Google's encrypted service ( https://encrypted.google.com/ ) to search for "How do Bayesian algorithms work", you'll get a non-blurred Quora page.

I'm pleased -- perhaps -- in that enough Googlers read HN that now maybe this blurring BS will be addressed.

Of course, it will be addressed by another "true name" purveyor. My head hurts.

IIRC, https sites do not send referer, so that makes sense.

https sites sends referers only to other https sites (even crossdomain), but not when navigating from https to http.

I can't see those in the HTML, whether I'm logged in or not, but I have used googleoff & googleon in HTML comments before - they're used to control which parts of a page can be ignored when using a Google Search Appliance.

So, if Quora use a GSA (or rack of them) to power their site search, they can ensure parts of the page aren't added to the index of the search. This can be helpful if you want to exclude areas that are repeated a lot in the site but are not helpful if you are searching, like navigation or help panels.

(Quick edit) googleoff/googleon are completely ignored by normal Google, AFAIK it's only used for their Appliance products.

Interesting, it's not blurred for me either, although the other day I remember it was.

I tried this in Firefox and Chrome in both normal and Private/Incognito modes.

It looks like they've changed it. I added quora to my list of blocked domains in google immediately after noticing the blurred responses... I don't think I'll remove them.

Unreadable to humans with sight. Screen readers don't care! :-)

Matt Cutts does, though. I'm sure he'll look into it, if we ask him. :)

Just do "select all" (CTRL+A) to see all Quora hidden content.

Source: http://nerdr.com/see-quora-answers-without-signing-up/

I just tried, didn't work. (Firefox on a Mac, select all with command-A.)

Presumably I could View Source or something; but hey, there's no shortage of info on the web without the silly hoops.

I know this is not on topic, but I wrote that answer! It's a huge kick to see it on a random HN comment. :D

> This shit doesn't fly with Google.

Not only does this shit fly but Google are doing it on their own websites.

EDIT: I'm guessing you don't believe me. Try clicking on a Google Groups link.

This article has another example: http://www.seobook.com/googles-youtube-caught-cloaking-spam-...

Google repeatedly violates the "guidelines" they try to force on other webmasters.

> Not only does this shit fly but Google are doing it on their own websites.

I am not claiming Google is benevolent. As I mentioned above, if a user searches for "rails select in query" and the user clicks on experts-exchange result summary showing partial answer only to be taken to the page where answers are hidden, the user failed to find something on Google. May be he will blame experts-exchange, but he will blame Google as well.

> EDIT: I'm guessing you don't believe me.

I am guessing you were downvoted. I didn't downvote you. If fact, you can't downvote immediate replies to your post. Since you directly replied to my post, the downvote link doesn't appear for me for your reply.

I just want to point out that search results like Quora or Experts-exchange, are definitely not going away. Some websites might be penalized here and there but I haven't seen any consistent efforts to stop them.

In fact, Google wants even more such results. See First Click Free: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&...

Oh and here are 240 million login-walled pages: https://www.google.com/search?q=inurl:groups.google.com/grou...

> In fact, Google wants even more such results. See First Click Free: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&....

Google wants to index as much content as possible. It's providing incentive to content owners to let Google index it. As pointed out by another commenter, clicking on the search result summary shows that document in full. It's only the subsequent clicks that can be paywalled.

> Oh and here are 240 million login-walled pages: https://www.google.com/search?q=inurl:groups.google.com/grou....

Is it asking to sign in? I tried in incognito mode and I could read the groups just fine.

> It's only the subsequent clicks that can be paywalled.

I find it annoying when that happens. Also, Google's recommendation is to allow 5 clicks a day and allow everyone with "GoogleBot" in their useragent. I wish the implementation was better.

> Is it asking to sign in? I tried in incognito mode and I could read the groups just fine.

You are right, I cleared my cookies and I stopped getting the login redirection.

I'd be OK with this if I could click on a search result link and actually read the web page; I wouldn't mind other links on that page leading to a please-sign-up.

The scummy thing here is that you're taken to a web page where the interesting content is hidden on the first page.

Chrome user script to unblur the answers: https://gist.github.com/3208442

I find it easier just to block the site.

I have always assumed this was what Quora is about, but I have never seen a Quora result show up in a Google search? Is this supposed to be the case for a company with that focus, or am I just not using the right queries?

pose your query like a question, also the query should be 4 words long..

Ah, that's probably it. I always use keywords, except when I can't get a hit for the life of me, which rarely happens.

I don't think that should be the case here. They have blurred answers enclosed in googleoff/googleon tags - which should make sure that they don't get indexed.

It's actually worse because with expert-sexchange you can scroll to the bottom to read the answers. Not so much with Quora, right?

One reason both are in my results blacklist.

At least Quora don't require you to pay.

If you would like try and get your account deleted, send something like this to privacy@quora.com


Please can you delete my account.

I'm unhappy with your recent changes that would allow anyone to see the topics I follow and read.

My registered account is set up at <email address>

Please can you send me confirmation when you have done this. Many Thanks.


I've fired an email off. Re: http://www.quora.com/How-do-I-delete-my-Quora-account

Here is my deletion request:


To: privacy@quora.com

Subject: Account deletion request


Hi Quora,

I am unhappy with the new Views feature, which is enabled by default. I do not wish to be part of a website that prevents its users from browsing pages anonymously, especially if it also requires them to use their full names.

Can you please delete my Quora account and all associated data as soon as possible, including my public and anonymous answers. Please also send me a confirmation email once this data has been erased.

My account page is located at www.quora.com/XXXXXXXXXXXX.




Quora has processed my deletion request and confirmed that my account has been deleted. Except that not a whole lot was deleted, as far as I can see.

I can still log in.

I left my account logged in and did not deactivate it before sending the request. It looks like most of my details are still intact.

* My name was replaced with User-XXXX, where XXXX is a four-digit integer.

* My followers and the people I'm following were removed

* It looks like the comments that I left on answers have been deleted.

* I'm not sure about things like my biography, country of origin, etc. because I removed those myself first

* I can still see other details such as my edit history and the messages I have exchanged with others.

My answers do not seem to have been deleted.

I'm not 100% sure about this, because I made sure I manually deleted them all myself before asking for my profile to be deleted. But when I view a question I answered, I still have the option of undeleting my answer. Maybe Quora normally permadeletes answers only if they weren't manually deleted first. Maybe they just flag them as deleted like I did manually. I have no idea.

All the questions I had created still exist.

The only questions I was able to delete myself were the ones with no answers on them. The others remain, but with my name scrubbed off them. I find this acceptable and didn't expect Quora to delete other peoples' answers along with my questions.

Ultimately I'm pretty happy with this. I would have preferred to have everything permadeleted, but as long as my answers are no longer visible and my personal informatoin has been scrubbed, I'll leave it at that.

Here's a screenshot of my Quora edit history, with the individual edits blurred out: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/4630539/Quora%20Edit%20List.png

Since this can be turned off in the Quora preferences, you might add an explanation why this is not good enough, e.g. they subverted an expected trust of anonymity by turning a new feature on without asking first, and that defaults matter.

Thanks for the tip. Here is my request:



Your lack of respect for privacy is unfortunate.

Delete my account and all associated data immediately, and send me a confirmation email once this is done.

My account: www.quora.com/xxxxx

- xxxxx


  Please *delete* all data associated with my account.
  My registered email address is: ______________

  I would keep my account except there's no way to
  actually delete my content and actions myself.
  All you can do is *hide* stuff.

  I want my stuff *deleted* permanently without a trace.

There are people on the other end of the email who are doing this for some rational reason, not specifically to piss you off. Generally, acting nicely to people you don't know well will get you a lot more than being hostile.

    Hi Quora team,
    I'm not very happy with the recent changes to privacy settings on Quora and I'd
    like to delete my account. My email address is ...
    I've heard from others that, in lieu of their account actually being deleted, their
    followers and username were just reset. Could you ensure all the content I've
    created is fully *deleted and gone from your database*? I'd do it myself but all
    you can do is hide it.
    Thanks again for your help. It's unfortunate that it's come to this, but I'm just
    not at all comfortable with your new policies and so I want to make sure my
    persona on the site is truly and completely gone.
(Also, "deleted permanently without a trace." is absolutely impossible in the current age. Even if Quora did manually remove everything from their databases, cache servers, logs, etc, they'd still have to figure out some way to remove it from search engine caches, API clients, and anything else which is, in all actuality, totally beyond their control. Whether regular users realize this or not, as a member of a community called "Hacker News", I fully expect everyone here recognizes the state of things, and the irreversibly of creating something.)

Quora is acting badly. You don't start exposing "views" like this without at the very least warning users in advance, and more reasonably, defaulting to "off" for existing accounts.

You also don't have a "Delete" button that simply hides things. That really is unconscionable. Delete means delete.

I've been on the receiving end of thousands of user emails and that email is not even a 1 on the hostility meter. Personally I tend to appreciate very simple and direct email. The hardest users to help are the ones that aren't clear about what they want.

Okay, "deleting without a trace" probably should be "delete as much data as you possibly can". Remove from backups, archives, caches, do not simply "hide" my data, but delete it permanently. Every service should develop a process for doing this. I've developed this kind of functionality many times, and yes it's a pain, but no it's not particularly hard. Quora is clearly not responsible for Google or any other third-party generally.

You actually have to disable your account and then not log in (logging in re-enables), and then send that email. That's what I had to do when I deleted my account. Not sure if their process has changed since a few months ago when I did it.

Why didn't you deactivated the feature?

In my opinion, it's not enough. It should not be enabled by default, and it should not exist at all. Services like Quora should not introduce changes that compromise the privacy of accounts that already exist. If I hadn't seen this submission on Hacker News, I wouldn't have known about the change.

Completely agree. Facebook paved the way for this bullshit. If they would charge $1/month they would beat Facebook's revenue/user rate and could skip the advertising headaches and the pressure to be slimy.

This wouldn't be a good idea for either service, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_effects

I doubt that this is related to making money.

Why wouldn't it be a good idea? It works quite well for the industry cited as the canonical example in the link you gave.

A huge number of people would drop off of FB, and would never try quora, if they charged. Fewer people on each makes each less useful to each potential new user, and to every existing user, causing more people to drop off.

At some point the pressure is on to join, however, because everybody else is on it. Like having a cell phone: people expect to be able to reach you, so you are pressured into having one (even some old buggers who swore they never would finally succumbed).

So while I agree there would be a loss, I'm not so sure about "huge." Would people be pissed? Yes. Would there be backlash? Absolutely. Would it open the door wider for a competitor? Probably. But they would be making honest money, more than they are now, and could innovate.

I may be wrong about its chances for success, but to me it's not obviously a failing move.

He did. His method was to get his account deleted. Problem solved, protest lodged and feature "deactivated" in one go.

Here's hoping Quora becomes the next Digg.

Deactivation preserves data.

Deletion erases data.

People usually shut down profiles for privacy reasons, so deactivation will rarely be of any use to them; they are better off trying to manually delete their content, while they still have a semblance of write access in that regard.

Deactivation works in some instances on a hypothetical level, but people tend to leave a service, because they don't trust it, which leaves that option moot.

Deletion erases data.

Yeah, I'm sure it does...

Basically, because this type of maneuver is low and shitty and we can see it

most people won't even know it happened, new users will have to discover by themselves, a lot of people will not like but won't care enough to opt-out, most who really dislike will opt-out and the rest who are actively against it, that are opinionated and will try to shed a light on how unethical and unconsiderate this is and consequently put a bad face on them will be significantly cut down


to: privacy@quora.com

Subject: Delete my account

the e-mail for it is: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

thats the link: www.quora.com/xxxxxxxxxx


Early last year, when I was starting to get into using Quora, I stopped using it abruptly when I realised how limited their privacy features are.

Basically, I wanted to contribute quite heavily to the Depression topic. I'm a sufferer and I wanted to be able to help other people. But on Quora you have a choice of answering a question either Anonymously or as yourself, the problem with answering as yourself is that all your activity gets published to the feed of people who follow you, and with Quora being heavily integrated with Facebook I wasn't comfortable with this.

Which meant I was forced to answer questions anonymously, which I was equally uncomfortable with. I felt like I couldn't make an valuable contribution if I was hiding behind anonymity each time.

I don't mind people knowing things about me, which is why I don't mind saying this here, using my real name, but that's very different to being willing to shout from the rooftops.

I emailed Quora to suggest being able to decide what information gets published to the feed on a per-topic basis. I didn't get a response, which is hardly surprising, but if basic privacy-controls are outside of their plan for the site, I can't be part of it.

Great point. I've noticed this trend on other sites, as well. Usually you have an option of facebook/google plus-integrated account, and maybe an anonymous option. You've laid out the core problem with this binary view. In your case, for legitimate reasons, you don't want to advertise certain aspects of your health to search engines, but you still want to have standing with the community. I've had a similar dilemma with politically-oriented sites. I don't hide my political views in "real life" especially when asked, but I don't want to have them associated with me whenever someone google searches my name.

> I felt like I couldn't make an valuable contribution if I was hiding behind anonymity each time.

Why is that?

Because I feel part of being a community member is having a recognisable name, even if it's just a pseudonym, so just being "Anonymous" isn't sufficient for me.

Names are important because they allow you to build reputation (ignoring actual reputation algorithms for now). So if a particular question comes up, a user might think "I wonder what Joey Joe Joe thinks about this" or "Let's see what AmazingFace82's answer to this question is".

In the case of any community that's fundamentally about self-improvement, for example the Depression topic, it's useful to see how an individual's contributions change over time. Do they become more positive? What solutions did they try, which ones were most effective?

I think anonymous discussion is still valuable, but I agree that it's often much less valuable when you can't see the individual's comment history.

In my view pseudonymity is usually the best solution - with real names or complete anonymity only occasionally being preferable.

Why not unlink your FB account? I don't have FB linked to Quora.

At the time, when I was getting into Quora. I was quite keen to have my Facebook friends be able to find me easily.

Additionally, my boss was the guy who encouraged me to use Quora more heavily, so he was following me already. Even unlinking Facebook wouldn't have changed that.

There's the option of maintaining multiple accounts, but I wasn't a heavy enough user yet to be willing to deal with the hassle.

Well, I don't think its about the money. Its a desperate move. Heres my theory on what happened:

Quora was started by an elitist group. They made content policies that were very elitist (similar to HN in a way) emphasizing quality and trained their early adopters to vote only the VERY BEST of content.

They then moved away from the gated status and allowed others to enter their community. The new-comers were however not as qualified to write as the old user base and obviously most of them never got any upvotes for the content they created. So the new users got programmed to believe that up votes are scarce on quora and therefore they themselves stopped up voting on quora.

Well the only problem with this was, up voting also meant sharing. So by training users to not up vote in a way, they cut off their sharing. So now old content stopped circulating and that explains why most people think quora is dead.

To solve the problem of content circulation slowing down, which would heavily impact the discovery of content, Quora first launched a feature called 'Boards' some time back. (Even though this invited comments on how Quora is just copying pinterest). That probably got the engine up and running for some while.

However this still did not fix the problem. I think the most popular board on Quora has something like 5000 followers. Thats it! So the content is still not circulating well.

So then they came up with the Views feature - a feature turned on by default and which would convert every view into a vote and could turn on their content engine back up again.

What people don't get is - The guy who started eHow is an investor at Quora. It has always been about long tail content, getting traffic for long queries on google, content circulation etc...

Quora is not innovative at all, there is no great model there.

Its just eHow done more cleanly.

Except it's written by users, so it's really Yahoo Answers with real names.

eHow is garbage content though. They might target search traffic in the same way but the answers on Quora are actually good. Perhaps thats what you meant by 'cleanly' but I took that to mean design only.

I essentially deleted my account a long time ago, which involved unsubscribing from every single question, and anonymizing every single comment I had ever made. It was the only thing close to deleting my account, and yet I still see my content, follows, and upvotes there. Gaining a sense of privacy is an abstruse and opaque task. And I'm sure that's intended.

One of the things that really bothered me was that I could tell who had made a thread about a sensitive or taboo-ridden subject[1], although this was not at all obvious to the person who posted the question. The site creates the impression that you are - sort of - anonymous when asking a question, but have to explicitly choose to anonymize, when you post an answer.

To think that this company raised at a $400M valuation in April pisses me off.

The concept of privacy can quickly get very semantic, but I think Steve Jobs summed it up perfectly:

    Privacy means people know what they are signing up
    — Steve Jobs, D8 2010.
Anyone in their right mind will see that Quora don't give two shits about privacy - probably because the abolition of it helps their business model.

[1]: In the list of portraits of people following a question, the first of the portraits is the person who posted the question.

The greatest thing about Quora is that it doesn't really "exist" outside of the valley. I stayed in Georgia for 3 months. Everyone in the startup scene out there (except for my friend who runs a successful website) doesn't know what Quora is. When I explained it to them, they thought they could get the same answers from Google.

To an extent, they are correct. I'm getting tired of these self-entitled startups who think they are running the show.

"get the same answers from Google" - well, I signed up for a Quora account out of curiosity some time ago and started receiving their weekly emails, which generally I delete or unsubscribe from with most companies but something about Quora's community has kept me subscribed, for example answers to questions such as 'What wass it like to grow up insanely rich' and 'What is it like to lose an Olympic event'. I checked my account and the default is still No for "Allow others to see what content I've viewed in feed" but I'll certainly be considering deleting my account should this be activated without my consent.

Headline: Thanks to Quora, now you can’t read anonymously.

Reality: Quora launched a feature called "views", announced to everyone upon logging in that it was automatically enabled, and is disabled with three clicks from any page on the site.

I wasn't particularly happy when I was opted in, and immediately turned it off. Then, after a few hours, I turned it back on and saw that it was actually a pretty useful feature to see how people were getting to my content. I noticed that a few of my followers were "connectors" of Quora, through which half or more of my views on an answer came. This, I feel, is useful and relevant information.

Yes, being opted into a less private setting is unsettling, but I trust Quora at least as much as any other company. This is the first time I've been opted into anything, their settings are incredibly easy to figure out and are granular, and I trust the people that run the site.

I'll add that this seems to bother non-users more than people who actually use the site regularly.

My reality: Quora links are 100% useless to click.

I don't have an account there. I never intend to have an account there, because the only thing I've used it for is to get answers(or more context) to the occasional bizarre coding issue I've run into at work. I've never felt the need to post anything.

So no, it doesn't matter what new "feature" they added. They have effectively killed their entire product for me.

I think your opinion is pretty much worthless then. We're talking about how a change impacts the value of Quora to users. You didn't like the old version, don't like the new version, so why comment?

Two questions: do they tell you which three clicks are required, and why couldn't they just put an accept/decline button in the login announcement?

This is misleading, as you CAN read anonymously if you disable the feature.

Personally, I read stuff for amusement or interest all the time that I would not want a large portion of my acquaintances knowing that I read, and certainly not without explanation. For instance, if I read an article about child abuse and get curious about the age of consent in Massachusetts, I don't want that showing up to random acquaintances in my feed anywhere.

Enabling this feature surreptitiously and without an opt-in is insanely stupid and insensitive to users. Given that Quora has very good support for anonymous questions and answers, you'd expect them to be more savvy than this.

I'm going to sound like a broken record here, but Quora users are the product, not the customer. Quora wants to make money and they can make more of it by showing everyone who is looking at what. If they can go to advertisers and say, "See, we know every single question people are interested in, so you can get better value out of your clicks! We show this information to everyone, so we have no problem letting you tailor your placements to exact criteria."

Then they can charge more. It's simple as that.

Quora was a darling. It was started from the inside. We didn't expect this one did we?

Why oh why do we keep creating content/value for random people we don't know when we could create a blog on our own website? When we could create a product that has value to us and others and benefits us in a direct and measurable way?

Creating that content is work. Answering those questions is work. It takes time. It takes energy. It takes concentration and value away from work that benefits YOU.

OMG, I'm doing it right now!

It's more than just creating content, it's communication. Quora's end of the bargain was to maintain a quality platform for the exchange of ideas.

I never got pass the real name policy.

I think a mistake is that these services are either built without a clear development strategy, or the development strategy doesn't jive with what the users expect from the early growth phase.

I think the pressure becomes overwhelming when you are playing with other people's money; that is, when you get investors. There is only one question to ask: how can we make more money? It's usually phrased differently, but that's ultimately the question.

We see this repeatedly with "free" products. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...

I think it must also benefit you, otherwise you wouldn't be doing it, basic human needs are tapped by the quota model (and here on hn too), recognition, self expression, philanthropy etc. Thanks to the subtle game mechanics employed by quora (and hn) these needs are exploited to create a symbiosis, you help them create content that that they can use for their purpose and in return you get those needs met, and create habits around them thanks to the dopamine reward cycle.

I'd forgotten what Quora was, or that it had existed. Now I'm very glad that's the case, since I wouldn't want to have to stop using something I actually liked.

This is stupid.

What's more stupid is their desperation for you to interact with their site. I went to remove my unused account, and this is what I got when I typed www.quora.com:


You'll notice that I couldn't do anything else - I "had" to choose 5 extremely broad subjects that I'm supposed to be interested in, in order to be able to view my profile. I selected 5 subjects randomly, and...


Only after that they kindly allowed me to view the main page and my profile. I deactivated my account, and won't ever click on a quota link again (and would add them to my spam list so they won't show up in my Google results).

If you don't email privacy@quora.com it won't get deleted though. Make sure you do that as well.

Thanks for pointing that out. Is that a robot on the other end (which deletes the account if it contains "delete" or so etching like that in the subject field), or you have to talk to a human and ask them to delete it?

To me, the fact that Quora feels it needs to share passive views means they're failing to get enough people to actively engage with their content.

If I don't care enough click a button, either A) I have no meaningful opinion, B) I don't want Quora to know what I think, or C) there's a "problem" with the button.

Quora, if you're going to just make assumptions about why I'm looking at an answer, you will very often be WRONG.

(views disabled)

Honest question, why is Quora still relevant? I thought after the initial hype for what ever reason their traction is gone (as expected). They are nothing but a glorified version of yahoo answers. HN, Reddit and Stackoverflow do a better job at what they do.

One thing I can't understand with this "real name" stuff - why can't sites like quora charge a one time fee, like Metafilter? When people pay real money, you know who they are, they are less likely to troll, no? This has been successful with Metafilter, why can't other sites copy this? It'll also be another (small) source of revenue

I really have the feeling we're all merely getting sold to advertisers. Where are the real innovations from tech people? It is not about "social interaction", in many ways it's only about getting as much data from the user as possible, to sell it.

I can't say how much i hate the "social trend" in this era of the internet boom.

"Yeah, our Product is a ripoff of Product X (proof concept, existing since 2000) BUT WE ADDED SOCIAL TO IT, ZOMG!!11"

What's bugging me even more is the fact, that there're so many stupid VCs who think they'll invest in the next big thing and support stupid ideas, too blind to see real innovations.

> I can't say how much i hate the "social trend" in this era of the internet boom.

It angers me greatly. I attribute it to tech going mainstream in a big way. It waters down the entire industry. Worse, it feels like it has slowed down R&D because everyone's so complacent with what we have.

The immediate solution is simple: Settings -> Views: Allow others to see what content I've viewed in feed: No (yes) -- change to no.

It's creepy and disrespectful that they would turn this on by default and it looks extremely desperate which makes me doubt quora's financial stability. Which in turn makes me not want to spend time contributing to it (not that I've made many contributions).

But this is the sort of thing FB would've done in their place... So I don't know, maybe their staff simply has no understanding of how people feel about privacy.

One thing that stuck out to me in the article is the whole concept of "anonymous reading."

When did the need to make the distinction of anonymous vs non-anonymous reading arise? Anonymity was assumed for something as simple as picking up a book or a newspaper. It sounds as awkward and unnatural to me as taking an "anonymous shower" or anonymously picking my nose. Pretty scary that we're headed down this path where fewer and fewer things are private.

This is bad, bad juju on Quora's part. The Facebookisation of Quora is something that makes my Spidey sense go off as well. Forcing "real" names. Forcing reads into the public without warning. Lots of "hey, we're the coolest social startup on the block."

Quora is overrated. They need to get it together, dial down the hype, and show some freaking humility. To do that they'll need to stop abusing the users they have.

This is disturbing. I hope this will not become a trend.

I don't think it will spread too much.

Nothing would kill Facebook quicker than then implementing this, for example.

Agreed. I'm on the verge of leaving facebook, I've been for quite some time. Their stupid change in chat (people know when you read what they wrote) almost made me quit, but Chrome extensions to disable it allowed me to stay.

With such a move, I would not stay one day longer on the "service".

It's boiled frogs all the way down!

Although I don't have a Quora account, I definitely won't be signing up for one after hearing this news.

I dislike the idea of passively sharing information. In my opinion, sharing should be a conscious decision the user makes, not something that the user is tricked or forced into.

How are you tricked or forced when you're told what's happening upfront and told how to stop it if you don't like it?

It's not like the proverbial hyperspace bypass paperwork, it's literally 3 clicks.

I swear guys, some of you have both very oversensitive outrage modules and a broad definition of deception. That goes to most everyone in this thread.

Off topic I guess, but to me Quora seems to have passed it's peak for updates to topics which I find interesting, unfortunately. I was not an early adopter, and joined when the gated-community phase ended, selected my topics and enjoyed quite a few good answers. A week later I opened it up on a train ride, but the content had not changed at all.

And, perhaps more tellingly, in each topic the few scraps of fresh activity each time I've opened the app since have been from exactly the same users.

You can turn it off, but then you can't see who viewed things. (Similar to how LinkedIn and OkCupid work with anonymous browsing.) And if you really want to see I'm sure you can do so via another account. (I think it is possible because okc and linkedin hide private data but quora hides public data.)

Instructions: http://www.quora.com/Views-on-Quora/How-do-I-turn-off-the-Vi...

This move by Quora pissed me off, but the only reason I'm keeping my account is because they allowed me to turn it off.

Quite an effective way to destroy some goodwill they'd built up with me over the past couple of years.

That's fine by me!

Not entirely unrelated: today on Facebook I noticed there are groups I can't browse without the group creator knowing which posts I have seen and which posts I haven't.


It might not be new but it was the first time I noticed it (and I immediately left the group without thinking about it for even one second).

I don't really understand why someone who has knowledge worth sharing would just give it away to a private entity like Quora who will then make money off your contributions.

If you do want to share knowledge for free (which is of course laudable), there are plenty of other large, well-established websites that are free and open and will remain so in the future. Or you could just set up a personal/community website of your own.

Quora seems nice but I cannot possibly feel comfortable with their policies, even before this. I can only participate very selectively because of this. I like the service and it has traction, too bad their invasiveness thresholds are too lax for me to accept.

I'd rather just pay a small quantity to be honest. I'm not sure if an alternative site working on subscriber money would be feasible.

Why Google doesn't penalize them for serving different content to google bot and to humans?! How can thy get away with it... I'm sure many people who work for Google and are part of team that has authority to make those changes have seen it..?-

What value does this have over, say, an anonymized view count? While it's nice to know that people have seen what you've written, does their identity really need to be known?

Perhaps it is more attractive to advertisers then to users. Demographic tracking etc.

What people you are following have viewed now shows up in your feed. This will presumably improve discovery, as your feed is the primary way to find interesting content on Quora.

Recent changes that Quora has made to their interface ( several UI dark patterns implemented to get people to automatically share / integrate with FB / Twitter ) as well as this move of hiding answers makes me believe that they are desperate, not confident. I had high hopes for Quora from the beginning but have been continually let down to the point where Quora seems like ExpertsExchange 2.0 now.

Not all views are shared. http://www.quora.com/Views-on-Quora/Which-of-my-views-will-a...

If you are too afraid to visit that link, try this one: http://pastebin.com/T2s9Vjxn

There is space for competition in that area. StackExchange is pretty good, but since they don't allow questions with subjective answers, they basically exclude themselves from the vast majority of the market share. Then there is quora, yahoo answers, ... There is certainly enough space for a few good startups.

StackExchange leaves a lot of open opportunities even in the areas they focus on. The objectivity mantra means they'll ban "best programmer jokes", perhaps understandable, but oddly they'll block questions like "best database for X, best book on X" as being "Not Constructive". (I could understand "subjective", but I can't see how it's not useful data.)

So when I see things like this, it makes me think there's surely an opportunity and the opportunity falls squarely in Quora's lap. But depending how they execute on it, they might still be leaving the space wide open for others.

Reddit has some decent subreddits devoted to questions/answers, but the really good ones, like askscience, only allow objective answers. On second thought, that's probably why those ones are good.

That headline seems unnecessarily incendiary, since it tells you in the last paragraph how to opt out.

I was curious so I just had a look with my (fake name) account and the option called "Allow others to see what content I've viewed in feed" was set at "No". I don't recall ever playing with that setting so this may be a recent change on their part to avoid the backlash.

Mine was also 'No', but then I visited the homepage (http://www.quora.com) and closed the notice there about the new Views feature... which toggled the setting to 'Yes', without any message to that effect.

So try viewing the homepage and then check the setting, or closing the fewture notification... it may then be 'Yes'.

I'm not so sure. I just logged into my account (which I have rarely used) and the setting had a value of "Yes" for me.

I've never signed up to Quora, but the last time I visited, it looked as though I was logged in which I assumed was via my Twitter cookie. (I don't have a Facebook account.)

It's not happening now so possibly was part of some A/B test.

That coupled with this passive browsing would be a step too far.

This is one of the reasons I keep fake accounts, including on quora, FB and Twitter, to read the content. Due to the fake name in the quora account, I don't have edit privileges, which is perfectly fine with me as it is at most a minor inconvenience at times.

I do not have a Quora account, but I understand their move and it may not be all bad. There are 3 ways how a company may handle user passive privacy:

1. Not collect any information (in this case who read what article) at all. Obviously that company would be at a big disadvantage, having no access to a useful set of signals.

2. Collect the information and use it for their own goals.

3. Collect the information and make it freely available.

If I understand the article correctly, Quora went from strategy #2 to #3. From my perspective, this is a positive move. In case #3, users are aware of what is happening with their private information and may log out if they do not want to be tracked this way. It is way better than living in peaceful ignorance as in case #2. Also, the company cannot sell the private info, because it is publicly available.

> Also, the company cannot sell the private info, because it is publicly available.

Uh. Maybe you don't understand why people don't like it when companies sell their data.

It's because it ends up in the hands of every shady marketing agency and intelligence organization on earth. Making it public just means that these parties can get it with no barrier to entry.

See: Usenet, where any email address that's ever touched it is supposedly under constant siege by spam.

Maybe I have expressed myself not clearly enough, so once more: I prefer the collected information to be public because then it is clear to everyone that it is being collected and many more people are aware of the implications. I think it is better than when the same kind of information is being secretly sold while users have a false feeling of privacy.

Friendster did the same thing. Look where it is now. https://www.google.com/search?q=friendster+who+viewed+me

Non-anonymous passive sharing discourages curiosity and experimentation by giving them boundless potential for embarrassment. It's hard to imagine worse long-term damage to users' humanity.

Just thought I'd point out that the method they used for the obfuscation is a simple CSS rule. It can be quite easily disabled with the developer tools, an extension or a proxy.

Hate this update from them. I think what have they done was a EPIC Fail in their part.

I wouldn't mind this feature if it were totally opt-in.

It can be turned off easily. No sweat !!

Just use a fake name :)

Quora, you fucked up.

I've learned to go with the flow and trust them when they make changes like this. My first impression is usually to want the 'old Quora' back but once I get used to them, the changes do nearly always improve the experience. I would imagine this will be the same.

They are very skilled at interpreting needs and desires we didn't know we had and quickly correcting themselves the times they do make mistakes (like the recent notification spam issues).

edit: lol @ downvotes. Unacceptable to not be a Quora hater I guess...

very skilled at interpreting needs and desires we didn't know we had

This is basically the same line that I use when I'm mocking targeted ads and joking around with friends about how thankful they should be for them. If your edit wasn't there I would have guessed this was a level aka fooling someone w/ sarcasm or non-serious remark.

It's also the same line people use when they describe why Steve Jobs was so brilliant.

There is a difference, however, in explaining away unpopular changes as being this and actually being good at it. Quora is actually good at it.

I'd be curious to know what/how you use Quora. I've had an account on there forever, but it just doesn't quite seem to hit the right level of utility for me to go back to it.

It's all about the feed. You need to follow people who are interested in things you're interested in.

I don't think it's as much about not being a Quora hater but more the attitude of "they know what's best for me."

Genuinely never understood the hype or money behind this.

It's just ExpertSexChange all over again


Just an FYI: This is known as thread-jacking, and it is looked down upon here on HN. I would suggest you post in 'Ask HN' if you want feedback.

Well as Eric Schmidt said, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place." ;)



That quote is based on the (false) premise that privacy is there to conceal illegal/shady activities. It puts you in one of two groups; You're either guilty of something and have a reason to hide it, or you're not guilty and have no reason to hide anything. It doesn't include the possibility that you might not be guilty of something but may still want to keep something hidden. I'll give you an example. You might NOT want to give your phone number when you register on some social website because you don't want that data used for marketting purposes.

Yes, Schmidt showed a complete lack of understanding of why anonymity is still often a necessity online. Do we really need to keep going over the examples that clearly show he is wrong?

I got the impression that by doing "it" he meant searching Google for it, not actually doing it. I think most people realise that Google works by tracking what you search for, so it makes sense that if you want something to remain unknown, you shouldn't search Google for it.

With the exception of "stealth" startups? ;)

I hope the smiley is sarcastic?

I was being sarcastic people.

I am not sure I follow your logic here...

Either you are being sarcastic, or idiotic. Please tel me which one.

I was being sarcastic here.

Ah, I think I missed the ;) last night!


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