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I'd like to use the web my way, thank you very much Quora (hanselman.com)
902 points by johns on Feb 14, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 261 comments

I think Adam's mistake here is to go too much by the numbers. He presumably has numbers that show that Quora ends up net ahead if they force people to create accounts to read answers. He grew Facebook very effectively by following the numbers. But he may not realize how different this case is from Facebook's. It may well be that for a site like Quora, at this stage in its life, users are not all equal. It may be a mistake to alienate the sort of people Quora has been alienating by doing this, even if they end up numerically ahead in the short term.

I'm one of them. Quora has now spent several years training me to be bummed out every time I click on a link to their site. Every time it happens, I dislike them more, and become more resistant to creating an account. I now think of it as a site for other people, who are willing to put up with the stuff they do. I'm pleased to find there are others like me.

I like Adam, but I wish he'd stop doing this.

It's so utterly broken. At the beginning I was just annoyed because you could select the blurred text and still read it, but now (for the desktop site) they actually substitute the text with dynamically generated images that are a blurred version.

I became so enraged over this that I decided to install the "Personal Blocklist (by Google)" Chrome plugin and then added quora.com to the blocklist just so that I wouldn't see them in results when I searched for things on Google.

Like you, they've trained me to never want to contribute to their site, and to never, ever want to consume the content they provide.

Same. It takes a lot to get on my blocklist and the only site that now populates it is quora.

That and mirrors of google groups such as gmame

Gmane doesn't mirror google groups -- it mirrors public mailing lists and originally was made to reformat them for news readers[1]; some mailing lists use it intentionally as their public archives (emacs org-mode for one) so you might be missing out if you blacklist it. I don't have any affiliation with them, but they don't seem too bad.

[1] http://gmane.org/about.php

If their purpose is so focused on newsreader formatting, they should tweak their robots.txt to keep from polluting SERPs.

Google groups should modify its robots.txt to avoid showing up in SERPS. Gmane was around first.

Gmane was not around first. Google Groups started almost a year before the gmane.org domain was even registered, and it was built upon the purchase of the DejaNews archives, which itself began in the mid-90s.

Deja News was a web interface for Usenet, not a newsgroup interface for mailing lists. I don't remember when google groups switched to a web/mailing list setup, but I think it was later than 2002 (when Gmane started).

Gmane the mail-to-news gateway and archive? It's not like Google Groups owns all those mailing lists.

Indeed. Same stands for me too.

It's funny, I'm more likely to fiddle about with chrome's inspector to try to remove just the right divs to get a quora page to be readable than to spend however long it takes to sign up. It's personally grating to me that they take such a boneheaded tack to content in the 21st century. Did they learn nothing from expertsexchange? It grates even more that they are putting crowd sourced content behind a wall.

Personally I don't do that. Unlike many technical people, I don't have AdBlock installed either.

Giving a service attention and eyeballs in this day and age is like giving them money. It's actually worse, because you're the product and so they don't treat you like you're the customer. Even if they don't get money from you, even if you're using AdBlock, even if you are totally immune to advertising or any other means of indirect monetization, they might get something from your friends, which is why Quora is insisting on logging in with your Facebook account and showing your activity to your friends. And even if you don't log in with your Facebook account by bypassing their wall, you might send links to your friends at some point. So the mere act of giving them eyeballs is helping them grow and is encouraging them (and others) to use the same tactics.

What I do is that I simply don't use Quora or any service or website that doesn't treat me well. Quora does have some interesting content in there, but it isn't valuable enough for me to do any sacrifice. Even if it's a free service, I'm not putting up with free services that don't respect me. If companies need to monetize and provide value worth paying, all they need to do is ask for it, as I've got money to spend on valuable things.

Otherwise I would rather focus my attention on things and products that actually deserve it.

I don't use Quora either but it's annoying when it comes up in a search when I need some help. I cannot wait for Google to fix their blacklist so I can add it to the list with experts exchange. (Before anyone mentions it, yes I know you can still get to the page to add urls to the list but it doesn't work, try it out.)

Yeah, w3schools is still showing up all the time -.-

You're by no means required to login with facebook, and whether you do or not, broadcasting your activity to them is an opt-in.

That's interesting because I recall hearing that FB is tracking non-FB users too.

Ah yes, firebug is also great for stuff like this. Click on firebug, click on the overlay, press delete. Bam, you have your page.

Doesn't work so well on mobiles though.

Or element hiding in adblockplus (on Firefox at least, I don't know about Chrome). And it's persistent, so it works again if you ever revisit the page.

Shouldn't be that hard to wrap it in a bookmarklet.

There you go (not mine): http://pastebin.com/zxzDMYKU

login form. bam, you have your page. edit. works just fine on a mobile phone.

login form. bam, you are being followed around the web. maybe Quora will even decide to tell your friends what articles you clicked on. who knows what new "feature" they've added today

Good point, by logging in you are consenting to their tracking. I must be honest though, I still think it's a fair trade off. I also suspect that making content public might make it worse - people know on HN and Reddit their comments are visible to a huge anonymous constituency and it biases the nature of responses.

Can you elaborate on that? I mean, how exactly does it bias people's response?

The "privacy" of a service can affect people's answer if it is that, private. But Quora is not a super exclusive club: anyone who's willing to spend some time signing up, and who's willing to risk having his posts revealed to his facebook friends because of a new "feature" can get into this club...

So I ask again, what peace of mind does it bring you to know that your answers are behind Quora's walls?

My general feeling is that a lot of content on HN, Reddit, etc. is superfluous and non-value adding. Things like buzzy blog posts, sensational headlines, etc. Believe it or not, lots of PR firms and businesses use HN as a way to promote their features. On a walled garden (as much as my gut reaction is to dislike it) you don't have that issue. There are other scenarios too, I'd imagine you can come up with as well.

We do not negotiate with terrorists.

I've thought about doing this. But, why bother? Most of the time the answer I'm looking for is just one or two more searches away.

I do exactly the same through Firebug in Firefox. :) I do actually have login for Quora, but when at times or on machines I'm not logged in, I just do that quickly to read the answers.

I'll keep aside the logic of whether I like what they are doing or not and ask if they have any other option.

The die has already been cast in Quora's case, from what it looks like from the outside (I'm speculating wildly here), it looks like the company realized a while ago (around the time of the Charlie Cheever ousting saga) that they're growing at a pace much slower than what is expected out of them.

A $11 million series A to $50 million series B usually fits the profile of a company in hyper growth stage.

Is Quora a company that fits such a profile? All pointers (admittedly imperfect) say 'no'. Even going by their latest feature, blogs, it would appear that they're also running out of tricks. Such a feature is often a clear indicator of the flattening of user growth, leading companies to chase down usage growth aggressively to make up for the decline in the former.

But a $50 million series B should fly in the face of such an assumption. Well, maybe not. Money can either help you unlock known avenues for growth or it can help you explore unknown avenues. Either option buys time, but with different ends in sight. DAngelo putting up some of his own money certainly points at the latter. It looks like an attempt to buy time to explore.

While it is hard to wager what their burn rate should be, it is probably not enough to burn $11 million in two years. Even with the really nutty assumption that they have actually burnt $11 million in 2-years, with the current round they should be good for another 2-3 years. That's enough time to focus purely on how to massively grow the product without having to worry about how will you pay the bills in the coming week.

With that perspective in mind, it is easy to see why they're less interested in being a warm-and-cosy small community with great answers that pushes all the right buttons with the power users.

Their road ahead is a choice that's already been made. Where they will get to on that road, I don't think anyone knows yet.

One thing is certain, though. They'll either win really big, or will flame out pretty badly. They've already boxed themselves into a place where there is little space in-between.

Maybe they're not growing very fast because (quite apart from their other failings as indicated here) their entire business model is based on convincing large numbers of intelligent, knowledgeable people to produce content for them for free, which Quora can then make money off?

>I'll . . . ask if they have any other option.

The other option would have been to choose not to take VC money -- or to have chosen a "business model" not heavily dependent on high-quality uncompensated contributions from users.

Not that I like much what they're doing, but I don't think those options exist anymore. As purists, we probably love the concept of organic growth a bit too much.

There's nothing wrong with being a small successful company, there are tens and thousands of that out there. But building a big successful company at scale is rarely done without taking on external investment.

Uncompensated users are a different issue altogether. I'm sure people have various reasons to keep contributing content there even after knowing that fact.

Let me stress that I am not talking about web sites in general but rather am talking specifically about sites that depend on quality unpaid contributions from a large numbers of people.

>building a big successful company at scale is rarely done without taking on external investment.

Wikipedia is a counterexample. According to Alexa, Wikipedia is the sixth most visited web site in the world. But more to the point, no VC-funded or stock-market-funded company I know of is foolish enough to try to compete with Wikipedia. I think that fifteen years from now, we will see a similar situation among Q-and-A sites -- at least those where the answers are contributed by unpaid users. In other words, I predict that Quora -- as well as Stack Exchange, which has also taken VC funding -- will be eclipsed within 15 years by sites not funded by VC or other profit-motivated investment.

Any competition for Google Search is likely to come from companies like Apple or Microsoft that already have plenty of money to pay engineers or from investor-funded for-profit companies. That is because the "non-profit sector" is unlikely to be able to summon up enough skilled labor or funding to compete with Google Search.

In contrast, setting up a competitor to Quora or Stack Exchange is relatively easy (especially since these new entrants can learn from Experts Exchange, Stack Exchange and Quora), and going the non-profit route (or the for-profit "lifestyle business" route without external funding) does not alienate a large fraction of potential unpaid contributors.

This is somewhat a non-sequitur, but I just want to highlight one significant distinction between SE and Quora, which is that "[All user-generated] content (questions and answers) posted on the Stack Exchange Network is licensed under a Creative Commons license, Attribution Share Alike." So in fifteen years when SE is no longer in fashion, those answers can live on in some form.

Atwood had an idea that SE would be "like Wikipedia" for QA, and Stack Overflow has certainly had success in that regard. I think that contributors to the site get very much the same value proposition as that of Wikipedia, if not slightly more in the user profile/karma regard.

Of course, none of this negates your point about the influence of funding!

This is the same reason why I wrote this Quora Login Prompt Block that was on HN a while back...


254 users and growing, quick hack is to add ?ref=fb

>Quora has now spent several years training me to be bummed out every time I click on a link to their site.

"Bummed". Yeah that really describes it perfectly. Especially with how immaculately their digest emails are constructed, to be hit with that asinine wall is a straight-up bummer, and stops me dead in my tracks.

Yeah, I have been incredibly impressed by how good their digest email is designed. I am sure there is a serious amount of cherry picking (or machine learning) that goes into them but they are damn good, I say.

Same here, I only ever visit their site to read the articles they've picked for me in the email digest. I was thinking about this the other day, there's probably no other site where I interact with them like that.

But still, I click an email link and am automatically logged in, but they still insist on me downloading the fucking app! Thankfully in chrome on android I just click "request desktop site" and all that nonsense goes away.

I'm a pretty heavy user of Quora, and I have been "trained" the same way, at least on mobile.

When I click on a Quora link inside FB app or whatever, it takes me to iTunes to re-download the Quora app. Or, I click in Twitter, and it doesn't have my credentials, so same problem as you.

It also keeps me from posting links to Quora content anywhere else.

Yahoo Answers is open. Has millions of questions and answers. Lot of people who truly appreciate a good answer, use it. Just that elite don't want to answer questions from ordinary folks and seclude themselves in quora.

Yahoo Answers is also STUPID. Full of not-all-that-bright high school and middle school kids trying to get help with their homework. I have written answers for some of those kids on Yahoo Answers, in subject areas where I know a lot. It drives me to despair. The best answers I see on YA are workmanlike.

On Quora most of the questions are reasonably good, most of the names are real, and some of the answers are brilliant.

>> He presumably has numbers that show that Quora ends up net ahead if they force people to create accounts to read answers.

Well you don't have to be a genius to realize this.

So as long as there is a unlimited supply of free email accounts, asking for a compulsory log in to do things like reading answers is going to lead to only one thing: Users creating fake id's to read them. Good luck if they remember the login of that fake id next times they come in. Else what you will see is the same user creating as many id's he wants at his disposal.

If you by these numbers you are going to get the most misleading figures of number of users your site has.

I hope Quora realizes what they are doing.

Quora is now 3 years old and has taken $61 million from investors. Are there any numbers publicly available to show user growth over this period?

All the numbers show stagnation, and Quora getting dwarfed by other (less prone to ass-hattery) answers sites, like StackOverflow. Quora traffic hasn't grown in years, according to Alexa and others.

I believe they're simply optimizing the wrong variables. It has certainly driven me away. I use the google personal block list, and Quora was among the first sites to go on it.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but:

1. Third party statistics sites like Alexa and Compete are horribly untrustworthy indicators of reality.

2. Growing traffic isn't the best way to foster a community. I believe pg has written about this a few times, with regards to communities in general and HN.

I think the Quora community is amazing. It's very populous and the quality of answers is generally on par or better than specialty interest sites/forums from a wide range of topics, all in one place. Of course, it has its strengths and its weaknesses - for example, a strength would definitely be reading an answer from an actual CIA [something] analyst, former Foreign Service Officer, doctor, etc. on a relevant question, but it falls behind in areas like technology IMO.

The site is annoying and I hate a lot about the community (surprise, it turns out "mature adults" can use shitty memes just as much as the teens everyone blames for them on reddit), but I think they've done a great job at fostering the kind of community they want so far. If anything, it's being threatened by the pressure of growing.

"1. Third party statistics sites like Alexa and Compete are horribly untrustworthy indicators of reality."

They're always wrong. But, from what I can tell, they're usually wrong in ways that are still usefully predictive. If you compare two sites at Alexa.com, and there is a vast difference in popularity (as is the case between Quora and StackOverflow), you can probably assume StackOverflow is bigger and growing faster...even if you can't be sure how big the difference is. I wouldn't want to make business decisions on it, but it's good enough for me to feel comfortable making snarky comments about Quora.

"2. Growing traffic isn't the best way to foster a community. I believe pg has written about this a few times, with regards to communities in general and HN."

But, it is the way to justify $61 million of investment. HN doesn't have to ring the cash register. Quora does, at some point.

Anyway, I find Quora annoying. The community may be awesome, but I don't believe the curators of that community are deserving of my attention or my contribution to their walled garden.

Regarding Alexa and Compate, you're half right. They're wrong in useful ways, but not the way you suggest. What's important to realize is why they're wrong - sampling bias. So they give an accurate representation of a certain demographic, but the usefulness of that depends on the target audience of the site in question. I don't have any examples at hand, but I've come across plenty of big sites that pretty much flatline on Alexa et al - because their clientele is not welcoming to such measurements, for cultural or geographic reasons. So you can (usually) use them to contrast direct competitors, but I would be wary about quora vs. stackexchange.

Alexa and Compete are wrong in much the same way a clock is never right. It's a nearly impossible task to properly rank sites in that particular way, there are just too many variables and many of them have 'unknown' as their current value. Sampling the way they do is quite imperfect.

That said, as tools for relative comparisons they're quite useful, as long as you put a sufficiently large gray area around the results (50% or so). That way you can compare sites in magnitude without getting bogged down over whether a site at rank 1200 is larger than a site at rank 1201, the difference is small enough to be meaningless.

The final way in which you can use them is to use their time series to determine a trend. And that's where both are very useful, because assuming their sampling method is the same over time and assuming that there is some significant relationship between all the traffic you're interested in and the portion sampled the trend will be quite strongly reflective of what is actually happening. So growth, stagnation and decline can be determined with some accuracy (you still have to do some smoothing out but on 'max' with Alexa and a site that's a couple of years old the trend will be clearly visible).

HN can afford to go ahead and foster a community, but then again it hasn't taken $61 million that investors are expecting a return on.

Also HN doesn't rely on asshattery sign up tactics for you to read other peoples' content.

> Third party statistics sites like Alexa and Compete are horribly untrustworthy indicators of reality.

Alexa and Compete are bad sources.

Other third party sources like Quantcast, comScore, Nielsen, etc, do a better job of measurement, especially if they've been beaconed. You will never get complete agreement because of variations in implementation. A site's own "internal" analytics, like Google Analytics or Omniture, will never quite agree either.

Third party data is still ordinally and directionally correct most of the time. Google Trends and Quantcast both show a general trend upward, but it's not hypergrowth. What isn't mesaured here is engagement, and that's a much more interesting metric for Quora.

[1] http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=quora [2] http://www.quantcast.com/quora.com

I'd consider over zealous mods as somewhere along the ass-hattery spectrum.

I am a huge Quora fan and user but would have to agree with this assessment. Most of Quora's traffic "lurks" and this will be the search audience they need to get. What they're doing now is trying to make sure they have your account credentials to monitor what you "lurk" for. At some point, my guess is that they'll remove this tactic. I will say, however, that the web created "inside" Quora is some of the richest, most high-fidelity information on the entire web, and it may not exist elsewhere.

Who's Adam, and what is his role in all this?

Apparently Adam is one of the founders of Quora. Depending on what online communities you are part of, Paul Graham's comment may be confusing as he is directly addressing the founder of Quora, not Scott Hanselman who is the author of the article.

This is the second time in a couple of days I've seen a wikipedia link posted with the %27 character stripped out. (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5208678)

Is there some browser or extension that's accidentally filtering this when you copy/paste a link?

Quora is just another set of URLs in my google blacklist.

I created a "test" Facebook account which I use for Quora sign in and many other sites. Works like a charm!

Another reason this is dumb is that this is the kind of thing that Google doesn't much like. They don't want to index and rank content highly just for it to be mostly inaccessible.

I have no idea how much new traffic to Quora comes from organic search, but I have to imagine its not unsubstantial.

I just created a Chrome extension that removes the Quora login requirement: https://github.com/sindresorhus/quora-unblocker

I also created a Userscript for non-Chrome users: https://github.com/sindresorhus/quora-unblocker-userscript

In other words, Quora is trapped in a local maxima.

Now Quora reminds me of "Experts Exchange" and other spammy Q&A sites. Just because they hide the questions.

I disagree - they are building a valuable repository of knowledge. If a simple login form is a deterrent for you in learning or understanding something new, that's unfortunate. Don't get me wrong, I also get a little dissapointed when it happens, but don't really mind logging in.

A little late to the party, but I want more Users!

Weren't Quora the ones who tried to tell other users which pages you read also?

Yup, it was them: http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2012/08/09/creepy-quora-erod...

This more than cluelessness, it's the same sort of low-grade sociopathy that underlies Facebook's shifting non-privacy policies.

Here comes the mob. Really? Are we all gonna throw up our arms because of this? We use their service, we consume, read and digest their content like blood-suckers and now we get mad they're asking us to sign up? PG you've been reading Quora for "several years" and you think it's unjust they are asking you to sign up?

Quora has let us eat at their house for years and now all they're asking is we take off our shoes before entering. Let's not forget, we're in their house!

As an entrepreneur, how will we ever convince users to actually pay for products when the mob and pitch forks come out when they ask us to sign up?

We are so entitled it's sad. Really hope Quora doesn't bow down here. They aren't asking for your first-born. If you wanna be a member of their community, then be a member. Nothing unfair about that.

Their content? I don't think even Quora would claim that.

And how exactly is creating an account taking off one's shoes before entering? I would not be contributing anything to the Quora community by creating an account. I'm not depriving the community of anything by not creating one.

I believe the reason Quora tries to force people to create accounts is not because this helps the community, but simply because this is the first step of the funnel of their viral spread mechanism.

I think we both agree on why Quora does this (viral spread mechanism, juicing numbers, etc). That's besides the point.

When we are guests in someone else's home, seems only fair that we honor their requests. Asking you to simply create an account shouldn't be such a massive chore.

I believe this attitude is dangerous for our community. I fear for what happens when we ask you to pay.

> When we are guests in someone else's home, seems only fair that we honor their requests.

This is a ridiculous analogy. It's not a home, it's a business. If my friends want me to take my shoes off when I visit them, no big deal. If Best Buy does, that's frigging insane.

What if there was a competitor to Best Buy, where everything was free, but only if you took your shoes off when entering?

[And no, I'm not saying that that's a true analogy either — I'm just exploring what makes this one right or wrong, and where you think the insanity lies]

I will certainly not pay a dime to read anything on Quora, but I'd be less upset if asked, because it would seem to make some sense.

Asking to download an app to do the exact same thing as without the app is upsetting because it seems completely pointless.

> When we are guests in someone else's home, seems only fair that we honor their requests. Asking you to simply create an account shouldn't be such a massive chore.

Or we can choose not to enter at all. They aren't asking us to just create an account, but to download an android/iphone App.

Read his comment again. He's describing the same frustration I and apparently many others have experienced clicking on a link (from a search engine, a blog, etc.) only to hit a wall. At this point I'm not a user of the site yet. The gist of your argument is how we're using a service, etc. That's fine, they can setup their service however they choose. And we, as potential users, can point out what a poor setup they have chosen.

The irony is I have an account... linked to my Facebook profile. But I can't log in with that from work. There may or may not be a way around this (perhaps a new account or linking my account to an email login), but I'm so irritated by their antagonistic approach that when I see the wall appear I just close the browser tab.

It's now gotten to a point where I don't even bother using Quora from home because I so strongly disagree with their policy.

It's good to see a dissenting point of view, but I disagree with your point about a collective sense of entitlement. It's more of a shared set of expectations about how the web works. In fact I'd argue that perhaps this point could be turned back on itself: it's the entrepreneurs who are guilty of a sense of entitlement because they want to build a closed system on top of an open one out of some perceived "right" to acquire signups.

If everybody on the web were using this tactic it would be a valueless platform. The only rational reaction, then, to those that use it, is rejection.

I disagree with your point but also disagree with the downvotes. (are people downvoting commenters who disagree with pg?)

Anyway, you're forgetting something important: We're completely entitled to not use a sucky service and blog about it. That's what going on here: there's people who decide to vote with their feet, and tell others about it.

I have no problem with people voicing an opinion -- it's America. But what I think people are complaining about in this case is just ridiculous.

I'm nitpicking, I know, but it's not America. You're on the internet, you know. It's the world.

Lol true.

Yeah, I think it's pretty common for Americans to believe anyone else who can type english is probably also living in America.

"Americans", you mean Cubans? Equadorians?

Really, you do not seem to be aware of the fact that or people leave in either Nothern or Southern amercian continent, and many of them do not speak English.

Each time any US citizen calls US citizens "Americans" it hurts the heart of hundreds of millions of people.


I guess it's still not a bad heuristic for them in 80% of cases, so this attitude prevails. HN, however, is quite multinational, so one has to watch out ;).

It is not a matter of "heuristic", it is a matter of basic respect you have for other people living in other places.

The problem is that they work hard to appear in the top page of Google and then don't show the answer unless you sign up. I'm not going to be signing up and I very much resent that they've taken a position that could have been filled with a resource I want to use.

I agree with this argument, but not necessarily the tone of it.

Quora is a business as much as it is a consumer facing service with a strong mission to uphold. But the reality is, if Quora didn't keep its numbers out of the red and into the black by doing "annoying things" like forcing app downloads or account creation, then they would run out of capital and cease to exist. So, take your pick. Or better yet, just stop complaining.

Also, their mobile website isn't fully functional or in some cases usable. I beta test it, and it's riddled with bugs and missing features. Frankly, a lot of services today are skipping mobile web all together, and focusing on driving app downloads to provide a richer experience.

Bottom line: Services valuable to end users are also running a businesses. We must learn to give and take.

The StackExchange network does very well without resorting to any of these tactics.

Exactly. Assuming what GP wrote would be true about Quora going out of business, maybe it would be better to just let them die? At some point someone will come who will strike the right balance between providing quality, earning money and not being annoying. They will survive, and we'll be better off. StackExchange network proves that it is possible in this case.

"Run out of capital and cease to exist" works for me.

You are 100% right. I think we (readers of HN) are the wrong demographic for any company to be profitable. We are "everything should be free because we are cool" demographic. Do we like Oracle Database? No - because it is not cool (even if all our money and investment is managed using that evil database). Do we like Mongo? No - because it is not PostgreSQL. Do we like Facebook? Hell no - they are evil. Do we like Google? Not really - even they are a lot people from Google here. And so on...

And, I have to admin: I'm the same demographic and really hate what Quora is doing but nobody outside Silly Valley really cares.

I take exception to that! I think everything should be free and I'll take Posgres over Mongo, but I'm still most definitely not cool.

I believe the argument is not that the Quora team should be incarcerated for putting up a wall, but rather that this setup may not be the best way to build a large community and, in the long term, a profitable company.

There are answers sites that require registration. There are answers sites that don't. If one of those models outperforms the other -- say, by producing a more profitable company -- then that's that. It's not my job, or anyone else's job other than a business owner's, to make it easy to get paid customers.

You got downvoted but I wanted to address one of your questions:

"As an entrepreneur, how will we ever convince users to actually pay for products when the mob and pitch forks come out when they ask us to sign up?"

Ah, but the mob don't attack with pitchforks when you charge for a service. What they object to is bait & switch. Only a handful of random weirdos from the bowels of the internet have complained about me charging for my software.

Here's why:

Because I only have one audience -- my customers -- my job is making them happy. If I don't make them happy, they take their money elsewhere. This doesn't mean I have to do everything they ask, and for sure I don't. But the nature of our relationship is clear: Customers are the butter to my bread.

My job is simple. I do not have competing interests. Thoughts that will never arise: "Gee, I need this data for advertising, but users don't want to give it to me." "Gee, we use all this bandwidth for our free service… we need to put ads on it… but they won't like that if we tell them… I know, let's phrase it really confusingly and maybe they won't notice!" or my fave "Gee, we need to make money… I know, let's claim the rights of everything people post on our service, and stop third-party developers from distracting people from our proprietary interface."

That temptation is what leads these apps to ruin. That temptation is nearly impossible to resist… they do want & need to make money, after all.

Better to avoid temptation altogether by creating a business where charging is natural, expected, and welcomed by the would-be customers.

Once Quora started blurring answers like Experts Exchange, I had no use for it. You're holding user-contributed content hostage? Go away.

Complaining about usability on Quora is like complaining about not having privacy on Facebook.

Agreed. My favorite trick? I was going to sign up for a Quora account today, finally knuckling under to the stupid ExpertsExchange fuzzing crap. So I click "Sign Up With Google" (because the register page on the answer page doesn't show Twitter). They demand permission to "manage my contacts". This is a throwaway email, so I say sure, okay.

They go back to the registration screen and still want an email and password just for their special snowflake site.

I am forced to believe that the only reason for the misleading and, frankly, fucking dishonest path through my social media connections is to have more names to potentially spam in the future. Fortunately they won't get such from Dick Wickerson, Completely Fake Account.

I think it's in case Google's auth (or even Google itself!) goes down—Facebook's was down the other day, and if you don't provide alternative sign-in mechanisms, users can't sign in.

Sure, but as a site you should either depend on 3rd-party auth and deal with the possibility of downtime, or be up-front about wanting your own credentials. To pretend like FB or Google login will work and then demanding a user/pass is deceptive and really, really annoying.

Except that's not what they do: you never log in with Google, it always asks you for the email/password pair.

It's manifestly dishonest.

The reason you I on those sign in with x is because I am either too lazy to type an email or because I don't trust the site.

Just like expert sex change, Quora has a way to see the answers without signing in (remember scrolling to the bottom?). Click the datestamp at the bottom of a blurred answer to see it.

As a long-time Quora user, it disappoints me that the content I donate is held ransom in an attempt at "growth hacking".

this made my day and ended my grumbling with quora, thank you!

As a long-time Quora user I actually like this and it is one of the main reasons I share so freely on Quora. If I knew anybody could read anything I write via a Google search, I would be much more guarded - and if they suddenly stopped this practice I would put serious thought to deleting all of my answers. But the way they do it preserves a good deal of anonymity.

I don't know if that is their intent, but it's the result.

It doesn't work like that though. Quora still wants Google to see the content for SEO. Google still indexes your answers: https://www.google.ca/search?q=site%3Awww.quora.com%2FWillia...

(Quora does have a setting to hide your name from search engines for this reason though)

I don't care if the Google bots can read what I write, I care about clients, family members etc who Google me. If they REALLY want to read my answers, they can create an account. Most people wont bother though.

Quora seems to only whiteout searches that land on an answer page. When I search for a user's name in incognito, I can see their whole answer history unobscured.

You can disallow search engine indexing from your settings under Settings -> Account -> Allow Indexing (disallow) if you're worried about it.

Try clicking around. They still obscure answers that aren't the top answer, though you're right there is a fair amount of content visible.

When I click the "answers" tab on the sidebar of a user profile, I can see the entire user's answer history unobscured. Is this not the case for you? Maybe we're caught on different sides of an A/B test, although I keep getting the same results in new incognito windows.

Ah, I didn't click that. You are correct.

Opening questions from their feed brings up obscured answers.

Except people can still see the answers, they just make it more difficult to do so. (You have to click the timestamps below the comments and read them one at a time.)

So please don't try to justify their abhorrent anti-open-web behaviour with would-be privacy assertions.

You're relying on undocumented behavior. They'd be well within their rights to change it (say due to this adverse publicity). What happens then?

You got me to go login to Quora after over a year to see what you were so concerned about. Perfectly reasonable, well thought-out comments on respectable topics. I think you're trolling, sir.

Yeah... pretty much have to start banning them from my Google search... definitely makes me rage if I search for something, click on what looks like a good answer in Google, and then get a nonresponsive page like that. Rage both at Quora and at Google. A page like that shouldn't show up in a Google search.

Is there a way to ask google to permanently blacklist a domain while I'm logged in?

yes, you can do it from your options http://www.google.com/reviews/t

and there's a Chrome extension http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/new-chrome-extension-...

yea, isn't this blatant "ghosting", punishable by delisting?

I forgot about Experts Exchange! I used to love them, but when they broke their shit all I had was a medley of frustration and rage every time I bumped into their site until they went away. Shame they screwed up so badly.

On a side note, what does Quora achieve by forcing people to view the data using a native app rather than through the browser? It seems a little ... pointless, or perhaps I'm being unduly myopic with regards to their strategy.

Quora is an iPhone-only app. Too bad for all those retina iPad users, you paid for all those pixels in vain.

I used to happily contribute answers where I could, as a public service.

When Quora gated my pro-bono work for their short-sighted purposes, I turned elsewhere.

Interesting. Such tricks is exactly why Stack Overflow originally went against Expert Exchange, promising never to hide user-contributed content, and explicitly licensing it as Creative Commons.

Quora is its content. Its content is user contributed. Hiding such content from other users is just plain evil.

The user-contributed content is the central issue. They rely on the kindness of Internet people to create the content, but then they do various tricks to hide that content from Internet visitors. It really is just plain evil.

StackOverflow does modify user-contributed content and have very serious moderators issues.

Which is why I'm sure there's going to be something new coming along one of these days: something where users are in control of what they post (e.g. not a wiki unless the user who did post does accept himself others' edits).

Collaborating to answer questions is fine. But modifying and closing questions artificially (due to very serious moderators issues) isn't acceptable either.

So I'm waiting for the next big thing and I'm sure it shall come.

The difference is that SO mods are actually trying to improve the quality of the site, or at least that's their purpose. Whether people perceive them as doing that in all cases, that's another issue.

Quora is hiding answers to make you sign up.

Furthermore, SO makes it very clear when someone has updated a question, so it couldn't reasonably be misattributed to you. (It shows the editor's avatar and date.)

In general the moderators in SO make useful contributions. Many of them are downright annoying as well.

And these are all laid out in front in their footer, the FAQ and About page.

You know what you're getting into when you post on a Stack Exchange site. If you don't like it, then you're okay to not use it.

Not like when you post on Quora. Do they tell you that your answers will be blurred and hidden behind a login-wall?

But really, the best programming joke hidden in source code is nothing more than noise. There are other places for that. When you want to cram that into Stack Overflow, then you'll have problems with its moderation.

The mod vs. unmodded issue is a classical problem on the internet, and may never be solved fully. I don't think SO's modding is any worse than Wikipedia's. As such, both are good enough.

>I don't think SO's modding is any worse than Wikipedia's

I agree, it isn't any worse than one of the biggest examples of biased, overzealous, insular, clique moderation online. I think setting our standards a little higher than that is pretty reasonable though.

Wikipedia is like the biggest modded community, though. What alternatives are there for inspiration? Open source communities? Reddit? Usenet?

stackoverflow modifies user-contributed content in much the same way wikipedia does. there is a very clear audit trail for who changed what; as far as i've seen there is never the case where my name is on something but it has been silently changed by someone else.

My only experience with Quora has been Googling for a question, seeing they "blurred" the answer, and immediately closing the tab. Was I really expected to make an account? I don't have time for that, there's a dozen other search results I could be checking instead.

My first and only experience with them, and I assumed they were just another scummy ExpertSexChange type of site. We have open platforms, no need for this nonsense.

I have been hating Quora all along for this, and wondered whether this constitutes cloaking (because they serve different content to Googlebot and the user), which is against Google's TOS.

The following are excerpts from Google's First Click Free (FCF) program page[1]:

    If you offer subscription-based access to your website content, or if
    users must register to access your content, then search engines 
    cannot access some of your site's most relevant, valuable content.

    Implementing Google's First Click Free (FCF) for your content allows 
    you to include your restricted content in Google's main search index.
Apparently Quora's answer to this is: "Wrong! We don't need to implement FCF to get our restricted content into Google, we simply cloak!"

    To implement First Click Free, you need to allow all users who find 
    a document on your site via Google search to see the full text of 
    that document, even if they have not registered or subscribed to see 
    that content. The user's first click to your content area is free.
So clearly the program applies in Quora's situation, yet Quora doesn't follow the program's guidelines to show "the full text of that document". I see this as strong evidence that Quora's actions violate Google's TOS, because otherwise what's the point of the FCF program?

[1]: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&...

I just can't understand why Quora continues ... in an existential sense (why does it exist). I also find it odd when anyone in this sort of community has anything but derision for it. They want to play this identity game and control their users like little children. It's just too much. At least Experts Exchange, in the old days at least, didn't basically ask me for my social security number to figure out why my winmodem wasn't working or whatever.

I have the same frustrations as other people regarding the choices Quora has made regarding its platform.

However, I have also found a lot of high quality answers to some very interesting questions on the site. It has some really good content once you get inside.

Who would have thought we'd be nostalgic for Experts Exchange.

At least EE had the funny mis-pronunciation -- "expert sex change" going for it.

I'm hoping that Google will penalize them someday. They download all the content in the page so that they'll get indexed for it, but they don't offer it up without an account to the user.

How would google determine that the content being served to other users differ from what the crawlers see?

The big fish (experts exchange etc...) are big enough to be caught manually. Programatically they can crawl with a typical browser user agent, from a netblock not registered to google nor announced by their ASes. They'd need to account for the dynamic nature of sites to determine if the difference between different crawls is a sign of trouble, but as luck have it they're already in the business of algorithms and archiving websites.

I'm sure they'd do it algorithmically both for elegance and legal liability reasons. It'd be done in an identical fashion to the Panda update. Use the big fish to identify techniques you can build rules around and then make sure your arbitrary penalty doesn't affect too many innocents too much before you push it live.

Probably if enough people report them for cloaking: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/spamreportform?hl=en

Well, I did my part in reporting quora. I wish there were a way to track the progress of this report. The process makes me feel as if the message was lost in the ether

Thanks for the tip, I just filed a report.

Most likely by someone at Google hearing about it if it gets negative coverage like this.

If it's simply divs masking the content there must be a way to load the page on an iOS emulation, screencap the entire length of the page, and compare the amount of "content" in the source to what shows up in the screencap.

I'm not saying it's worth the trouble for Google. Quora is probably the worst example of this bullshit. But it's certainly possible to automatically catch devilry like this, isn't it?

Your proposal actually addresses quite a few sites that put lots of phrases in small font to boost pagerank rating

With the proper image analysis technology it should work, right?

Just penalize any content from Quora.com in page rank.

I was referring to automated processes, not a manual intervention

Change user agent to crawl as a mobile browser.

That wouldn't help if a site served different content to the google block of ip addresses

This is cloaking and will get you in big trouble.

I suspect Google could get ahold of a block of non-Google AS addresses if it really wanted to.

Yep. In the past month or so, I've been conditioned not to click on Quora links for disappointment-avoidance.

"Oh, look at that, someone had my exact problem on Quora!" ... "Fuck this nonsense, I'm going back to Stack Exchange/Google."

...Which then prompts this response: http://xkcd.com/979/ The answer might as well be that far away.

This drives me up a wall. I hate it when websites try to restrict their readership so brazenly.

On the one hand, I respect that the website has the authority and right to control its own information. On the other hand, it was submitted by a collective pool of users, and I just don't have the time to bother with side-stepping the shitty blurring mechanism. I just learned not to click on Quora links anymore.

Worse than http://xkcd.com/979/ is when the only answer is the OP saying "never mind, I figured it out."

To steal a quote from Chris Dixon (http://cdixon.org/2010/01/22/techies-and-normals/):

"1. If you are loved first by techies and then by normals you get free marketing and also scale. Google, Skype and YouTube all followed this chronology. It is startup nirvana.

2. The next best scenario is to be loved by normals but not by the techies. The vast majority of successful consumer businesses fall into this category..."

This is a case of #2. I know many "normals" who really don't care and just sign up or download the app. It is probable that Quora alienates some percentage of its content writers by doing this but probably not enough to account for the absolutely massive increase in lift it is seeing as a result (I would guess 3x minimum conversion improvement to account creation from just this one change.) If they don't break out of the tech minority the company is not going to be valuable anyway so it does not seem to make sense to optimize for that audience.

All comparisons to Experts Exchange (where you had to pay to sign up) are totally overblown, signing up for Quora takes less than one minute and its free. It's just not that difficult to even be worth complaining about. You are not entitled to the Internet your way as the user of a free product. As the saying goes "if you are not the customer, you are the product".

That's an oversimplification of the situation. A Q&A based site like Quora can be compared to it's predecessors like Experts Exchange or Stack Overflow because the content is simply enhanced by greater participation of experts. The early adopters could be techies or otherwise, but they will notice the increase in friction for sharing and using content.

Also the problem is not really "signing up". As the article points out, downloading another app just to read content on the web feels like a overkill to most people (even non techies). Especially when the most common means of searching for answers remains Google which is usually found in the browser.

Frankly speaking I don't see the problem at all. If you are a rare user/reader at Quora not installing the App won't hurt you or Quora. If you are a regular user you will install anyway!

Besides these days who worries about login's when there is unlimited supply of free email accounts.

Most frequent users start off as infrequent users. By discouraging infrequent users, you prevent formation of frequent users. That's the business argument.

Personally, I just hate it when I click a google link and land on a blurred page. It's deceptive to promise an answer and then make me jump through the hoops before telling me what it is, all of which happens before I even know if the answer was good.

That is secondary to my point which is that people like you, a founder & developer who cares about cryptography (just guessing from your profile), are not like most people ("normals").

the problem with this analysis (and the one in great grandparent) is that it considers only the behavior of readers.

But Quora is useless to readers without the voluntary contributions of writers.

Great comment.

I love Quora as a Q&A vertical focussed on startups.

As a content creator though, I'm increasingly tempted to put it in the similar StackExchange site http://answers.onstartups.com/, where at least my content is CC licensed and easy to link to.

Quora doesn't live in a vacuum, it has competition.

I hit this on Android the other day and quickly closed the page and put Quora out of my mind. I'll never use it again.

It's funny because (on Chrome at least) you can select the "request desktop version" option from the menu and this goes away completely (although you do still have to login).

It's one sucky business model. Force people to sign up in the hopes that they'll stick around. It sounds fun, but the existence of services like BugMeNot says otherwise.

I don't think that's the plan at all. This is so user hostile that they must be at the point where they don't feel they need to grow any more (I find it very hard to believe they are still growing with these moves).

> Force people to sign up in the hopes that they'll stick around.

Not just that. It's also done knowing that they default you into a half dozen different types of notification e-mail.

I don't agree with the author's opinion on the New York times's block being inherently evil. I am unsure of how else they could make money. The block is not hard to circumvent if you know enough to clear cookies. It is designed to give you just enough discomfort that you will probably cough up and pay for the articles (which are incredibly well written) than the Quora style which makes me want to rage and delete my account.

the "evil" bit is not that they have a paywall, it's that they both want to have a paywall and use the organic google search results for free advertising.

I close the tab immediately and without a second thought every time I get their "you must be a registered..." page after following a link there.

This is like forcing a girl to say "I love you".

I completely agree with the article.

Apps are just fancy web bookmarks with some advanced abilities (interruptions, native code, state). I prefer to have as little apps as I can get away, so anything that can be viewed in a browser, I view in a browser.

I just want to know if you can get around this forced solution by picking "Request Desktop Site" in Chrome for iOS?

you give them too many rights when you install their app

I've never understood how anyone thinks they can be successful by making the web worse.

Because "successful" is defined as baiting users into yielding their personal information in order to force-feed them ads and other marketing junk. Success isn't defined as users finding what they want or otherwise having an informative or pleasurable experience.

The ur-example: Zynga and their addiction-center manipulators that masquerade as games. Zynga succeeds if they pay, not if they enjoy it.

I also noticed they force you to login on the desktop version in order to read answers. Maybe this works, but the friction was seriously annoying and as a really active social media they probably missed out on a Facebook post or tweet I would have made about what I found.

I feel like it is a bait-and-switch, because as an early user I LOVED LOVED LOVED Quora and contributed a ton. Now I'm just annoyed by them all the time.

If you could redesign Quora, what would you come up with?

How much money does Quora have left, and what is their burn rate? Are they making any revenue? It seems not.

I don't understand how it is comparable to the NYTimes at all. Times pays people to write articles, not appropriating random people's free content.

Even worse are mobile sites that ALWAYS display a full "download our app!" page.

The New York Times handles this rather gracefully I think. Go to a mobile page and they have a swipable banner that says "hey we have an app, but you can easily ignore me."

I wish more sites would do this. I understand you want conversion to your app. I get it. But stop undermining your mobile experience. Sometimes it's what I need / want.

The worst part of the "We have an app" div/interstitial is that sometimes I have that app - and I'd love for the page to redirect me.

Instead, that's too hard, and they can't detect installed apps on my phone, so I get the spam every time.

A second "feature" of Quora that is an absolute deal-breaker for me is that they require real names for the accounts. And I imagine that I'm not the only one who doesn't want to use their real name on just any site on the internet.

And am I the only one who finds the whole interface totally confusing? Navigating the site is anything but intuitive, and I never even found a list of topics/tags.

The desktop version basically begs you to login with facebook or google account. Sign up with email is a much smaller link. Basically, the site screams "We need your data so much! We're begging for your data! It's our only monetization scheme" and if someone is that desperate for your personal data, chances are they're not going to do good things with it.

> [nytimes paywall measures] These techniques are wide and varied. They appear to look at your IP, use cookies, use HTTP_Referer, use URL querystrings.

"Appear" what now how? Nope, it's just cookies. Very easy to defeat for anyone who cares on the desktop -- somewhat harder on apple walled garden mobile. But apparently good enough for their revenue, so.

Hm, I looked into this, and as of recently you could get around it just by changing the QueryString: http://twitchy.com/2013/02/12/paywalls-are-hard-new-york-tim...

The cookies are for the number of times viewed, yes.

The HTTP Referer header is used to tell if you came from google or twitter: http://www.labspaces.net/blog/1258/Thwart_the_NYtimes_paywal...

They definitely look at IP address for geographic reasons: http://blogs.hbr.org/samuel/2011/03/on-the-new-york-times-pa... but you are correct, they don't appear to use it for the paywall.


Nytimes paywall depends on inducing different feelings. They just use it to remind you that "Hey we are doing great work here, show us some support" ... so they don't mind it being porous.

I will admit my bias: paying NYT subscriber, here.

The article has two main issues:

Nagging to install an app: yes, I hate this also. Quota, Techcrunch, etc. have been pretty bad about this.

NYT trying to pay for 300+ staff: reasonable. I sometimes use their app and sometime just use the email news summary they send me every morning. Works well for me.

This was posted an hour ago and still no one has released a bookmarklet to circumvent? Come on HN!

I wrote a script that would unblur Quora answers (that one of my friends turned into an extension) a while back. Turned out that Quora started to just substitute blurred images instead of just blurring text via CSS soon afterwards.

I'm pretty sick of this constant cat and mouse game, and I just used the Google Personal Blocklist extension for Chrome to remove Quora from my Google search results.

That's not a bad idea. Here is some bookmarklet code that retrieves and displays the actual answers when hovering over the blurred out answers. The downside is, it cannot do anything about the answers that do not have a permalink (clickable datestamp).

  javascript:(function($) {
    var $answerTextDivs = $("div.answer_text:has(.blurred_answer)");
    function heal() {
        $answerTextDiv = $(this);
        $answerLink = $answerTextDiv.find("a.answer_permalink");
        if ($answerLink.length === 0) {
            showError($answerTextDiv, "could not find answer - no permalink.");
        $.get($answerLink.attr("href"), function(d) { 
            var $permaAnswerDiv = $(d).find(".answer_text");
        }).fail(function(e) {
            showError($answerTextDiv, "ajax call failed - " + e);
    function showError($container, message) {
        var $errorDiv = $("<div>");
            'background-color': 'red',
            'color': 'white',
            'padding': '2px 6px',
            'position': 'absolute',
            'margin-top': '38px',
            'z-index': 2000
    $answerTextDivs.one('mouseenter', heal);
    $.ajaxPrefilter(function(options, originalOptions, jqXHR) {
        /* this is to prevent annoying UIX usage tracking POSTs to Quora */
        if (options.type === 'POST') {

I have a bookmark on my iPhone that scrolls to the bottom of the page using Java. Is it not possible to hack something together that takes the hidden data (since the OP says it loads the actual info behind the white blocking screen) and reveal it instead of the white?

It's another couple of button presses but if it fucks them over for this scummy tactic I'm all for it.

The iOS version should be easy since they actually send all the answers to the client and hide them. This works with my pretend iOS 5 iPhone (via Chrome):

  javascript:(function($) {
	$(".app_promo, .app_install_dialog").hide();
	$(".answer_text").css({'margin-left': '110px', 'width': '88%'});

I tested it - it reveals the text just fine but the text sits off to the right of the page and you can't scroll or zoom to reflow the text in to the screen size.

Thanks for the first-pass at it though!

I recommend Noscript browser plugin. I've added Quora and a whole slew of news sites to my block list. The trick is to globally trust all sites in your prefs and then access the blacklist through about:config or manually add each one through the context menu.

I'd rather just not visit their site at all. It's a big Internet.

Quora does the same thing in chrome when you aren't logged in ...

PS: I can't think of ExpertsExchange without being reminded of the url fail.

Quora is irritating in this respect; they're always so pushy. They keep sending me weekly digest emails even after I asked them not to and repeatedly tried to unsubscribe. As it happens, I then started reading them and found them quite interesting, so I guess it worked -- but I still resent the tactics used.

I always mark such messages as spam.

You've made those tactics succeed. It is your fault that sites keep using them.

I thought there was a legal requirement to have unsubscribe links that work? I was charitably assuming the unsubscribe function was broken by accident rather than by design. Furthermore, this tactic only works if the site has content interesting enough to overcome the extreme irritation that ignoring my attempts to unsubscribe: this is not only rare, but the site is shooting itself in the foot. There's no way I'd ever let a Quora app have access to my phone after pulling that kind of stunt.

This is not just about Quora, its more about Apple.. Apple is funny, cause its innovation creates the technology of the 2010-20, but with the old-fashion corporate mentality of the 80's.. it wins in the short-term because of its innovation quality, but lost in the long-term because of its yuppie/greedy pig style management: "Im a shark, i want all the market for myself and i will crush the competition trying to bite my cake"

This is also why Google in the long-term are winning, and this is also something to worry about, because its becoming more and more a monopoly colossus of technology; and as Andreessen use to say; "software will eat the world"

Quora are just replicating the bad/wrong side of Apple.. like a lot of old-mentality companies are doing.. trying to surf in the Apple's vacuum

Just bad for them. Just another company to be forgoten because of bad(greedy) decisions

I am on Quora, but I can't for the life of me remember how I signed up. One day I got an e-mail saying that somebody was following me.

There seem to be some interesting debates going on there, but I haven't used it that much.

Stack Exchange > Quora in every way possible.

Also, what quora is doing here REALLY seems like a black-hat SEO technique. They're baiting you with the link and then switching on you to download their app.

If I were Google, I would blacklist their whole domain for this crap and explain again what cloaking is if I were pressed on for an answer: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&...

Maybe I'm the exception but I really like the new "download this app" banners. Much less intrusive than the standard splash screens and integrating them with the OS makes sense.

Hmm ... it seems like it's a replay of the web circa the late 90s. http://boston.conman.org/2013/02/07.1

Who owns the content on Quora?

Could someone just scrape all the user contributed stuff and start a new site? Even if it was just all flat text I'd use it. Would this be legal?

Quora's terms of service allow for republishing[0] of any amount of content posted after April 22, 2010, so long as the user didn't mark it as not to be republished. There are a few caveats around attribution and a requirement to update content on request if Quora's copy changes, but it's actually fairly liberal.

0: https://www.quora.com/about/tos (search for "Quora's Licenses to You")

Totally agree with the article also. I've run into this in the past when getting there from search results, and it makes me really hate Quora.

I have no issue with quora wanting you to sign up to use their site but to allow their pages to be indexed by search engines and then hide content on those pages to humans unless they sign up (with their "real name') is ridiculous. With $61 million, you would think that they could hire someone to tell them that this is a bad idea.

I too have been trained to avoid quora search results.

Nitpick on the NY times stuff: In my experience at least, they do not paywall you for links that come from an email, as the author claims. It's only links that originate from clicking to articles when you are already on the site that count against your monthly limit of 10. Links from Google, Twitter, email, etc all take you straight to a paywall-free article.

Ah, good nit, I'll double check. Maybe I've met my limit on all my browsers.

Nope, I'm wrong. I think actually nytimes has been changing stuff recently, but I just reproduced a case where I was blocked even by emailing myself the link. Pasting the link into Google still works tho.

I've generally written off Quora because of their poor growth hacking techniques. What struck me about this article is the the data usage. I didn't realize they load the entire answer onto your phone, only to cover it up with the "use our app" junk. I know it's not a lot of data, but this still appears like a pretty big lack of respect for users.

It's even a little worse than loading the whole page. Quora has some sort of poorly implemented background process constantly polling the server for updates. Look at the page load indicator -- it never stops. This drains battery like hell, even if you just have a quora tab open in the background. For a page that can't even be updated.

You know what happens when I'm clicking through a SERP link and you give me a pop-up asking me if I want to download your crappy app? I hit the back button in mobile safari and find an alternate source of information.

No one wants your crappy forum reader app. Stop bugging me about it every single time I visit your damn site.

Something in same lines, recent xkcd strip, http://xkcd.com/1174/

I've landed many times on Quora but then left site because they allow me to read only one answer without siging in.

This has been something that really irritates me. They are doing same thing on phones now. I don't know about others but from me, they are not getting any visits now.

Remocing Quora from my Google search results in 3..2..1..

I really don't understand why people are so up in arms.

First everyone was in love with Quora, now everyone hates them? What changed?

Yes - they want you to join their community because their ecosystem depends on people signing up. I signed up for Quora once and since then it's never forced me to sign in again.

Because people hate being coerced to do something. Stackoverflow didn't need to force people to do so. A Q&A site only purpose is to give you the best possible answer. FAST. Anything else degrades your experience.

If quora breaks me out of the flow to register to their site ... they have cost me way more productivity than they could possibly bring back.

I had a similar thought when reading the article and these comments. I've been a member of Quora for a long time, and I can't remember the last time I had to log in again in my desktop browser. Any time I've navigated to a Quora page, I've seen all the answers no problem. So a lot of these complaints are news to me.

I completely agree with the mobile blocking through Safari & others, though, especially if the whole page is being downloaded.

I put thought and care into putting a few answers on Quora. I regret it now. I never would have done so had I known they were going to go Full Retard like the reviled ExpertSexChange.

I hope this pattern of bootstrapping with domain experts and later ditching them for leveraging volume users doesn't portend the future. Or maybe I'm just a little slow to catch on.

Signing up wasn't so simple back in the days. I still remember when I wanted to see the full text of an answer, Quora asked me to sign up, so I went to the signup page, and it said something like Quora is in closed beta, you need an invitation to sign up.

I, too, signed up for Quora once. But I don't want to sign in every time I want to browse the site.

The ironic thing is that, if they'd just let people browse, they'd sign in on their own.

The day this happened was the day I stopped contributing to Quora.

I did not delete all my contributions, but almost did.

Another thing I dislike from Quora are their annoying "Kumar asked you to answer this question" style emails that come in addressed to you. Its probably their way to increase the answer rate. I think I did actually contribute an answer on the first one of these I received.

The mobile quora experience is pretty horrible. The site has some gems of information but at the same time a vast amount of questions go unanswered and there is a not insignificant troll ish community growing. Hopefully they can find a way to turn it around.

I concur. The first time I saw that "you need to register" sign I laughed and noted to myself "these guys will never reach the popularity of stack exchange with that dumb restriction". I never opened Quora again.

When viewing a site's content that shows up high on google's search requires me to break out the inspector and hide divisions, or to spoof being a different user agent, something is wrong... very wrong.

I used to like Quora a lot but always hoped it would grow out of its Silicon Valley cliqueyness... I think a lot of these recent changes ensure that it's going to continue only serving that niche.

The amount of sites I have to use View Source to get to the content is slowly, slowly creeping up...

But then I also get to paste it in vim or gedit and don't have to deal with all the visual spam...

scrape quora's content and share

There is still a need for a good general-purpose Q&A website, that doesn't do this stuff or close half of the good questions like SE does.

I hate when they say "Log in to read the answers".

I am fine with iOS smart app banner. Real problem to me is "view in app" never deep link to the content I originally intended to read

Does anyone else think there might be a correlation between the amount of anti-user stuff at Quora and Charlie getting kicked out?

So do you think I should black list them on Nuuton? I'd rather not waste my time with a site that does this.

bth, i have no idea how Quora achieves anything. The service is kind of okay I guess, but I was thoroughly turned off by my first visit. I got to read one answer 'for free'... I cant remember what the price was I had to pay but 'far too much' is how I remember it.

Download our app!! http://xkcd.com/1174/

The real problem is Google not throwing them out of the index

This reminds me to get around to removing my account

Good luck. They don't allow you to delete your account unless you write them an email, which they don't seem to answer.

Amen to this post! This is SPOT ON!

Quora is a horrible site.

Try telling the manager that.

Just opened Quora to see if my user was still there:

User name: Alsfkj Alskfjaslkfj

E-mail Quora probably sends weekly e-mails: alsfkj@x.com

(sorry if any of you owns x.com)

This is a good place to use alsfkj@example.com

With example.com (which cannot be registered) you know you are not potentially smacking around the domain of a poor company

I usually use the site's own domain -- so a fake account on quora gets an @quora.com domain.

I do that too! I felt bad for the postmaster at fuckyou.com. It's weird but this technique has not yet been rejected, whereas mailinator gets rejected all the time.

Hah! That is brilliant, love that idea, there is a certain sense of poetic justice.

eBay is not exactly a poor company (current owners of x.com for some completely bizarre reason)

I did say potentially

In this case no it is not a small company, but I have seen people sign up to things with random email addresses that did map to small-time company domains.

Just be a nice guy, avoid the risk and use example.com is what I am trying to say.

x.com was originally PayPal, so eBay owns the domain once they acquired them.

Somewhere in Nigeria there's a legitimate Pfizer sales rep who's having a heck of a time getting his emails delivered.

eBay owns x.com

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