Frankly making fun of Quora and Scribd is like shooting fish in a barrel, but sometimes it's helpful to articulate the obvious.
You may not want to sign up yourself, or you may disagree with this tradeoff on principle, which is fine, but I want people to understand the motivation. We just want to increase the total amount of knowledge shared. In the short term requiring signups means some people don’t join. But a lot of people do join and start to use Quora regularly, a lot more than if there was no requirement, and those people end up contributing so many more answers that we judge this to be the right decision for the long term.
In fact, at this point, most of the answers written every day would not exist if we had not had the signup requirement. I realize that this choice makes the product worse for people who refuse to join. But in the counterfactual world Quora is a product with much less coverage of any topic, and that is a much lower quality experience for users. We are trading off a little annoyance at first for a much better experience and the ability to access a vastly larger base of content in the long term.
Anyway, the point you were answering to specifically mentioned "make it hard to read text on a web page". "music, ebook, software" aren't web pages, it's not the same end goal (the browser displaying stuff on your screen).
That said, I usually go with the email-alias trick. Not all websites like emails with a + in their name, so I have a postmap file on my server to map service@domain to my real address. If I want rid of that sites email because they won't respect my unsubscribes, I just remove that alias.
I've also heard of people using the likes of maildrop to /dev/null email they don't want. I have maildrop set up, but no rules in force to delete stuff, just to move.
For lack of better words, Quora has always struck me as expertsexchange 2.0. There is nothing wrong with being the reincarnate-2.0.-site, but Quora seems to be resurrecting demons and zombies and death we'd rather stay in the ground.
(For comparison, I consider Reddit, with its thousands of subreddits to be a form of usenet 2.0)
They've done heaps of annoying shit, but that in particular is one of the few things they haven't done.
If an opt-out takes more than ten seconds (find opt-out, click it, close tab, alt+tab back to email) I add it to my spamfilter. And that means I will never read email from that sender again, not even in my spam folder, unless I am expecting e-mail and (temporarily) remove it from my blacklist.
Today I incidentally read the current (March 2014) "Gutenberg 3.5 - Ebook Piracy Report".
It seems to be from an anti-piracy lobbying group,
so its obviously biased, but it mentions Scribd even before Library Genesis.
That being said:
Scribd seems to be (or has been?) one of the most successful Y Combinator companies and is sometimes called "YouTube of documents".
I wonder if the individuals who wrote that report can see the similarities too. It's going to be a sad day if they manage to raze LibGen as well.
I expect it will be attacked, possibly successfully, but other alternatives will rise to take its place.
"Can anyone tell me if Optoma is the best brand making projectors?"
Best Answer Selected by Voters: "Nigga, I saw in a previous question that you havin a baby. what the fuck you spending money fo bitch, save that shit"
As for Quora it is Experts Exchange 2.0. Hiding community sourced knowledge behind a login is shameful and disgusting. Especially since, if memory serves, they started out allowing you to see all the content then later added the blurring and popup. Thankfully I didn't pay much attention to Quora prior to this change and so I don't have any knowledge of mine locked up in. If I had I would delete my responses and repost the question and my answer to the appropriate Stack Exchange site.
I'm on mobile right now but once back at my computer I plan on adding both of these sites to my hosts file as I refuse to be an accomplice to or support their shady practices.
Thank you for highlighting what I have long thought about Quora and fully opening my eyes to the sins of Scribd which I have long disliked but lacked the interest to fully investigate.
So i've got this website. You have to log in to post things there. Other people have to log in to see the things you post there.
Someone please explain to me again how this arrangement is evil? Seems pretty straightforward and fair to me.
Spam emails? http://gyazo.com/f4752783f03276b654dd3f7044cb6766
Seems to me like they give you pretty comprehensive settings on what you can turn on and turn off. And it's not like this screen was hard to find. It's in an "Email preferences" link on the same general settings page you set your password on.
Spamming is just an extra incentive to dislike them.
The screenshot I linked should be enough to immediately disprove any accusations of "spam".
Really? You have to uncheck something like 20 checkboxes to avoid spam. And they used to have a tendency to re-enable all of them each time they add a new option; so you had to repeat the process on and off. (Hopefully that last bit has tapered down)
Can we stop torturing the definition of words, please? Spam is unsolicited commercial email. A service you registered for emailing you when one of your questions is answered or commented on, or a digest of interesting questions from the week, and so on is not spam by any possible definition.
Now, where have I seen that behavior before? Is this spam too, by your definition?
And here's the control UI
This is something I wish i could do over on Stack* - I'd love to be emailed when a question is answered or commented on. But alas, I have a newsletter, and a single checkbox that turns a bunch of stuff on and off. But you don't earn hate on hacker news for having too few features, apparently you earn it by having too many?
The worst thing you can accuse Quora of is being very, very granular as to what you can turn on and off... Hence why I call it confirmation bias. People have been told the site is crap and so go looking for reasons to confirm it.
Behold! The email settings UI is over-engineered! Let's imply a huge amount of mustache-twirling negativity into their motivations for doing so! The horror! They send an email once a week with interesting questions! It must be spam! Nevermind the fact that Stack* does the exact same thing!
All of this Quora hate is really, really unjustified for the simple difference of having a registration requirement to view their content.
I just don't see how having a good granularity is incompatible with having an easy way to turn the whole thing off. Neither do I see a point in having the settings revert back once in a while.
> Hence why I call it confirmation bias. People have been told the site is crap and so go looking for reasons to confirm it.
> All of this Quora hate is really, really unjustified for the simple difference of having a registration requirement to view their content
You seem to have strong opinions about why other people's dislike of Quora is unjustified. But this amounts to just putting words in people's mouth.
Not saying SO doesn't send too many emails to registered users in other scenarios (it's something we argue about internally fairly often).
And to be fair, both sites put "unsubscribe" links in the footer of every email, so it really shouldn't be that much of a burden.
User unsubscribes from all categories (one-by-one-by-one) = invent a new category and auto-subscribe the user.
Well, if they let you know ahead of time that you needed to sign up to access the content, that'd be no big deal. And, of course, I wouldn't bother to ever visit the site.
Instead, through Google, they make it appear like the information is accessible, then nag you to sign up to see it.
From the article and the look of this thread, it appears quite a few people think that it's a crappy way to do business; so who is "biased"?
More than anything, people who have issues with this feel entitled to have unfettered access to content because Wikipedia and other sites have been world changing and useful resources without a barrier to entry for reading content.
There was a time when using an anonymous remailer was considered bad taste, but now an email address isn't sacred, things change a lot on the internet over time and it has more to do with how the general public uses it and perceives it than to do with how highly technical people think it ought to be.
In short, just supply a PDF link.
Update: Oh well. There's no delete feature implemented. You have to email Quora support.
I wondered why Safari's own find wasn't working on the embedded pdf, but I guess that's because of their DRM font hack.
Icing on the cake was a tall ad that took over the browser window with a video when hovered over that was positioned tight to the right side of the page, completely blocking my ability to click and drag the scrollbar.
No more clicking on Scribd links.
It appears that the movie and music industry are considered harmful, but imitating them in other domains is wonderful.
I have yet to find a free or open source solution that's incredibly easy to implement and embed (for bloggers). To get PDF content showing nicely inside of a scrollable iframe, you need to convert the PDF to HTML, and host images somewhere. That's not easy for people who just want to jump right into publishing blog content. DocumentCloud seems totally awesome, but their hosted platform is restricted to journalists; specifically, "newsrooms."
I use Scribd for legal research; there's a lot of attorneys who post PDFs of case pleadings, since (a) PACER is expensive to use, and (b) RECAP has terrible searching. To that end, it really is the YouTube of PDFs, and I love it for that. Of course, YouTube is ad-supported, so perhaps that'd be a better option for Scribd, but that tends to draw ire too.
For what it's worth, you don't need to pay for a Scribd account if you regularly upload content. I haven't uploaded anything in a few months and I was able to download, for free, the Declaration of Independence link that the author highlighted. Of course, you wouldn't know that unless you stared at the little text on the bottom of the page, so that should change.
I don't hate them (my wallet does, when the content I want is behind them of course), but I find it to be a pretty reasonable model. Have a bite of the content, if you enjoy it then pay for the rest. It doesn't seem crazy to me that people should be compensated for their work, and while the "pay what you want" model is a lovely ideal, some people are more comfortable putting a fixed price on it.
I'm not asking to be combative, I'm genuinely curious on whether or not you have a better solution, and I'm totally open to having my opinion of pay-walls changed if I've overlooked some flaw in that model.
There IS a case where paywalls work and work well -- if some of the value in the information is information asymmetry. This is why the Wall Street Journal works better behind a paywall than the New York Times does -- the audience for the WSJ is a bunch of people who deal in investing, where the value sometimes isn't in merely being informed but being more informed than the others.
Free, open-source, embeddable, ad-free, and accessible to anybody.
Disclaimer: I'm the creator of PDFy.
(I keep wondering when the powers that be at HN will finally remove the Scribd autolinks on submissions, and keep being disappointed.)
An example from Minar's post, the Elliot Rodger 'Twisted Life' document, has been uploaded there by a NYDailyNews reporter:
Perhaps a bit easier to read than the Scribd version, with a 'text' tab for accessing raw copyable text, and a download link for the PDF original.
YC owns part of Scribd. (Scribd took part in YC S06.)
(I am told by Quora investors that they really didn't try for the inane comparisons to Wikipedia, but that this was made up by the press; much as the comparisons between Wikipedia and Knol were. [I am a long-time Wikipedia press volunteer and watched that last one being made up out of nothing.])
I've found some use pulling content from Scribd using text-mode browsers, but even that is exceedingly painful.
My policy is to ignore both sites, and I may well simply block the domains to avoid frustrations.
While I dislike their 'login-wall', it doesn't feel like a company focused around short-term profits.
I think their aim is noble, only that they are struggling somewhat to find ways to increase engagement and scope. Although subjective, I feel they are still on the right half of a good-insidious scale (Scribd less so).
For example Quora's robots.txt explicitly prohibits the wayback machine from crawling anything on quora.com. The &share=1 is a hack to trick googlebot, if Googlebot were capable of indexing registration required content, Quora would probably not provide this share=1.
Quora's technology is a glorified textbox and some links that link to content. The value is all the stuff that others have added to it. Which in itself is fine, it's something companies like Yelp do and do well to everyone's benefit. But Quora's policies again and again show a complete disregard for the public and even its users:
Requiring a real name.
No way to delete answers or questions easily (you can email to have your data deleted, which I did a long time ago).
Requiring a log in to read content (I wonder if you could convince some uninformed federal prosecutor that the share=1 trick to get around the block can be used to prosecute someone with the CFAA)
Blocking the way back machine and their shitty robots.txt
Not so long ago the hiring page on Quora asked candidates to be ready to dedicate their lives to the startup, to make it the primary focus of their lives which I thought was such a horrid thing to ask of an employee and really subtext for hiring discrimination based on age.
Quora managed to get a lot of funding because of the notability of its founders. Notability derived riding Mark Zuckerberg's wake. My opinion, based on their actions, is that these founders are evil arrogant people who think little of others including their employees, their users and the general public. Their mission is not any noble cause to share information, it's aggrandizing their self-importance. And I'm so happy that Quora is a floundering ridiculous mess of near no value. I just know they'll eventually purposefully transition into a shallow content Demand Media ehow clone. Because someday they're going to have to account for all that money they took in. They'll do that, and then a Google Panda update will kill their shit and that will be the end of it.
Tricking random users looking for an answer that's supposedly there into registering so they can see the 1 answer is not increasing engagement, just signup counts.
More detail at my comment here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7808698
That's about as fast and loose a a usage of the word noble as you can get. It's a Q&A site; what is "noble"?
Scribd, and things like google viewer that followed, helped get us through a rough patch until browsers started implementing better pdf viewers on their own.
I personally tend to avoid PDF files or, if a HTML version is available, I will go to that. I just don't like the format and avoid it. Sure my browser renders it fine but I avoid.
Similarly, with Scribd, I avoid. Others do to, and, in time, people will learn not to bother with Scribd. They will avoid it from both ends - uploading content and viewing content.
I believe you can just upload a PDF to a GDrive share and set it to be world viewable. Or you can restrict it. It all ties in to one's Google account, so why would you want to go to Scribd for that? Imaginably people will come to that conclusion and, before too long, Scribd will become even more irrelevant than they are now.
Sharing to a select group of people (e.g. a link in a mailing list, or on a small online community - it's perfectly valid in my opinion.
As mentioned, it's not suitable for large audiences - but it's perfect for other stuff.
The problem with Scribd is that it tries to reduce your cognitive load by one click. "Open or save?"
But it replaces that horrible, horrible soul-crushing "Open or save?" dilemma with its own inferior implementation.
And yes, it's absolutely fucking awesome. Better than any book reader, online or off, anywhere.
I don't 100% support the idea of putting a barrier before content, but I understand their need to grow in terms of registered users (i.e. users for whom they have email or social account). It's a mere strategy for fast growing, a sort of compromise that they chose to do. I don't see this particularly different from the initial Reddit's strategy of fake posts to grow the community (from an ethical point of view, is hiding content so different than creating fake one?). My hope is that this will be just the initial strategy for acquiring users.
However, for 1 person like you that thinks about not sharing, I'm sure there are many that will share without thinking. Moreover -on this point I'm totally sure- if you force users to signup vs you leave the option, no matter how good is your landing page, you will have more signups with the first option.
The point would be to understand how many share they lose vs how many signup they still get, but I guess the math is on their side (note: I'm assuming the most important metric here is number of signups, which is totally an assumption).
As far as pricing, isn't that what the uploader of the document sets, not scribd? And yes, quora is unfriendly to use IMO, but do you really feel like they'll make it through the next industry shakeout?
Most people who say "wouldn't it be great" like above end up changing their minds about donating after they find out it's actually possible.
Anyway, if you're still interested, feel free to reply here and I'll forward you to what I'm referring to.
FWIW, I do think it would be great and I'm already giving money to people whose work I think is great and I want to support.
Once I was wondering how the dragon capsule got into orbit with the ISS. Robert Frost and another person spent a lot of time with me in the comments until I finally understood.
I've asked many other questions about where to find certain resources, how to accomplish certain task, etc. and the answers have generally been quite useful!
The great thing about Quora is the site has an active community who spend time on the site. Also you will find experts in certain fields who are willing to spend time answering questions and clearing up misconceptions.
It is an extremely useful and valuable site for me, I really appreciate the Quora community and the help I get from users who answer my questions.
I use Stack Overflow mainly for programming questions instead of Quora. Stackoverflow is amazing.
I have noticed the Stack Exchange network with so many different topics. I think I will start asking questions in the Stack Exchange network as well in addition to Quora and see how they both compare.
Does anyone know of a less unpleasant site with Quora-like content?
I end up at Stack Overflow after seeking answers to questions I'm actually asking.
Quora is just entertainment, and a very evil version of it.
It's funny (in a sad way) that YC which wants to "kill Hollywood", presumably because of DRM and such, would end up backing up properties like Scribd and Quora.
One example was the link to the summary of Irvine's book on stoicism:
It prompted me to read the actual book.
I've also found a lot of the 'wisdom to younger self' type Q&A's to be very valuable, to the point where I store offline versions in my information thingamajig (DevonThink).
Maybe they don't overlap 100% but, you don't have to pay or login to view questions and answers, and if you post a question in the wrong SE site it can simply be transferred to the correct SE site where the people familiar with that topic can answer appropriately.
Once upon a time I found myself contributing to StackOverflow and Programmers sites just to spite Experts Exchange, which to my dismay kept coming up in my search results instead of questions on a Stack Exchange site. It's consistently been a source of answers to questions that I thought were going to be hard to search for.
It's funny, I actually used a similar trick (text-shadow + transparent font) for an optometrist's website a long time ago. It was just a neat visual effect though, no DRM garbage.