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The downfall of Quora (2013) (quora.com)
161 points by anbala on Sept 28, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 120 comments



This article nails it. I remember when Quora first came out, I thought that it was a great idea, like a stack overflow for the masses. Fast forward to now though and I find myself avoiding it at all costs. Quora seems willing to try any and everything to fix itself except for solving its most glaring and obvious problem, its closed ecosystem. On mobile it is ridiculous when you do a search in browser and click a Quora link it forces you to install the app to see the answer. If you do make the mistake of installing the app you are then inundated with useless notifications about things you don't care about. I know that there is good information hidden in there, but its a terrible strategy to make people jump through hoops to access it. Meanwhile Stack Overflow became Stack Exchange with sub-sites for more and more topics thus transforming itself into what Quora could have/should have been in the first place. Its open nature has driven its growth to a top 200 Alexa rank while Quora seems destined to continue its semi-annual pivoting.


I mentally blacklisted Quora when it was proudly US only (I'm Canadian). Their reasoning was extremely dubious: something about "cultural differences" and "language barriers" preventing "high quality content".

Foolishly, I gave them another chance when they opened registration worldwide. The second strike was when I found out that they showed the Googlebot different content, à la Experts Exchange.

And the third strike was the heavy handed social integration. Can't post (or even read content) unless you link with Facebook, etc.

It's a shame. As others have noted here I think the web could use an improved version of "Yahoo Answers"; something with a StackOverflow feel. Especially since Google Answers (the one you paid bounties for) went the way of the dodo in 2006.


> As others have noted here I think the web could use an improved version of "Yahoo Answers"; something with a StackOverflow feel.

It's odd that nothing fills this gap. Slant.co comes close, but is built around "what" rather than "why" or "how" -- useful in its own right, but not the same.

I wonder if the problem is simply that Yahoo! Questions, Ask.com and Quora are all just too well-known and nobody wants to take them on, despite how terrible they are? Considering the celebrated audacity of startup culture I'd honestly be surprised if this is the case, but on the other hand I'm not finding a lot of other compelling explanations.

I suppose one other possibility is that aforementioned sites have soured the public on the genre to the point that when someone says, "It's kind of like Yahoo Questions or Ask.com," the immediate response is "Ick."


It's essentially impossible to build something as high-quality as Stack Overflow for an all-purpose Q&A site. The expertise required per category is incredibly high, to match the level of quality Stack has, and then the moderation has to be equally up to that bar. That has to occur for a thousand different categories (far more really, but you get the point).

So you need tons of users per sub, with very high level expertise; you need dedicated moderators with expertise in the category so they grasp what's what. And you need some way to bring all of these people in just to get the ball rolling (Stack did it by knocking over one category first of course).

Even Stack Exchange has failed to translate its very successful core site to a vast range of topics. If you look at where they've succeeded in a big way, it's exclusively tech-heavy or otherwise topics that geeks like.


I think Wikipedia has managed to be hugely general with a relatively high quality level so it must be possible. There might well be an underlying difference that can't be overcome but I can't see it from here.


Wikipedia is a terrible example to use for a community.

Wikipedia is a great guide of things to avoid.

Take signing up for an account: the software has some control over what username you can create. Then there is some level of admin on top. So, as well as the software limits there is the username policy.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Username_policy

That page has nice advice about what to do with bad usernames - starting with do nothing.

There are two templates for bad usernames (templates are generally a bad idea) -- {{subst:uw-username}} or {{subst:uw-coi-username}}

Then there is a Request for Comments http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:RFC/N

And then there's an admin noticeboard http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Usernames_for_admin...

But the noticeboard has two parts - a holding pen and the main board.

The RFC/U is the problematic part. Children rapidly post all possibly risky usernames as part of their gamified run to adminship.

You kind of expect editing topics like Palestine or Ukraine to be risky. You really don't expect simple uncontroversial punctuation gnoming to be horrible but it can be a really nasty toxic experience.


And despite all these problems, wikipedia is extremely useful.


What about all the Stack Exchange communities (e.g. Mathematics Stack Exchange, English Language & Usage Stack Exchange)?


"What's a list of good books about programming language X?"

"I'm switching from this programming language to that programming language; what are the important gotchas?"


Followed immediately by the question being flattened by administration as "not a good fit" despite the previous existence of these types of questions producing excellent discussion and answers.

I think SE is awesome in spite of its rules, not because of them. The whole "discussion is bad mmkay" thing seems to be cargo-culted by the staff of these sites despite many examples to the contrary.


While I agree these kind of questions requires answers with some information, in reality most answers would be highly subjective. Same subjective answers can readily be found by simple web search. They also promote me-too wars and pointless debates on why my subjective POV is better than yours. Soon these type of questions would overwhelm the "real" questions and the participants who want more substance would move on.

This has actually been my #1 appalling thing about Quora. The questions being asked on it are so often such a low quality that I worry about if I'm getting in to some sort of intellectual ghetto. Consequently, I rarely want Quora to tell anybody that I was on that website. I have also developed perception that people very active on Quora have fairly low bar (note that there are many tech celebrities on it but they are usually one-offs).

Examples from current Quora frontpage:

"How do people who have been affected by "Bendgate" feel about it?"

"Why am I so scared to ask for help?"


Personally, while I like some aspects of the community stuff around the different Stack Exchange sites, I feel like there's a lot of friction around a user jumping from one to another. It sort of feels weird, you know?


There are very different cultures on the different stack exchanges. I used to think it was a mistake to allow individual sites to have so much control over appearance, but now that acts as a useful cue that you're on a different website with different rules.


> I mentally blacklisted Quora when it was proudly US only (I'm Canadian). Their reasoning was extremely dubious: something about "cultural differences" and "language barriers" preventing "high quality content".

This was their first and final strike for me. If they didn't want me why would I want to sign up now?


I mentally blocked it when started becoming a sea of "Why did this H-list programming celebrity join X company?"


You do need an account, but you don't need to link it to Facebook.


This piece starts out teasing some kind of business or market analysis about Quora, which would be interesting to read, but it almost immediately descends completely and permanently into Drama, some of which seems like it's only really intelligible to people who spend a lot of time on Quora.

It's not a worthwhile read, and we'd be better off discussing Quora based on virtually any other story about it.


That's because Quora is a social platform, and it's flaws are primarily cultural.

You may or may not be able to make a legitimate business case for the site, but the point is that Quora will still fail due to its toxic, insipid culture.


Of the substantive criticisms in this piece, most of them have been leveled even more vehemently at Stack Exchange, which from what I can tell is doing just peachy.


we'd be better off discussing Quora based on virtually any other story about it.

Do you have any specific suggestions? Adding one or two in as an edit to your comment would be much appreciated. I'd like to have a balanced perspective on Quora's place in the industry.


I noticed you get unwarrantedly defensive when it comes to negativity surrounding popular individuals or well-known companies. I say unwarrantedly because you usually write very awesome posts with lots of detail, but when you spring to the defense of the GitHub founder who fell from grace, or in this case Quora (and there are other instances I remember to some degree), you peremptorily want to end the discussion without any good reason and just issue some dismissive insults.

It never works, though. The conversations continue. People have good reason to not like Quora. They've had a user-unfriendly attitude problem, and they've been less than nice to their employees as well. I personally can't stand it when some people are treated with contempt, but I guess this sort of thing doesn't bother you or maybe you don't pick up on it.


> I noticed you get unwarrantedly defensive

Uhh I don't think he was defensive at all. I think he made a very good point.

I would bet large amounts of bitcoins that no VC wrote any of this, save MAYBE part of the opening. It's extremely verbose and the business analysis ultimately is a smaller part of what amounts to just a rant about the quora community.

And if you want to read that, that's great. I don't. I've read the exact same criticism of Wikipedia, Reddit, <insert social community here>. It doesn't really provide any insight I didn't know already: big social communities tend to get co-opted by people with agendas and too much time on their hand. Cool.

Talking about company strategy and why it is unlikely to be successful is interesting, and provides good salient points for the rest of us. Talking about 'rad fems' taking over Quora? Not so much.


I would have a very hard time believing that an investor wasted 5 minutes writing several paragraphs about "PC" and "social justice" and stuff like that. Like I said, I think most of this writeup makes sense only if you spend a lot of time on Quora. Who does that?


The community is typically a pretty big aspect of a business running a community answers site. Would you have been satisfied if there was a pie chart?


> The community is typically a pretty big aspect of a business

'The community' is an extremely nebulous term, and unlikely to be influencing any business decision, largely because any individual's perception of the community is heavily subjective and influenced by the subject of the content you consume (which can vary widely on any large, similarly nebulous site).

I highly, highly doubt 'the community' came up in any acquisition discussions of reddit or tumblr, largely for that reason and because it ultimately has little effect on their user base. People aren't leaving reddit in droves because SRS exists. If people leave quora, it won't be because 'rad fems' drove them away.

> Would you have been satisfied if there was a pie chart?

You're super cool. Wicked jab there bro. Super salty about it. Remind me to high five you next time and we can pound some natty ice and talk about how cool you are.


>Super salty about it.

Yes obviously you are


Weird. I know next to nothing about Quora. I was actually hoping to read a well-reasoned takedown of a company that I don't think generates all the much value. This just isn't that.

"Spring to the defense of the Github founder who left in disgrace"? Another really weird thing to have said.


Quota. ?share=whatever

That to me sums up the site in its entirety. A content SEO Google cheater that tries to con people into signing up to boost its user numbers

They should have looked to StackOverflow as a good example of how you build a proper community, and more importantly, nurture it.

Good ridance.


Stackoverflow has of a lot of terrible answers that get voted up by people who aren't equipped to evaluate them properly, and closed threads when anyone starts actual substantive discussions. It also suffers from lack of decent rewards for contribution. That's not what I would consider a good community.


Stack Overflow could be better net citizens if they'd stop polluting Google's search results with closed discussions.

They're welcome to set whatever rules they want for what's "on topic" or a "good fit". Their site, their rules. No harm, no foul.

It's just irritating as hell to waste your time clicking over there from a Google link and finding a closed discussion at the other end.

Telling Google to not index a topic would be a minor tweak. If they've found the discussion unworthy, why do they want Google to index it anyway?


Well, very often I will click through to SO from Google to a closed thread that got downmodded like crazy, but that nevertheless exactly solves my problem in less than a minute from the first answer.

Perhaps on some level SO knows this, and also knows that their mods are perhaps somewhat overzealous, and therefore has adopted the current state of affairs as a sort of compromise/duct-tape solution.


This.

I too, have found so many downmodded questions to have the exact answer I needed for a particular problem. It's by far the most frustrating part of using Stack Overflow.

The overzealous modding has had a chilling effect on my desire to ask a question on SO, because nobody wants their question to be downmodded as a stupid or pointless question.


It would be quite interesting to know which topics you find this happening. I don't tend to see this kind of toxicity on SO. I'm frequenting C# and .NET. Maybe Jon Skeet drags the C# community up to his level!


I see a lot of this in the web development oriented areas. So mainly in the CSS/JS areas.


The overzealous modding is a feature not bug of SE sites.

I find some of the moderation really frustrating but it's worse when the people closing threads and answers are also the ones leaving zero-content comments.


While I also whine about Stack's broken moderation, I still contribute because its heart's in the right place as a site that genuinely wants to help people learn and get answers. The problems you mention are more like implementation details that are subject to ongoing experimentation and can't be changed overnight.

The good thing about Stack is anything I write there will be as easily accessed as if I'd posted it on my own blog, not re-purposed as SEO-bait and blurred or hidden until the user signs up. Furthermore, it's licensed under Creative Commons instead of serving as a donation to the site owner.

Quora is actually a great site once you're logged-in and I find a lot of the content fascinating, but I also wonder why people continue to contribute to such a closed system.


Whilst StackOverflow also has its failings, it isn't deliberately obstructive.

It isn't the perfect model but it is certainly a better one.


this is absolutely not true, stackoverflow is an invaluable resource and what you say might happen very occasionally, but the vast majority of upvoted answers actually helped a lot of people.

Despite what you claim as lacking rewards it seems to have thrived and attracted contributions. I don't really care what you consider a good community, or even accept the premise that there needs to be any notion of community. Why attribute labels, the model seems to work just fine.


>>tries to con people into signing up to boost its user numbers

I never understood this. As long as there is a infinite supply of free email accounts available. Any body who asks people to sign up merely to read content is just fooling themselves into thinking people are going to supply genuine email id's to read stuff.

These days I keep a email id handy for purposes like these.

Want me to sign up? Sure why not? But don't expect it to be the id which I use to do serious stuff.


> StackOverflow

StackOverflow's community is toxic waste compared to Quora. The site is somehow successful despite the founders/community's best efforts to destroy it.


This issue hits a home run with me: "Ideological Moderators".

I was a very active Quora user on 2010-2011, I'd visit the site over 10 times a day, I would write any answers on Word, make sure they were thorough, well written, etc, before I replied to question. I made an effort, both offline and online. What I really enjoyed was the initial community, the well thought questions and answers. During this 18-24 month period I also got thousands of upvotes, lots of thank you messages for my answers, etc.

One day an army of moderators came along. These moderators weren't Quora staff, but volunteers. I get it, it takes considerable man power to go through many of those questions and answers. I can work with that.

It was when I asking a question on movies & documentaries that I had my first encounter with them. I can't recall the exact question I asked, but it something along the lines "what are the most interesting documentaries released in 2011?". One moderator, without contacting me, changed the question to something more specific, he added a sub-genre to the question. I got notified of the change, went back, and changed it to the original question. After a couple of hours I get a message from the moderator telling me that that question isn't a "good/relevant" question (I'm paraphrasing). I ask why, and I get told that "You can't ask generic questions". Once more, I change the question to the original one and ignoring the random argument by the moderator. Then this moderator contacted a second moderator in order to gang-up on me, supporting each other random policies in order to make a statement.

It was then that I realised that these people didn't like to moderate Quora for the content quality, but for the feeling of 'power' and control moderation creates. I noticed that these guys liked being moderators because they enjoyed telling others what to do, with no regards for the content, quality, or users. That same day I deleted all of my questions, answers, and Quora account. I haven't used it again since then, and it feels great.


This struck me as more representative of other sites. Like, the one we're on now:

The No Humor Rule: Humor is a de facto taboo on Quora. While the occasional demonstration of witwill evoke no more than a scowl and shake of the head from the community, more regular use will draw a barrage of down votes and risk the possibility of banishment. The staff attempts to deny that this istrue but fails to convince anyone. Many Quorans simply don't appreciate humor and will automatically down vote any post that contains it.

s/quora/HN/g

That said, the author of this piece tries really, really hard to bash on Quora for their login policy. You have to be logged in to contribute or to read.

Honestly? I think they're reading far too much into that.


Most "funny" comments are just not funny. Comments that don't add anything to the conversation should[1] be downvoted. Funny comments that are funny tend to get upvotes. Humour is harder than spouting movie quotes or similar meme-based stuff.

[1] downvoting on HN is currently perplexing. Easiest way to get downvotes is to make a post with a clear but simple factual error - something easily fixed with a comment and an edit. In another thread someone was told to "go and die" and that comment is still live after an hour or so.


I agree with some of the points the author makes (although I've never contributed to quora myself) but I think he's misguided there.

In my opinion the problem with humour is not that it can be misunderstood by international readers, it's that it's very hard to find the sweet spot where the comment threads turn into a competition to find the wittiest/stupidest joke/pun on the article being discussed.

I think the issue is that most jokes don't really contribute to the discussion and unlike slashdot you can't motivate your vote (+5 funny vs. +5 insightful). There's also the problem that humour is hard to judge objectively and is likely to annoy as many users as it amuses.

That being said, if you make a very skillful, spiritual and/or topical joke on HN you might be upvoted, I've seen it happen in the past (with things like poems, lyrics and other "not-so-serious" content).

Also, of all the points the author makes, this one is the only one IMO that's really applicable to HN so I don't think it's possible to draw a parallel between Quora and HN (if that's what you were trying to do).


A trend I've noticed among Quora posts that attempt to be funny is that they are bad at doing it, such as using Reddit-level responses contained with puns/memes. That type of "humor" died years ago.


I've found that HN is overall tolerant of the occasional bit of humor or even snark, definitely to a point where you do not feel constrained.


I've found it to be a viper pit of humorless aspies


Your comparison of non-neurotypical people to deadly venomous snakes is not only dehumanizing but also incorrect. Sure, if a person bit you, the wound might get infected and eventually cause problems, but it would almost certainly be treatable with a standard first aid kit. A viper bite would require immediate treatment with antivenom to prevent necrosis, limb amputation, or potentially even death.


I feel this is precisely the type of post HN needs. Faux-sanctimonious high-wire-act humor. I hope you get millions of upvotes.


Are humorless aspies really all that dangerous?


It's a pun on asp/viper OH MY GOD YOU'RE ONE OF THEM


And scene.


Individually, no. In large numbers they'll spark a chain reaction of humorless over-analyzing which consumes and ultimately destroys the herd.


s/HN/StackOverflow/

But I'm not sure it's a bad thing on either HN or StackOverflow. On SO I think it's far worse than on HN, but it might be necessary to keep things under control.


> Honestly? I think they're reading far too much into that.

I honestly hated them for their login policy. They deserved to fail purely for that stunt alone.


What "stunt"? Why is this such a big deal to people? I've never found a login to be a particularly onerous thing.


Easy to answer -- a website that doesn't require a login (for casual reads) hopes to attract visitors. A website that does require a login hopes to control and exploit visitors.


"Control and exploit".

How melodramatic.


I've noticed the lack of humour enthusiasm on HN too. I guess maybe as the article suggests it does not translate well internationally.


I agree the rules for quality content over nonsense at HN have been widely overshot. I wish comments and submissions were judged on value alone - interesting ideas, new facts, entertaining reading - irrespective of content including some silliness or even gasp potty-language.

I have been criticized and downvoted many times for being "snarky" even if I made a factual and well-reasoned comment. This is the goddamn Internet, not tea with the fucking queen. I'd prefer a community that values substance over style and passion over politeness. (Not like there is anything better than HN and I just got downvoting privileges so I am not going anywhere for a long time. Bwa ha ha ha!)

And I get it, I can be a real dick. Ask anyone. I don't blame anyone for being mad at me occasionally but I wish others would have enough tolerance to get over their delicate feelings enough to appreciate content that does not jibe with their own self-delusions or is written with uncomfortable emotion.

I am feeling a little burned by this today. This morning I clicked a link off the home page to read a rant by weev against people bashing bash and Stallman. Reading that felt like letting loose a fart built up after a long job interview. It was a joy to read something so frank and passionate whether I agree with it or not. (And in this case he made some excellent points.) It made me realize how stuffy and afraid of breaking consensus everything else on HN was. I hit my back button to comment and it was no longer anywhere to be found.

Shame on you, HN.


Some of the comments here are really interesting. A lot of general Quora negativity?

I think the weekly (semi personalised?) Quora 'digest' is one of the only bacn emails I'll open pretty much without fail, almost always ending up on the site. Some of the questions/answers are fascinating.


I also enjoyed the Quora digests until one day the links stopped going directly to the threads but all pointed to a feed page. I assumed this was another dark pattern to boost pageviews and unsubscribed.


I prefer the feed page. There's usually more than one interesting link in a Digest and the pages aren't exactly lightweight on my phone. I wouldn't be so quick to call it a dark pattern; could be a reasonable UX decision based on how people use the emails.


Wait, Quora is actually a thing? People actually have content there? I've only visited a couple times and saw that I couldn't access anything. I assumed that the answers didn't really exist, and it was just a scammy thing to get you hooked in. Kinda like how a site might use some popular keyword but the actual content isn't helpful at all.

Who the heck are these people that actually use it? Why??


Fake exclusivity wrapped in a shell of pseudo-intellectualism.


Quora's auto linkification of text seems to be excellent. clueless.it indeed.


Not even a space can prevent the linkification: day.%20So; backstabbing.%20To

This really is quality engineering.


For a few seconds I thought this was an actual site.


I clicked it. :(


I thought Quora's philosophy was "blur the page and cover it with a modal signup form".


That's... A fairly long rant answering a short question ("what I think about Quora and its latest pivot").

Not that I'm here to defend Quora, but this level of heat makes me wonder whether the unnamed VC has some ongoing beef with it.


"Quora's philosophy can be summed up as why should the serfs get a share if they were dumb enough to work for free in the first place?"

Different currencies. The owners of Quora are being paid in US dollars, the content creators in both attention and reputation. Both attention and reputation are currencies that will translate to dollars more and more as we progress towards an, in-part, reputation-based economy. With everyone having access to information what will matter will be your curation of that information, and your commentary. The better these are the better your reputation will be in those content areas, and the more your endorsement will be worth (in both reputation and dollars).


"A reputation based economy is what we're moving towards", we should be resistant to that. I think it would be fair to say a "reputation based economy" is a synonym for crony capitalism -- I'll only do business with you if I know you.

This is a socially unfair economy at best, and at worst will generate inequality as social cliques will continue to preserve and enrich themselves and "the people they know". If we're going to move more toward social and economic fairness this isn't the direction to go.

I'm comfortable knowing that Whole Foods takes dollars rather than Klout points or retweets. That way anyone who can make a dollar can eat and not worry about starving because they failed to impress some arbiter of social currency. Reputations aren't fungible hence they are flawed as a just economic currency.


this is an intriguing criticism but assumes a corrupted reputation economy. wouldn't a perfect meritocracy be a reputation based economy?


A meritocracy is a type of government not an economy. Or possibly I don't understand your question.


a meritocracy is a resource allocation system and functionally equivalent to an economy for considering your proposition that reputation based systems lead to bad allocations; i'm questioning that proposition.


"progress" towards "reputation-based economy"? wtf is this anyway? Sounds like sucker-economics to me, just like "we don't have a lot of money to pay you right now but this project will be great for your career!". To hell with that.


> Different currencies. The owners of Quora are being paid in US dollars, the content creators in both attention and reputation.

I think this is spot-on. I answered questions on quora for a while, but eventually left once I realized I was getting nothing out of it besides (some) "reputation" on a closed-off website. The reputation (and any associated ego/self-esteem boost) might be enough of a reward for some to justify continuing, though.

> Both attention and reputation are currencies that will translate to dollars more and more as we progress towards an, in-part, reputation-based economy.

I am not sure this is or will be univerally true. It does work for some people, though they seem to be a minority. Not every twitter-celebrity can convert that status into a way to support themselves financially.


@Communitivity, you said "With everyone having access to information what will matter will be your curation of that information, and your commentary". The problem with this view is the curation of the curators that is occuring in our reputation based economy. When popularity is the main arbiter of quality the cult of unfair celebrity runs wild, just like in the non-internet world. You need to assign fairness to content, otherwise its like what rustyconover has said, its just another system of social inequality that benefits only a small minority.


That is an excellent observation. I was in the Open Reputation Management Systems Technical Committe at OASIS. During the initial discussions there we mostly agreed that reputation has to be multidimensional, for exactly that reason. I may have a great reputation in XML, but have credibility in .Net. Popularity is still a concern, but there mechanisms that can mitigate this. For example, a feedback mechanism where the reputation changes of someone feedback into the reputation of people previously voted on that persons reputation. So someone who used a mechanic with a high reputation and down voted him when they found out his reputation was unwarranted would also impact negatively the reputation of the people who gave the mechanic the unwarranted increase in reputation.


I kind of feel these sites - Yahoo Answers, Quora - are just serving users not wanting to Google things.

Everyone has questions. Questions can be googled.

Granted, Googling stuff is hard.

Even though you can just stick a question into Google and get some reasonable feedback, it's still hard to know who to trust: I read most students have no clue on what to trust when googling for school assignments. It's not taught there, they're just expected to know. And it's one of those things that is crucial to fully understand things in the society of today.

Of course, people want definitive answers. If there's a definitive answer for something, it's probably in a place like wikipedia.

For something that doesn't have a definitive answer and which can be discussed, there's discussion forums like reddit and HN that a great for this purpose.

In my mind, Quora solves very little, and the way they force you to login really irks me – information should be free. (Just make it publicly accessible already! Make dumps and APIs available like wikipedia. Make it free!) And then there's all the other issues the author describes in this article, especially the inane questions.

I have to say, lots of interesting discussions have happened on Quora - mainly due to the participation of interesting people, not random 13-year olds. That's still a huge accomplishment and why I hope Quora sticks around, but more in form of a general discussion/opinion/experience platform.


A surprising fierce critique of quora.

I'm not sure there's anything someone wanting to build a community can learn from this article. Which is a shame, because we should really be trying to learn from experience. It would counter the fuckin stupid ideas some people have. (ie: real names only to combat hostility and trolling. The obvious counter would be the comment sections of most newspapers.)


The only pessimism warranted is that people can't differentiate experimentalism from failure. Empirical data on failure is under-valued. Just like how academics never publish all the shit that goes wrong. Tons could be learned/saved from publishing negative results. After all, its all in the interpreation. Having bad empirical examples heightens contrast and differentiation, which is often a good thing.


After thinking about this for a while it struck me that Quora is simply this decades version of expertsexchange.com.

It has the same "register to read what we slyly showed Google but not you, unless you bump our daily user sign up rate to impress investors" dark pattern going on.


I remember once being very passionate about Quora and I really wanted to join their team.

After doing my research, I came to get data that they are extremely biased to only take ex-Stanford, ex-Facebook people. This was back in 2011-2012 so I hope things have changed atleast from that angle.

My friend interviewed with them and he came back with a very bad experience and was extremely pissed off that he was almost ridiculed for not having cracked it so far in his career.

Anyways, their practices have been very dubious from the start. They should thank those deep pockets of the founders.


This does not read like it was written by a VC, at least not in an investment context. An investor would not express concern that a user-generated content company was not sharing economics with its contributors. In fact, a company's ability to attract contributors without sharing economics with users (e.g. Facebook) would impress an investor.


Written in 2013.

Please also include the date when submitting links like this.


I'm acquainted with the founders of Quora, and I don't think making "fast money" was a primary motivation in founding Quora. They set out to create a question/answer site with a better user experience and a better community.

The business model seems, from the outside, to be the belief that, like Facebook and Twitter, they will make money somehow eventually after becoming a runaway success, even it takes years to monetize.


They set out to create a question/answer site with a better user experience and a better community.

Their user interface choices always looked seriously weird to anyone familiar with almost any other website. It's beyond annoying to me to see a Quora link shared by friends (and actually quite rare for me to see a Quora link shared by anyone), because I never know if I will be able to read the Quora thread without logging in or not. Today, in this Hacker News thread, both the OP and the links submitted so far have been instantly visible to me, but that is not my usual experience with Quora. Rather, my usual experience, through several changes of Quora policy, has been to see nag screens asking me to sign up before I see any of Quora's content.


For that reason I've largely developed "Quora blindness". The same way I just mentally skip over ads on a page, I'll mentally discount links to Quora as non-existent.


Actions speak louder than words, and I don't see how requiring logins to view answers results in a better user experience and community.

I would guess that since it is socially uncouth to say their motivation for the site is to try to make a lot of money, they instead state a more noble sounding mission whenever asked about motivations.


I'm not going to defend Quora's actions, but your comment sounds like knee-jerk cynicism to me, especially if you don't know the founders personally, and that irritates me. If you've started a start-up before, you know the mix of a big vision, good intentions, and also some desire for fame and/or fortune that varies from founder to founder.

Starting a site like Quora and painstakingly nursing a community of intellectuals into existence would be a pretty dumb way to make fast money, given all the possible business models for doing so.


"more fast money could be madeby starting a for-profit version of Wikipedia with the end game being to eventually IPO-it."

The whole "Zero to One" campaign by Thiel et. al. seems to be an attempt to thrust a stake through the heart of this kind of thing.


From the article kindly submitted here: "Quora's philosophy can be summed up as why should the serfs get a share if they were dumb enough to work for free in the first place?"

That's a good question. What is the incentive to be a content creator on Quora?

AFTER EDIT: Aside about the other comments wondering if Hacker News has a no-humor rule. I find comments from time to time on Hacker News that are laugh-out-loud funny. I'll link to two examples to show what I mean, after noting that a good humorous comment on Hacker News is still the same thing as a good nonhumorous comment on Hacker News: a comment that is "thoughtful" both in the sense of being civil and in the sense of providing food for thought in the context of the discussion thread. One recent Hacker News comment that I thought was so funny, and so thoughtful, that I shared it on my Facebook wall (where it was liked by several of my friends) was by patio11 about Yahoo's business plans after the Alibaba IPO.[1] A much older comment that I cherish from years ago was about how lifestyles in Japan changed after the "lost decade" of meager economic growth in the 1990s.[2] You can be humorous on Hacker News and get upvotes (evidently) if you embed your humor in a substantive comment. I don't usually attempt humor here myself, but I appreciate it (and upvote it) when I see it from other participants here.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8333625

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=328819

[1]


Ego, I guess. His replies are being liked/upvoted by a social network of gentlemen & scholars, while in facebook the "likes" come from the plebeians that did the ice bucket challenge (even though they are the same people; only using different personas/doing different performances).


Ironically, Quora is a great place to look for an answer to that question.

[1] http://www.quora.com/Answers-Quora-feature/Why-do-people-ans...


Absolutely none of the responses to that question (thanks for sharing that link with the group here) distinguishes why I should post on Quora, with its annoying user interface and smarmily self-congratulatory culture, rather than posting here on Hacker News. I can get any of the benefits of posting on Quora with less friction, more civility, and more Google visibility here on Hacker News than I can on Quora.


Humor on Hacker News is possible, it just has to be constructive humor that expands the discussion. (such as hilariously point out flaws).

An example: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8140290


ego.

just like wikipedia it runs on the precious recource called 'mansplaining'. men really like to show off.

just like this comment.


Mansplaining is much more specific than men showing off; it's men assuming women are clueless and talking over them (e.g. the prototypical case where a man explained a woman's book to her, oblivious that she wrote it).

Which I don't think is the issue here at all...


The benefit of making up words to dismiss people is that you get to make up the definitions too. "Mansplaining" means whatever is convenient at the time. This is why it is preferable to use real words and ignore people who make up nonsense words.


Is the sexism really necessary?


how is that sexism - look at the stats behind who edits wikipedia, who posts here or at quora.

prove me wrong, with science.

it is the opposite of sexism - it is an uncomfortable truth.


It isn't `mansplaining` just because a man is writing something. I also wasn't aware that writing source-backed articles for an encyclopedia is actually a secret plan by men to oppress women. If you're of the opinion that any time men write or speak on a subject that they're `mansplaining`, perhaps you should reevaluate your world view.


> this is about sites using the natural trait of men, especially the nerdy types, to get immense joy of being right.

I believe this trait is true, but the word mansplaining is loaded and few people agrees with your use of it.


Given the number of women on Tumblr who will happily shout down others just to be right (as far as they're concerned with "right'), I don't think this is a trait specific to men. All people like being smart and like being able to show that.


You are absolutely right. ESPN comments are pretty bad. :)


Imo, his/her point would be closer to 'men enjoy to show off and brag more than women do'. Though the word 'mansplaining' was poorly chosen imo


this is not about oppressing women, wtf.

this is about sites using the natural trait of men, especially the nerdy types, to get immense joy of being right. not being able to have something stand uncorrected. and to assume all others are idiots and uninformed. which is where the gender angle comes into play, imho by accident.

you don't need to pay them, they'll do all the work, just let them be right, publicly.


...You used the word `mansplain` which is a loaded word that refers to men patronizing women and is closely tied to patriarchy theory.

It's also quite sexist to assume that men are editing Wikipedia so they can "get some" and show off to women. God forbid someone wants to write about things they find interesting or want to be part of and give back to a community.


In this case,

looks up definition of mansplaining

Yes. Yes it is.

It is necessary to show his point. Not saying it is necessary in society. Cool your jets.


Sexism is never necessary.

And what point would that be?


I thought it was an amusing way of referencing the fact that wikipedia editors are 90% male. But perhaps that's just me?


(a) What sexism are you seeing? Is Money for Nothing really homophobia to you?

    That little faggot with the earring and the make-up
    Yeah, buddy, that's his own hair
    That little faggot got his own jet airplane
    That little faggot he's a millionaire
(b) The point is to attack the idea of "mansplaining". Yes, naming something is generally a prerequisite to insulting it.


Quora has a lot of high-quality content. Yeah, you have to sift through some garbage, but compared to Yahoo! Answers it's a different world. Most of the time, the top answer will be a good one.

It may not stay that way forever, but thus far, the quality of the best content is really good when you consider that people wrote it for free, and that the filter is some mix of community voting and machine learning (as opposed to expert curation).

That said, I didn't know about the US-only policy (that was a bad idea) and I'm glad they've changed it. The "social" integration definitely pisses me off, because 90% of "social" in this era is alienation. I considered quitting when I found out that my activity was getting piped out to Facebook. Awful decision.


"compared to Yahoo! Answers"

Setting the bar pretty low there, aren't you?


Point.


> Youwill find yourself blocked from seeing content unless you first invest 15 minutes registering through your Facebook or Twitter account.

I can't understand why people constantly hyperbolize how long it takes to sign up for a website or app. For me it'll never take more than 120 seconds, probably 60 of which are spent waiting for the activation email.


Calling the users "Quorites" is a dead ringer for a lack of familiarity with the site. This guy has barely used Quora, why care for his opinion? It's "Quoran,"'which he mentions later on for some reason.


> This guy has barely used Quora, why care for his opinion?

That would be on a par with dismissing atheists' views on religion, or the reverse, i.e. not a very good idea if the goal is to hear a wide spectrum of views.




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