So, yes, a dictatorial model can accomplish good things, if the dictator, like Torvalds, is smart enough to delegate as much as possible and actively avoid making decisions. Torvalds being smart enough to pick smart underlings is the second half of that puzzle.
But that is generally a level of control we want from movie directors or software projects. The criticism was of how the power is wielded, not that the power structure exists in the first place.
It was the prequels that were just Lucas. And we know how that turned out.
I realize your experience on Quora depends on what your interests are, and the type of questions you ask and search for. This determines the types of people and answers you come across. So everyone has a different experience based on what you do on the site and your interests.
From the questions I've searched for, and the questions I've asked, I've come across really great people who have provided me with helpful information and insights.
There are many questions that arise that searching google doesn't help. For this I need to pose the question to people, not a search box. There are many communities on the internet I can go to pose the question and Quora is a really useful one.
I do wish Quora would change the policy to let anyone benefit from and read the answers.
Sites should try to get me to use them, I shouldn't have to try to use a site.
I'm probably going to copy a lot of my better answers on there and republish them on my own blog.
Absolutely. Every day. Quora is one of my top most visited sites. While I don't disagree with all of the criticism of Quora, I find it a terrific resource, and - for now anyway - I'm willing to tolerate the negatives because there is so much good content there.
Of course as an Open Web advocate I'd like to see them operate in a more open manner, or perhaps see a competitor come along and displace them who are committed to a more open model. But in the meantime, I find Quora immensely valuable.
I highly recommend following folks whose interests align with yours. Also following topics those interests correspond to. Like for eg: I really love learning more about space/planetary science and following Robert Frost (from NASA) has given me wealth of information. Good answers are visual and easy to understand. That's the value of Quora for me. There are people with credible backgrounds answering problems in their domain. (There is also a debate on generalists vs experts answering.. oh well anyway)
I use stack overflow/exchange for getting precise technical answers to my day to day problems.
I use Quora for exploring in my free time. But my feed is very tailored to topics I like. Otherwise it gets cluttered with generic psychology, lifestyle based questions.
Accuracy? Most of what I want from Quora doesn't depend on the answers being "accurate" as such. Usually the answers I value are things like:
* Pointers / links to handy resources
* Mentions of new software, projects, papers, etc. that I wasn't previously familiar with
* Discussion of life experiences / subjective feelings
* Competitors making their presence known by answering questions in the "Who are the top vendors for X?" mold.
IOW, I'm not going to Quora for stuff that I'd go to Wikipedia for. If I want to know the annual production of Pecans in North America in 2012, I go to Wikipedia. If I want to find out what a lot of the vendors in the Enterprise Social Software space are saying about themselves and their competitors, I go to Quora. Or if I want to read about cool new Open Source projects, I read the newest answers to Quora questions like "What are the top Open Source projects in Machine Learning", etc.
Of course, for most any of those topics Quora isn't my only source. It's just a handy place I can go during the day, spend a few minutes there, and find at least a handful of interesting discussions that I'm going to learn something from. In that regard, it's like another Hacker News, just different.
You talk like Stack Overflow and it's sister sites don't exist!
I want whatever you're having.
No, it's just that I don't think of Stack Overflow (and sister sites) as filling the same niche as Quora. I mean, yeah, OK, they do "compete" to some extent, sure. But at least in my mind, I go to SO and SE sites for different kinds of discussions than what I go to Quora for.
I'm happy that SO / SE sites are more Open Web friendly, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to see a site, styled after Quora, that is so as well.
But yes, Stack Exchange sites easily beat Quora in the quality of answers where Stack Exchange has an established site, it's just that Quora has a wider range of topics.
Their digest is one of the best emails I receive.
One thing they need to improve is the amount of duplicate questions; so many questions that are the same but worded slightly differently.
Otherwise I just haven't felt it superior to my normal way of finding answers and learning things. If not Wikipedia, Subreddits are troves of good, expert information.
And yes, the Library of Alexandria comparison is a little insulting to humanity.
The discussions in a lot of the programming questions I find absolutely terrible.
Well, in many ways Quora (just like any other web platform) IS a private communications network.
And their mission is certainly not to "share and grow the world's knowledge". As with any company, their mission is first and foremost to make their investors happy, mostly by striving to make them richer every day than they were the day before. The dreamy tagline is just a way to make the pill more appealing to swallow for the users.
(remember Google's "Don't be evil"?)
I also despise Quora, and used to think it was terrible that huge swaths of human knowledge would be lost a few years from now when they inevitably get acquired/go bankrupt/etc.
But I'm not losing sleep over it anymore: they will be a mere blip in the history of human knowledge, and while some valuable chunks of knowledge will be lost, we can't do much about it.
I do wish the Wikimedia foundation set up an open Quora alternative. Wikipedia is about objective knowledge - it seems like there would be a place for a counterpart project about subjective knowledge. Properly moderated, it could be really, really interesting.
Well, I obviously agree that it's not their actual mission as executed. But I'm putting it in quotes because I copied it from Quora's official About page: https://www.quora.com/about
Taking a stance like this just gains trust from authors. If you want your writing to get mass distribution, it's up to you to distribute it. If you want it to be archived, publish it in multiple places.
I don't necessarily agree with it, and I've pretty much stopped writing on Quora for a number of reasons, but I see where they're coming from. It might be the best way for them to get the trust of some pretty high-status figures to post honest answers on their platform.
This would be a totally reasonable explanation if copyright law didn't exist, but it does. Content you create is already marked "not for reproduction", and if someone -- including the Internet Archive! -- reproduces it without your permission, you are legally entitled to ask them to stop. The Internet Archive won't even make you involve a lawyer.
And this is important, because the Archive, like everyone else, is subject to copyright law. What Quora is asking for is something more: an API that allows them to go in, without any sort of human process or judgment, and sync up the Archive's records with what Quora wants those records to be. That's much different, and much worse.
I asked because a friend of mine recently joined 18F, I like what your team is doing, so I created the question as an attempt to get more attention for you guys. Just consider the resulting page a form of advertising ephemera. Sites on the Internet should aspire to be more, but Quora doesn't.
And hopefully it's clear in my post that I'm really glad you did! :) It really is a good artifact -- which is exactly why I get so mad that it's not being preserved the way it should be.
> What Quora is asking for is something more: an API that allows them to go in, without any sort of human process or judgment, and sync up the Archive's records with what Quora wants those records to be
Does anyone else realize the self entitlement in your post? That which you so adamantly oppose giving to Quora is exactly what you desire from them: an API that allows the Archive to go in, without any sort of human process or judgement, and sync up the Archive's records with what the Archive wants those records to be.
The content of Quora today is what it is. The Internet Archive has no agenda for misrepresenting the content of any site. They don't want "records to be" anything other than what is reality now, tomorrow and the in the future.
The Archive's stance is perfectly reasonable. You can't arbitrarily go back in time and remove content that existed at the time, otherwise it's not a historical record.
So you can opt-out totally or be included in the archive's records, it's that simple.
With all due respect, the previous line is just your opinion. Court transcripts and other historical records get redacted all the time.
The Archive's stance might be reasonable, but so is Quora's. I object to the idea that Quora is "selfish" for letting people control their own content. Read that guy's original post:
> What Quora is asking for from the Internet Archive — and really, since the Archive has no public competition, from the Internet — is unreasonable, short-sighted, and selfish. Quora is simply being a shark about "their" content, at the public's expense.
The post is nothing more than an attempt to shame Quora into opening up their data. There are many people that don't want everything they post on the internet going into permanent and searchable databases.
My post is definitely an attempt to shame Quora into opening up their data, in at least the sense of making it available to the Internet Archive. No bones there.
> There are many people that don't want everything they post on the internet going into permanent and searchable databases.
We may just disagree to some extent on what the norms should be, but I think if you're intentionally posting public content to a public website, that's part of the permanent public record. Especially when that website is about accumulating a knowledge base.
Wikipedia, another knowledge base, records everything. Though unlike Quora, you're allowed to contribute fully anonymously (without even registering an account -- in fact, come in through Tor, if you like). They have no problem allowing themselves to be backed up on the Archive, and I'd be pretty worried if they did.
In fact, Wikipedia's robots.txt is really interesting: https://en.wikipedia.org/robots.txt
There's some brief bot exclusions, a brief, now commented-out section asking the Internet Archive not to archive user pages, and then a very, very long section blocking various pages from being indexed by anyone. That long section has a lot of thought and history in it, including notes about the Internet's memory about users, like "Folks get annoyed when XfD discussions end up the number 1 google hit for their name."
I think it's totally fair to argue with Wikipedia about the choices it makes in its robots.txt, but ultimately what we're talking about here are organizations making these choices on behalf of users, not the individual users themselves.
If individuals are concerned about their contributions being preserved, that should be something they take up with the Archive. The Archive respects take down requests, both because copyright is a thing and because they're not interested in harming individuals.
I don't think we're working in the service of humanity by blessing companies that gate the future's access to massive troves of knowledge that was freely contributed to public websites.
People share a lot of sensitive material on Quora - controversial political views, workplace gossip and compensation, and negative opinions held of companies. Over many years, as they change jobs or change their views, it is important that they can delete or anonymize their previously-written answers.
I know from first-hand experience that Quora writers sometimes decide to go anonymous after they've shared something sensitive. I do this myself from time to time, and I appreciate the option to make that change; this option gives me more comfort in sharing what I know about sensitive topics.
Other than that if users don't want to be associated with something they said in the past to an audience, maybe they shouldn't be saying it at all.
I agree with you in the general case (as a 41 year old). But as someone who was once a stupid teenager, I sure am glad that while I used the Internet back then most of the stupid things I said on it were/are pseudo-anonymized behind "handles", which is something that is far more difficult to do these days.
(Not sure how much this applies to Quora, though).
No idea if they still have that policy; my own account is evidence that they don't enforce it across the board (and really how could they?), but if it's still nominally in place then that leaves active users forced to choose between using a pseudonym (and living in fear that access to their account will be stripped from them) or using a name that can potentially be used to identify them in other contexts (and living in fear that being candid will come back to bite them later in life).
Not a particularly good decision to force on someone, IMHO - even if you do promise them an "out" by letting them retroactively self-censor.
I suppose Quora thinks that anonymity will be good enough, but pseudonyms might prove to better in 90% of cases. I think that probably 9 out of 10 uses of anonymity that I've seen on Quora weren't really necessary.
But my quick thought here is that any time a company claims to be doing something detrimental to the outside world "on behalf of our users", it's worth checking if they've consulted their users about this, and if the users can opt out.
I can see the value in keeping control over what permanent, external caches are allowed to archive Quora content, for some users in particular. That said -- I don't care if my answers are archived, and I do care about contributing to a knowledge store that won't be lost in X years when Quora's business model doesn't quite line up with the vagaries of the economy.
What about supporting two views of the site -- one (with a "/pub/" added to the base URL, perhaps) that's archivable and displays only answers from users that have granted that permission in their profile, and the standard URL that shows all responses and blocks archiving in robots.txt.
That's not technically difficult at all, but I haven't seen any discussion of this sort of option.
I have occasionally kept content I wanted archived on a blog and then just deleted the blog, and then undelete it to see the content again.
Quora should find other ways to protect its users, and/or make users aware of their own rights to get their old contributions taken down. The Archive respects takedown requests.
You may be sympathetic but I'm guessing that this situation is not really comparable.
It's the same rationale that EU courts used to make Google remove search results on user's request. Many people think like that apparently. It had defenders even here.
I agree with the author that there is a real risk of this massive cultural trove of information to be completely dis-established on the basis of a management decision or financial collapse.
A possible response from Quora qould be to offer dumps to various archives, e.g. Library of Congress. This should allow them to maintain their commercial interests.
Another factor that likely influenced this decision is that Quora has slowly made some content available to logged-out/anon users. Some sensitive answers written before this product change (e.g. answers on sensitive health issues) were likely written without consideration for these product changes and Quora wanted to ensure user trust could be retained.
I'm not sure what I'm missing, but I've seen tons of anti-quora stuff on Hacker News in the past month or so. There was this, another article about VCs who think quora is dumb, and some other posts that basically think the same thing as linked.
Are they arrogant or assholes in person? There are tons of companies who do nothing and have no value and are loved, while they have built something of value to users, or at least I've found great answers to things that I had questions on.
HN atleast doesn't have the same visibility into the discussion threads that thrive here.
Quora could have been so much more than it is, it doesnt look very successfull to me,because of stupid choices.
- SO is the answer to the question, "How can we keep useful technical information from being scattered among forum chatter?"
- Quora is the answer to the question, "How can we keep interesting forum chatter from being scattered among... less interesting forum chatter?"
There are countless other takes on both of these ideas, of course. Sites like E2 and K5 could be considered spiritual ancestors, while ExpertsExchange clearly had a much more direct influence on the designs of both SO and Quora. It'll be interesting to see which one folks still remember in 10 years... And what then-current systems have learned from them.
Quora died the day they put the pay wall up. Also you can't post anonymously. It's fail after fail with me, it's unfortunate because I enjoyed the beta version of the site way back when.
In Quora, for most questions, I AM looking for opinion, not factual answers.
Some people just ask those in chat, which works reasonably well, but you need 20 reputation to do that.
> Subscriber may not (a) select or use as a profile name a name of another person with the intent to impersonate that person; or (b) use as a profile name a name subject to any rights of a person other than Subscriber without appropriate authorization.
However, I also respect Quora's commitment to user privacy and requests to delete content. Content creators power Quora's success, and to me it signals appreciation on Quora's part to watch out for them.
I have gotten a significant amount of utility from Quora for free in the form of it answering questions I had and thought provoking content. Its a bit hyperbolic to say Quora keeps the world's knowledge for itself.
I know I self-censor a lot on any platform that requires a real name (or on those like HN where I choose to use mine). Who knows what (today uncontroversial) opinions will be considered taboo, criminally weird, or treasonous in 40 years time? I need to make sure I can run for president one day, you know.
AFAIK, noarchive still allows indexing of the page, which means the robot should realize the page is there and archive it during its next run.
What are some ideas about what Quora's long-term business model might end up being? This is the context needed to judge this article.
There's some good discussion on that on, how about that, Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-could-Quoras-long-term-business-p...
Is that that awful?
Issues of marketing aside, if it has a login and a password, it is a private network.
If I publish on the open web, then pretty much what I say is public information. If I publish on a private network, I am turning that information over to them to do as they will, unless the ToS says I retain control.
I don't feel particularly bad that the Internet Archive is unable to catalog things that are behind closed doors, regardless of the reasoning behind closing the door.
And given the propensity for people to (rightly or wrongly) attack others by dredging up things long in the past, yet posted on the net, I'm not sure I disagree with Quora.
I like the fact that I can delete my questions or answers from time to time.
It's my content. Not the Internet's.
If I change my mind about something I wrote, I want to be able to edit it and delete it.
Some of my best answers are ones I edited many times over time. I use Quora and its readers to help me improve and correct my answers. The first draft is often not that great. Quora reduces the risk for me to submit my answer and post it.
I understand there are other sites where my content would be more public and permanent and I share on there too. But I often write and re-write on Quora before sharing my content to other sites.
No one's asking for you to be no longer able to edit questions.
If Quora went offline, archive.org by default would show the last-archived version of that page -- i.e., your final, edited answer. It would also let people roll back and see previous versions of that page -- which Quora also lets them do.
If you realize you wrote a response that on second thought you want deleted, you can currently delete it from Quora directly. If archive.org were allowed access, you'd have to also request deletion from there, but you're allowed to do that as well.
I agree that it's your content, not the internet's, and archive.org generally agrees with that too; but they're interested in rescuing the data that should be rescued, if Quora goes offline tomorrow. With them currently blocked, if you don't have local copies of your best, carefully-edited answers, they'll just be gone if Quora's business model doesn't work out.
Still worth it for me to have Quora be somewhat "closed."
Because my initial answers aren't so public and the signal to noise ratio in the comments to my answers is higher than other places.
I get a lot of reverse inquiry from folks who find me on Twitter, where I share a lot of Quora content.
So I don't care that much that Quora isn't that searchable on Google, etc.
Quora works great for some of us.
Quora's not for everyone.
Neither is Facebook (teens dropping like flies), reddit (low percentage of women), etc.
Everything is logged. Changes, edits, whatever are all presented to all users, who can see what happened and who did it over time. I think that's a nice feature.
One thing Quora has going for it is the Be Nice, Be Respectful Policy.
In terms of technical knowledge, the site varies. In terms of advice, or something one might call wisdom, it ranges from good to really great. There are some garbage answers mixed in there, but it's not hard to see and have a dialog about the good stuff.
Notably, Quora is a place where people can share themselves and their experiences unabashedly. Women have had some trouble there, as have some other regular targets of discrimination, stalking, etc... Quora has dealt with those quickly and is very, very interested in people not having any worries about discussions related to minority, gay, women, trans, and other sensitive topics.
Some of those discussions, advice, information are very high quality, frank, real, and I've personally contributed to some of that dialog in ways that did some material good for people really struggling, or fearful, unaware of their options, or possible outcomes.
While not perfect, the actions so far have produced some notable results. I am eager to see how Quora plays out, because having that kind of dialog and the tools given to users to manage conflicts and provide themselves and others "outs" to what would otherwise be messy, troll ridden discussion is something many people would value, and it's something missing from an awful lot of discussion online.
Some of us do share technical information. A lot of us share insight and experience or perspective that can be coupled with technical information. This has value too, and it's a little different from the more structured and highly technical Stack Exchange, and from the more noisy, often difficult to pick through general message board or forum dialog. This niche is also something I'm watching with interest.
There are some nice things too. One is non-English speakers coming to add questions or participate in answers or comments. People can help by making edits, or in some cases, by translating for them. I've done a few of those. Quora has a few students learning English on the site, and they ask often intriguing, challenging and notable questions about the language and use. Over time, that could be a great resource.
I think "sharing knowledge" is somewhat misunderstood. In a general sense, who we are, what our experiences have been, etc... are knowledge as much as math, facts, technical data is. The overall norms for discussion at Quora allow for very frank, real dialog. This can be worth a lot.
Go and search on how to give an awesome BJ, for example. A gay man answered that with such clarity and perfection, it's kind of amazing really. Or search on women in tech. Ladies there are posting up a lot of real experiences and advice that might be hard to come by and interact around elsewhere.
I could give a lot of other examples.
So far, I like Quora. I give it some time, and so far, I've gotten some good value in return. Some time is going to be required to see the more subtle aspects of Quora play out and then we might better understand where the value is.
What it does do is allow for structured conversations about a lot of things. The question answer, and in particular one answer only per user, format seems to focus people into their primary thoughts about something.
This has some nice value. Great advice in the relationship section, for example. There are also some very good instructional answers dealing with concepts of many kinds.
There is some elitism, but it's not all bad. Like I said, the norms where people can come and share unabashedly is a high value norm, and it's somewhat elite on that basis. I find that notable and valuable personally.