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Quora Keeps the World's Knowledge for Itself (konklone.com)
305 points by luu on Oct 15, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 123 comments

Quora is what would happen if George Lucas tried to design a Q&A site. Brilliant in many ways, but it has all the signs of one single guy at the top refusing advice from people for years about a few core issues and consequently holding the entire enterprise back.

Isn't that how the Linux kernel evolved? Linus filling the role as benevolent dictator?

One of Linus's key strengths is that he's good at listening to people and honestly evaluating new ideas based on their merits. Good code goes in, bad code stays out. He's not an ideologue like Jobs or Lucas. He's a pragmatist, and that's what makes him a good BDFL.

In the example of Lucas, the organizational structure is only at fault in so far as it allowed Lucas the creative control to make bad decisions.

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.

Torvalds is amazingly good at what he does, and if someone doesn't like his direction, the code is all there for the forking.

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.

You shouldn't forget that Star Wars would not have been the phenomenon it is/was without such attributes.

Actually that's not true. The first Star Wars had lots of input from others, because Lucas didn't have the clout to do it on his own. Same with the second and third films.

It was the prequels that were just Lucas. And we know how that turned out.

The prequels turned out great.

Ahahaha... hahaha... good one!

They weren't bad, but they weren't nearly as good as the first three.

Honest question does anyone still use Quora? It seems more about being an ego contest than actually answering questions. They are definitely not the "library of Alexandria"... they far far from that.

I have used Quora for many questions and have received extremely useful and valuable answers from people. I once posted a question about how a current was flowing through a particular circuit and I found a couple people who weighed in and helped me understand. I've also asked a specific question about how the dragon docks with the ISS and got an answer from Robert Frost which was really enlightening! I asked how the Hubble is able to take long exposure pictures of galaxies while whirling around the earth at 17,000 mph? I have asked tons of questions on Quora, and generally find value in the answers I receive.

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.

I've never actually used it. Every time I've followed a link there, I get a popup telling me I have to register before seeing any content, which I've refused to do.

Just add ?share=1 to the URL to remove that (ideally the person posting would have.)


Sites should try to get me to use them, I shouldn't have to try to use a site.

The information you'll get isn't worth typing the params into the URL bar. You can find SF sushi recommendations elsewhere.

That's been my experience. The few times I've seen a link because someone actually set it up correctly I was disappointed when I got to the actual content.

I wonder why they keep insisting on this obstacle. It possibly serves well as an audience selector. People who are too impatient to sign up should possibly be excluded from the user base that the founders of Quora have in mind.

A blank query string works just as well too. Just add "?" and skip the other 7 characters.

A shining example of user-friendliness, that.

I've been a Top Writer two years but I hardly use it anymore, apart from clearing notifications every now and then. Moderation on the site is having major growing pains, plus more open access to content seems to have been loosely promised for years but nothing has ever eventuated. Ego contest is accurate in more cases than it should be.

I'm probably going to copy a lot of my better answers on there and republish them on my own blog.

> Honest question does anyone still use Quora?

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.

What topics do you look up on Quora? Do you have any way to check Quora answers for accuracy?

I use quora as a reader and it's really fun. I am very particular about my feed and make sure I follow folks who don't clutter them with topics I find irrelevant.

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)

For me: 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.

Wow, that's tough to answer. I'd almost have to write an essay to do it justice. But the quick and dirty is "I look up a LOT of topics", where some are related to professional interests, some to hobby interests, and some that are just random crap (like the atheism vs. religion topics, etc.)

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.

> perhaps see a competitor come along and displace them who are committed to a more open model

You talk like Stack Overflow and it's sister sites don't exist!

I want whatever you're having.

You talk like Stack Overflow and it's sister sites don't exist!

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.

I think people find the separation of the Stack Exchange network a little complicated. On Quora, you can make a new topic in seconds. On Stack Exchange opening up a newer area of discussion isn't so instant.

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.

Well, the author claims that quora is no longer blocking the answers, but my self-taught filters always tell me to avoid clicking on their links because of their free account 'paywall'

I never click on Quora links for exactly this reason. If I hadn't read this anti Quora piece I would never have considered clicking on a link in the future.

My main consumption of its content is through their weekly email digest, and I have to say, it generally piques my interest enough that I click through and read a bunch of articles I might ordinarily never have gone and looked for.


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.

I believe the Library of Alexandria reference is to the aspirations of Internet Archive and not Quora per the "majestic temple" link [0] in the post.

[0] http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Brewster-Kahle-s-Internet...

I used Quora a few years ago when it was explained to me that it was a good way to grow your own brand if you have expertise on a subject. Not sure if growing your brand is still a big motivating factor why people post content there, and if it is, hopefully users are made aware.

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.

re: the Library of Alexandria reference, see my reply to the grandparent


The noise far outweighs the signal, but a lot of the signal is fantastic in my opinion. I think a lot of my enjoyment comes from the 'straight from the horses mouth' situations, where popular names answer questions that only they really know the answer to.

The discussions in a lot of the programming questions I find absolutely terrible.

Their email blasts have recent pulled me back in. Some of the stuff in there is definitely unique and interesting.

It definitely has a lot of interesting content but I think it favors "insiders" too much to retain a broader appeal.

No, no one at all uses Quora. It's completely dead.

> Quora is not a private communications network. When users contribute to Quora, they're participating in Quora's mission: to "share and grow the world's knowledge".

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.

> And their mission is certainly not to "share and grow the world's knowledge".

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

The Wikimedia founder, Jimmy Wales, is an investor in Quora and contributes to the site often.


The way I understand it, part of the core value prop of Quora is that writers own their own content distribution. If you want to post an answer on Quora, and re-post it on your own blog, that's fantastic. If you want to post on Quora and mark it _not for reproduction_, that's totally your choice. If you think of it this way, it makes sense that Quora is not letting their content get automatically distributed, since once it goes to Archive.org, it's no longer under the users' control to revoke access to the answer at any time. Not only do they not claim to own your content, they don't even let it propagate without express permission from you, the author.

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.

> If you want to post on Quora and mark it _not for reproduction_, that's totally your choice. If you think of it this way, it makes sense that Quora is not letting their content get automatically distributed, since once it goes to Archive.org, it's no longer under the users' control to revoke access to the answer at any time.

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 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.

That's right.

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.

Hey, I'm the random guy that asked you to answer on Quora. How I found you isn't very mysterious, I just asked all the folks listed here: http://18f.gsa.gov if I could easily identify a Quora profile.

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.

> Hey, I'm the random guy that asked you to answer on Quora. How I found you isn't very mysterious, I just asked all the folks listed here: http://18f.gsa.gov if I could easily identify a Quora profile.

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.

Oh good, so we're still cool. :-)

You are just being an exploitative bully. Why should the Archive get to decide how every other website on the internet works? When people post on Quora they can also post somewhere that does get indexed by the Archive. Or they can keep it private to Quora.

> 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.

There's nothing in the parent comment that seems unreasonable to me. You're putting a spin on it that doesn't exist.

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.

> You can't arbitrarily go back in time and remove content that existed at the time, otherwise it's not a historical record.

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.

> The post is nothing more than an attempt to shame Quora into opening up their data.

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.

Copyright laws doesn't prevent reproduction. It doesn't mark anything "not for reproduction". It simply gives authors the right to sue.

It legally constrains unlimited reproduction. Since the 1976 act (in the U.S.), the default state of _any_ work is "protected", with all rights reserved to the author (or copyright holder), with very, very limited exceptions.

This is not correct. Archive.org will take things down retroactively when asked.

The reason we opt of the wayback machine is because this decision lets writers change their mind whether to have an answer published, or change their mind whether to use their name in authoring an answer (i.e., vs. making it anonymous).

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.

Maybe use the same solution as Hacker News: Allow users for a limited time to make changes, even delete their answers. Once that time expires make the question accessible to the wayback machine crawlers.

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.

"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).

Personally, I have been always using my real name and has been for years, even when I was making mistakes years ago, and will still do so in the future. I believe these problems needs to be fixed properly.

I know someone whose Quora account was disabled a while back because he refused to use his "real name".

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.

They still have that policy. There have certainly been issues with it because there are international users (Quora still struggles to cater for users outside US/UK/Australia, though their recent efforts to connect with Indian users are going well) who might have a 'western name' and 'transliterated' name, and the policy sort of breaks down.

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.

HN policy is as worse it gets among discussion sites. If you didn't deleted it within 24 hrs, everything you wrote here is stuck forever with no recourse for taking it down. I always wondered why this is the case. Is implementing delete is that hard? After all this is hacker news.

From my point of view, that sounds like pretty weak reasoning. I'm all for anonymity and the freedom to change your mind but you make it sound like this is one of the defining features of using Quora (& a reason why people use it). I'm not really convinced by that - but I accept that I may be wrong.

I do actually answer questions on Quora on occasion; I haven't paid much attention to the "historical record" issues in the past.

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.

Even if there was an opt-out system for answers being archived, that'd be better than no third-party archiving at all as far as I'm concerned.

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.

@MarcBodnick - I do understand this perspective. But I strongly disagree with its tradeoffs.

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.

why not archive the information after "anonymizing" it by removing all usernames?

So if you can't monetize all that knowledge goes into a black hole one day because occasionally it's handy for users to retroactively go anonymous? Yet another reason to avoid Quora imo.

"They block archive.org spiders" is like reason 329 on the list of reasons why Quora is a shit website.

My experience with Quora is that it's mostly "pitch spam". Ask any question, like, "What's the best Ruby on Rails continuous integration solution?", and rather than get the wisdom of the masses, you'll get founders of CI solutions expounding. (To be clear, I'm more or less cool with content marketing, but Quora's value prop doesn't match up with reality often)

Maybe "there must be an everlasting, immutable record of everything anyone has ever written or shared on the Internet, regardless of when it was written, the state of mind of the author, or how that author's (or society's) views have evolved over time" is not a nuanced enough point of view.

Speaking as someone whose writings as a teenagers are often dragged up by Internet trolls with no disclaimer about when they were written, I find myself extremely, extremely sympathetic to Quora here.

Are those teenage writings being dragged up specifically via the wayback machine? Did you try removing/changing them only to be thwarted by 3rd parties who'd made copies of the old material?

You may be sympathetic but I'm guessing that this situation is not really comparable.

Yep. Wayback machine specifically, on sites whose robots.txt I can no longer control, and I'm sure the trolls have hard copies by now.

So, Quora's rationale for blocking the Internet Archive is that Quora can't go back and automatically rewrite history whenever one of its users wants to.

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.

Yes, to me this sounds less like a business model issue and more like Quora has implemented a "right to be forgotten". I wonder if this is related to a kind of "leaker" culture on Quora where people answer questions about companies where they work ...and later may change their minds about it.

A rational could be perfectly legitimate for deciding to not give someone information, but horribly inappropriate for forcing someone else to not give out information.

Google ruling is not about not giving them information but about stopping Google from linking to already published articles for some keywords.

The link itself is information. The ruling is very clearly about preventing Google from giving people certain information in certain circumstances.

This article argues (quite persuasively IMO) that Quora should be allowing the Internet Archive to index the site. It explores the validity argument that Quora makes on its robots.txt, that indexing would prevent question respondents to later turn their answers to anonymous answers.

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.

Quora did recently shut down the private blog feature they had, and a dump was exactly what they did.

A few years ago when Google was offering $1m+ stock to counter employees going to Facebook, some people leaked names on Quora but then promptly deleted it. This event is likely one that influenced Quora's interests in this matter.

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 a huge fan, but I do like the content they email me sometimes.

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.

The thing that initially attracted me to Quora (to the point of being one of their power writers in 2012) is that it's a way to publish things online that feel evergreen, without having to worry about maintaining or marketing a personal blog. My engagement with the site has declined a lot, but I still can see that people are reading the stuff I wrote several years ago, which doesn't happen with forums like this one, or with an untended blog.

Good point - the reason for that is probably that as indexing and search systems go, Quora has done an exceptionally good job in on site retrieval of information as well on SEO - their autocomplete+search feature is especially well done.

HN atleast doesn't have the same visibility into the discussion threads that thrive here.

Funny how when I look for a technical answer to a problem on Google Quora never shows up ? while i get dozens of answers from SO.

Quora could have been so much more than it is, it doesnt look very successfull to me,because of stupid choices.

To be fair, Quora has made very little effort to compete in SO's area. In a sense, both sites were created to solve entirely different problems, albeit problems that traditionally occur in the same space...

- 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.

I think Quora's intent was more to replace Yahoo Answers than Stack Overflow, understandably so - lower hanging fruit, wider appeal etc.

Just a note... Don't go to Stockholm to see that fancy "wall of knowledge". That image description is so deceiving. As a Stockholmer I instinctively thought to myself: WTF. Turns out it's a CG concept.

How has Quora changed since they went into YCombinator recently?

"and it's definitely not how the Internet works" - how do you define how the internet works? Quora's been completely transparent and consistent about this approach from day 1. You don't have to like it. You don't have to participate. this feels like someone throwing a tantrum because Quora isn't behaving in the way you want them to. I kind of figure that "the way the Internet works" is it allows for a whole host of different sites, services and commercialization strategies and we engage with platforms and services freely based on the value vs cost analysis.

Why use Quora when you have StackExchange?

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.

Can you point me to a StackExchange site where I can ask "What are some good action RPGs like Mass Effect or Deus Ex which you have enjoyed?". In fact, I discovered and joined Quora when a very similar question of mine was deleted from gaming.SE.

In Quora, for most questions, I AM looking for opinion, not factual answers.

Arqade (Gaming Stack Exchange) doesn't allow game recommendation questions. In general, such recommendation questions are not a good fit for SE, some sites allow them but many don't.

Some people just ask those in chat, which works reasonably well, but you need 20 reputation to do that.

Repeating from my original comment - In fact, I discovered and joined Quora when a very similar question of mine was deleted from gaming.SE.

Can you post anonymously on StackExchange (honest question)?

Stack Exchange's ToS[0] are pretty permissive:

> 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.

[0] https://stackexchange.com/legal/terms-of-service

For most sites (Stack Overflow is one of the exceptions) you can simply ask a question without ever registering. Unlike Quora, SE doesn't have anything like a real name policy, you never have to give them your real name.

Thank you. I use SO a fair bit, so maybe that's why I didn't realize the other SE sites are more permissive.

I can somewhat empathize with the author of this article because in the end, transparency and willingness to share knowledge are historically good things to do.

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 think we're going to find (eventually, as people get bitten) is that [forever searchability] + [real name policy] + [non-deletable content] will = abundant caution to the point of self-censorship, reducing the overall quality of user-generated discussions.

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.

IA's spider respects META tags in the HTML right? Quora should prevent archiving of a page using the tags until maybe a couple months after the last person has responded, then allow the page to be archived by removing any META tags related to archiving.

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.

I highly recommend Scott Hanselman's essay on the finiteness of the number of keystrokes you have in a lifetime: http://www.hanselman.com/blog/DoTheyDeserveTheGiftOfYourKeys.... Draw your own conclusions about putting knowledge inside walled gardens.

"Quora is a free service built on venture capital that will need to monetize its users over the next couple years, and wouldn't you know, they really want you visit quora.com, and they really want you to create an account."

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.

> What are some ideas about what Quora's long-term business model might end up being?

There's some good discussion on that on, how about that, Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-could-Quoras-long-term-business-p...

I was an early adopter of Quora and consume a lot of content on it. I think it is a great place to get curated answers for questions I think are interesting. I have taken a lot of care in cutting out the noise in Quora and that has helped me a lot in getting some high quality content in my inbox.

What I see is that quora cares about its users more that it cares about "how the internet works".

Is that that awful?

Nobody should ever contribute content to proprietary resources. The community should own the content the community generates. Wikimedia stuff and Stack Exchange stuff is all CC-BY-SA licensed. We should contribute to those things! Screw Quora!!

> Quora is not a private communications network.

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 write a lot on Quora and respectfully disagree with OP here.

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.

This makes sense; but it's also not quite what's under discussion.

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.

Wasn't aware one could ask archive.org to delete one's content, so thanks for that.

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.

A few times I've wanted to chime in with expert answers in my field and they didn't let me without giving my real name and personal data. So I didn't.

You can answer anonymously, that's the whole reason they're not letting the time machine index their site--so you can go anon later if you want to. You can also answer the question initially as anonymous.

Nope, you can tag yourself "anonymous" but they still want you to register with real data which I don't trust them to have.

I currently use Quora. It's closed nature has some disadvantages, though writers clearly can choose to publish openly. Many of those can be mitigated.

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.

Looks like an even more elitist Wikipedia, if that is physically possible.

Maybe. It really doesn't come off as Wikipedia.

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.

Or like a venture-backed Ask MetaFilter.

I browse Quora occasionally - it is a great resource for trivial information and some entertaining content, but for serious work it is very far from being at the top of my list of destinations.

To me quora has always been and will be the company that n Ed not exist. There might be some very niche need it fills but does not warrant the funding and hype. It could of cours b justifiable as a hobby project.

I don't understand why Quora requires signup to JUST VIEW the questions and answers? How do people doing nothing but viewing it affect the site in any way, aside from getting it more pageviews, which is generally a good thing? I understand having an account to contribute, but just to view?

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