A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘quora

[PHOTO] Me outside, with my Quora Top Writer 2017 jacket

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Me outside, with my Quora Top Writer 2017 jacket #toronto #me #selfie #quora #quoratopwriter #dovercourtvillage

Quora is fun, not least because of the swag you can get if you qualify as a Top Writer.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 10, 2017 at 11:59 am

[BRIEF NOTE] On the inevitable growing presence of Indians on Quora

Ajay Mehta’s Caravan Magazine “Colonizing India” came up recently in a Quora discussion forum on Facebook. The influx of new members from India, or South Asia more generally, into Quora is something I’ve noticed as I’ve continued to be active there. One of my most popular answers, actually, was a quick one-paragraph answer celebrating India’s Mars mission, apparently quite popular among Indians.

I have not noticed any particular degeneration in Quora’s quality, though, at least nothing directly related to the Indian presence. I think it inevitable that the culture of a tight-knit discussion forum, any discussion forum, will change and–from the perspective of long-timers–even decline over time. But degeneration? More Indian users, even more Indian topics, does not directly translate to degeneration. And more Indian users, it’s worth noting, is inevitable: There are probably more users of English in South Asia than in North America, after all.

Intense debate is standard on Quora. The company was founded, in 2009, by two Silicon Valley veterans aiming to provide the world with “the best answer to every question.” The website quickly attracted a dedicated core of users sharing insightful answers on everything from black holes to working under Steve Jobs, the former Apple CEO. Readers vote in favour of content they find valuable, and the website ranks answers accordingly. Quora started as a private community, and its userbase remained largely centred on Silicon Valley even after it opened up to the public, in mid 2010. Press reports often described it as being overly preoccupied with start-ups and San Francisco.

That critique no longer holds. Quora today is a juggernaut, with millions of users, an expansive range of topics, and over $140 million in venture capital funding. Marc Bodnick, Quora’s head of business and community, told me in August that the website saw “particularly strong growth in India” after it introduced an Android application in late 2012, due in part to the popularity of Android-powered smartphones in the country (and perhaps also because a large number of Indians are fluent in English—currently Quora’s only language). Lengthy discussions on Bollywood actors, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the Indian Institutes of Technology flooded the website. According to the traffic-measurement tool Alexa, 40 percent of Quora’s current visitors access the website from India—although Bodnick told me the figure stands at about 15 percent. Many Quora users now complain that this influx has degraded the quality of the website’s content and community.

In August, I spoke over email with Karl Muth, a lecturer in the social sciences at Northwestern University in Illinois and a long-time Quora contributor. “Particularly in the last 18 months,” he told me, the website has become “more heavily frequented by Indians.” As a result, Muth wrote, answers today can be “culturally, financially, or otherwise focused on India and not useful generally to the rest of the Quora population.”

The questions might not always be either. One post, from 2013, asked, “What are some interesting ways to annoy Sardars?” Another, from February of this year, demanded to know, “Why are Pakistani girls more beautiful than Indian girls?”

Muth told me several people he knows in academia have become frustrated with Quora because the “quality of answers has declined vastly,” and “people now proclaim ‘expertise’ in areas they know little about”—problems he views as “not wholly unrelated to the rise in Indian Quora users.” Other Quora users have been less diplomatic. Responding to the question “What turns people off about Quora?,” the user David Stewart wrote, in 2013, “The large, and steadily increasing, Indian presence.” The answer has earned him over 3,400 upvotes.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 23, 2015 at 7:02 pm

[WRITING] On being published in the Quora Anthology 2014

I mentioned back in February of last year my interest in the question-and-answer site Quora. I have remained active in the community, and productive to the point that one of my entries earned inclusion in the three-volume Quora Anthology 2014, a selection of the site’s best writing.

My Quora Anthology 2014 #quora #books

Below is the start of winning entry, a comparison of Australia with Canada intended to bring out the reasons why neither became a superpower.

My entry in the Quora Anthology 2014 comparing Canada with Australia #canada #australia #books #quora

It is nice to have my words in print again.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 31, 2015 at 1:27 am

[FORUM] How has your social network usage changed over time?

I began my online presence on Usenet, but my first participation in formal social networks. began here on Livejournal. I’ve remained on Livejournal, but since then there have been migrations, of blog content to WordPress (secondarily to Dreamwidth) and of everything to Facebook. There’s some specialty networks I take part in at a low level–Flickr and Tumblr for photos, Goodreads for books, Yelp! for reviews of restaurants and stores, Quora for debate–but that’s it.

You?

Written by Randy McDonald

April 27, 2014 at 3:59 am

[LINK] “Quora and the Search for Truth”

Quentin Hardy’s post at the New York Times‘ Bits blog profiles Quora, a rather fun question-and-answer site. (I’m there, too.) I came across the site a few months ago thanks to Slate‘s regular promotion of particularly interesting answers to questions, and enjoy it.

The Internet has a nagging problem: There is lots of information, but often confusion about what’s true. Many big websites try to solve this problem with their services. At least one, Quora, suggests that maybe we don’t care that much about the truth.
Adam D’Angelo, a co-founder and chief executive of Quora, a question-and-answer service. “Eighty percent of our views happen a month after an answer is written,” he said. Adam D’Angelo, a co-founder and chief executive of Quora, a question-and-answer service. “Eighty percent of our views happen a month after an answer is written,” he said.

Quora is a question-and-answer website founded by Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever, two early employees at Facebook. Begun in June 2010, it claims to have information on over 450,000 topics, almost all posted by its registered users.

“The scale is so big that there’s no point in saying what the top 50 questions are,” said Mr. D’Angelo, who is also Quora’s chief executive. Unlike a news business, immediacy isn’t an issue, either. “Eighty percent of our views happen a month after an answer is written,” he said.

[. . .]

The range of topics is certainly impressive. Questions include “What’s it like to hug a penguin?” and “Who are the likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates?” and “Is Al Qaeda winning?” Most of the questions have multiple answers, which other readers vote up or down.

Answers with the most votes don’t always end up at the top of a list of answers to a question, presumably the place of truth; over 100 factors, including down votes and who is voting, affect the ranking. But the votes are what is visible, and they matter for the business of keeping people engaged.

It’s not just impossible to say how accurate the answers are; it may not really be an issue. The penguin question, for example, has two answers at its top with opposite conclusions. Their difference may be resolved this way: Hugging a penguin at Sea World is cute, and hugging a penguin in the wild is like asking for a mugging. There is no such distinction in the answers themselves, however.

It is reasonably entertaining, however (in this case, if you’re into penguins). Quora styles itself “the topic network,” which is another way of saying it is partly in the business of organizing knowledge into categories about which people can have discussions. Everything is subject to change, a kind of implicit admission that nothing can ever be finally known.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 25, 2014 at 5:00 am

Posted in Popular Culture

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