22 April 2011

Q is for Quora

Quroa.com is a new site that I believe you will be hearing about more and more over the next few years.  It was developed by some ex-Facebook employees not too long ago, and already I’m finding Quora results popping up in my Google searches.

Google has no human editors.  They simply scour the internet, downloading every single page from every single site, and then, using some very clever software, automatically rank all the pages and deliver to you what they think the most “relevant” page for your query is.

Wikipedia on the other hand, uses a large collection of human editors distributed around the world to edit and maintain a single, canonical reference page per subject.  The content is focused on facts with citations as “proof” of those facts. There is no space for differing opinions or personal viewpoints on a subject, since all voices are merged into a single document page.

Quora fits somewhere between Google and Wikipedia.  Their aim is to be the definitive resource for any “question” you would like answered.  Users post questions on the site and other users can reply.  Replies are ranked by the community of readers, and the replies with the most votes bubble to the top of the list of answers.

There are two big differences with Quora when compared to similar sites.  Only the author who wrote the reply can edit it.  Others may comment on the reply, but only the author has the right to change it.  Secondly, as with Facebook, every user on site uses his or her real name and includes a personal biography page.  This lack of anonymity is an important factor in ensuring quality posts, since the author’s reputation is on the line.  Furthermore, readers can see a poster’s credentials and thus weigh the value of a particular post.  For instance, a reader is more likely to accept a reply that is written by the CEO of a big corporation on a subject related to his company, than something a Joe Soap may have penned.

I think this idea has great legs and will grow with time.  The community voting model has been proven to work very well in the software world with sites such as StackOverflow.  I believe Quora will bring a new level of quality to our ever-growing pool of knowledge that is available directly to anyone, at any time of the day, wherever they may be.  The internet is surely the most life-altering technology of the last 20 years.

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