I’m proud for a single fact: I started using Quora before the last days’ buzz about it. I even had a related post about Fluther and Twitter some time ago, and I still believe that social Q&A websites are one of the most sophisticated applications in the Web 2.0 universe. But I haven’t shared my experience with Quora so far, and that’s what I’ll do today.
For me Quora is not a magical place: it’s a useful place. From a marketing perspective, Quora has offered me some great help on issues such as social media dashboards, web 3.0, social media monitoring tools, AppStore’s consumer behavior etc. I am not a very dedicated user; so far, I have only 23 followers, 9 answers, 4 questions and I follow 27 people. But that’s normal: the more you participate, the higher the status you gain.
So, what’s new with Quora?
Many things. Quora created an interesting social media community, where you can also follow questions, apart from people, upvote and downvote questions, ask for help publicly in other social platforms (i.e. Facebook or Twitter) and ask specific questions to the people you think are the most appropriate to answer (more on how to use Quora can be found in this Quora guide by Mashable). This is perhaps the most interesting feature, with people asking questions directly to CEOs or other people of influence, and getting their questions answered! Apart from that, Quora offers one of the most sophisticated search bars I’ve seen, to prevent you from re-asking an already asked question.
Quora is also fair, in its own way. Traditional social media laws don’t apply here – the fact that you have a huge number of followers on Twitter doesn’t mean you’re going to earn points here. Adding to this, there are clear guidelines: keep breaking the rules and you’ll get downvoted, which will result to a ruined status. Robert Scoble learned that in a rather harsh way when many of his answers were downvoted (since, according to Quora reviewers, he tried to promote himself, offered limited knowledge and made overuse of pictures). Scoble’s initial answer was inconsistent criticism, but in a more recent reply he realized his mistakes and “left the building”.
Because Quora is for specialized knowledge, and that’s its strongest feature. Valuable contributions will earn you reputation – useless answers will lead you to the exit. After all, Quora offers a mega – pool of targeted knowledge which covers real needs and you have to climb all you way up the social knowledge ladder, if you want to earn a status.
And there you have its main flaw: it’s not for everyone. Being more tech – oriented, Quora is not appealing to everyday people, who will use Facebook Questions or Yahoo answers. And, although this feature places Quora in a very strategic position in the social Q&A sector, it limits its audience, which creates further questions about its future.
Quora is the undeniable king of specialized knowledge and a buzz word for most Web 2.0 blogs. However, Twitter made a move that created a huge question mark: Fluther’s acquisition. Twitter officials still deny plans of creating a new Q&A service, but sworn fans are dreaming of that day. How is this going to work? Nobody knows – Twitter’s rapid updates are a huge advantage, but their size makes knowledge creation hard.
Apart from attempts in the social Q&A sector, Quora is also competing against another buzz word, the semantic Web. Attempts like Wolfram Alpha may render human knowledge useless – a processor able to think is definitely a tough opponent. On the other side, Quora’s knowledge is targeted to real issues. Nothing is created if it’s not needed. In this sense, it remains to be seen if Web 3.0 (as it is known) will ever be a match for Web 2.0.
And of course, there’s Wikipedia. There are tons of articles explaining why social Q&As don’t compete with Wikipedia, but in an indirect way, they do (with Wikipedia still being on the lead).
The social Q&A sector is one of the new battlefields. Nobody can deny that people have a need for knowledge. Is Quora useful? The answer is yes, definitely. Is Quora for everyone? No. If you really want to learn and improve then join. If you’re just looking to promote yourself, don’t waste your time.