Quora: blending the best of social media

Seems like I have been living under a stone… at least, I certainly haven’t been keeping up with new social media platforms for a few months. It turns out 2010 was the year when Quora came out of nowhere and is now presenting itself as an incredibly valuable place to connect with one goal: ask or answer questions.

The value of Quora for some may be to get question(s) answered in a relatively rapid way while for others it may be to further consolidate themselves as experts on certain topics. Sounds like nothing new, you may say, but these guys have gotten the platform right in many ways:

  • Soft connections rule: Quora is less like Facebook or LinkedIn, and more like Twitter but richer and deeper (length of content AND content quality). You can follow anyone w/o them having to accept you as a “friend” or “connection”.
  • Q&A value for everyone: remember Yahoo! Answers? Quora is on its way to blowing them out of the water, along with LinkedIn Answers. Why?

What… quickly becomes evident while clicking around Quora, is that serious heavy-hitters are answering questions there. Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz offers his opinion of the movie The Social Network. Google Images product manager Nate Smith explains how color image search works. Foursquare’s head of business development talks about what it’s like to work for founder Dennis Crowley. Twitter’s Pierre Legrain explains the cost-per-follow principle for Promoted AccountsM. And AOL co-founder Steve Case answers how much it cost to mail everyone those CDs back in the 1990s.

  • Social sharing galore: the seamless integration into Twitter and Facebook to help disseminate questions and answers grow legs is impeccable. This helps content travel further, by leveraging the existing networks of friends and followers that Quora users have.
  • Wiki tools enrich the experience: the platform incorporates wiki features that allow anyone to edit any topic and give more context to new topics in ways that simply all other platforms missed.

Downsides? The main downside I have found so far: I noticed some visible delays in terms of emails sent from Quora, for validating my email address and notifications of people starting to follow me (just adjusted my settings since I don’t need more emails in my inbox).

I have also seen a fair share of 500 Server errors appear (even on the Quora home page). But remembering back to Twitter #failwhale times, I imagine these delays are the result of natural growth strains and look forward to accelerated backend improvements to make sure these become the exception and not the norm.

Also, I can imagine spammers tricking the platform to favor a particular product or web site… it seems that the voting mechanism (giving “Thanks” and marking as “Not Helpful”) will help with this, but it is not impossible to imagine a scenario where these very tools are gamed to give thousands of Thanks to a spammy answer… anyway, there are smart people behind the product and as long as they can keep on scaling over time (they now have over 500,000 users), I am sure they will find smart ways to handle spammers and keep them at bay as other sites have done to some extent.

For more comments on Quora, I recommend this great post by Svartling, a Swedish social media evangelist.

Anyway… 2011 has started and I am happy to have discovered this fascinating platform. Just need to make sure I don’t spend TOO much time on it. 🙂

Follow me on Quora at: www.quora.com/Manny-Hernandez

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