Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Rise of Quora

A few months back, I discovered Quora, a site that was doing many of the things I dreamed of doing with my new company, Pavlov Games. The experience was so compelling and included so many interesting questions and answers from people who knew what they were talking about, I assumed I was late to the party. But a month later, all hell broke lose. Robert Scoble wondered - in writing - whether Quora was the "next big thing." And TechCrunch and Fast Company ran stories that introduced Quora to millions of readers. Not only that, they seemed to discover in Quora a powerful new source of news stories.  

Within the past thirty days, many of my Boulder friends have now discovered Quora. How do I know this? They begin to follow me in Quora, and I'm notified of this via email. 

The basic notion behind Quora is this: Quora lets you follow people, topics and questions. When you follow any of these things, you begin to connect to a stream of content. For example, when I follow Quora co-founder Charlie Cheever, I begin to be notified when he answers questions in Quora. As I write this, Charlie's following 433 topics on Quora, which isn't a huge surprise. 

Following a specific question on Quora is a similar, with slightly different results. For example, I follow this question: "What is the process involved for launching a startup at SXSW?" When I first began to follow the question, the first interesting answer came from Denis Crowley, the CEO and co-founder of Foursquare. Within a short period of time, Twitter's co-founder Evan Williams had chimed in with his own detailed account of Twitter's experience with SXSW. 

And this is what has made Quora so exciting. At least in the tech / startup world, the answers to questions are of incredibly high quality. This has happend for at least three reasons. First, many of the early adopters of Quora are in the tech space, and the questions - naturally enough - tend to be about startups, technology, entrepreneurship, marketing, etc. Second, Quora uses a couple of tools to improve the quality of the answers. It gives users a way to promote the answers that they find most helpful. If I vote up an answer, my name gets added to the list of people who promoted that answer. People like to be associated with quality and with winners, so they try to pick high value responses. Finally, Quora also has "monitors" who keep track of questions and responses. 

There's more. Much more, in fact, but you should check out Quora for yourself. It's a very powerful new service. 

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