For PR people interested in thought leadership, Q&A tools like Yahoo Answers have failed to deliver. In fact, sites like these have been the subject of much derision. Since 2008 a service called Quora has been emerging, and it is now about to break into the mainstream.
The increasing amount of unique users (see fig 1.) is not the main reason for jumping to this conclusion; nor is the user experience that sees a community which is ready to provide insight on serious industry topics, or light hearted fun stuff too.
It is also not the way Quora combines the best of a wiki, Reddit and the ability to share your questions with a wider community on Twitter or Facebook.
The reason behind why Quora is so useful is that it is a genuine source of insight and a huge thought leadership opportunity for anyone willing to make best use of it.
I found it useful, if a little difficult to grasp at first, and I did make a few mistakes (putting comments where answers should be etc). However, I think in part it is this complexity which has kept Quora high brow compared to Yahoo Answers.
For the uninitiated, here are a few notes on Quora. Rather than writing my own thoughts, I felt it made more sense to construct this post from questions asked by me and others.
Why are the responses on Quora better than Yahoo Answers?
Speaking from my design instincts alone: Yahoo! Answers was designed for a very broad audience, and as with any service designed for a broad audience, you have to design for lower common denominators. That is, people who rely on dead simplicity and the ability to ask and answer questions easily. Over simplification and making something too easy can be a reason why the overall quality of information on a service is poorer – it’s simply too much perceived effort to create high quality information. Quora, with its more sophisticated features, seems to have been designed for a much narrower audience that cares highly about the quality of information that flows through the community
What is the need for Quora when Yahoo! Answers has such widespread adoption?
First, it’s all about the users and their interests. Yahoo’s user base is significantly different from Quora’s. They talk about different things. They answer in different ways. Early adopters set the tone and expectations of a community, and while Quora may/should/will eventually move beyond the silicon valley crowd, the culture is being shaped now by us social software loving alpha geeks.
Second, it’s hard for sites to evolve models once they have established communities. Yahoo Answers was cutting edge in 2006, but it doesn’t have wiki edits and its reputation system could use an update. Not all user bases can withstand significant changes, and you run the risk of driving them away.
How can I follow topics on Quora?
Almost anywhere you see a topic, it will either have a green “Follow” button next to it. If you click that button, you’ll start following the topic.
If the topic doesn’t have a follow button next to it, you can usually click on the topic name which will take you to the topic page where this is a big green “Follow” button in the top right.
Following a topic means you’ll see questions about that topic in your feed and it will be listed on your profile
I suspect they’ll have nearly complete indexation within 3-7 days. However, depending on whether the pages they encounter produce duplicate content or faceted navigations that show a lot of the same links/questions/answers, they may start dropping a lot of that over time. Hopefully, Quora’s been thoughtful about how they built their information architecture to help solve this potential
How long will it take Google to index Quora? (answered by Rand Fishkin, CEO & Co-Founder, SEOmoz)
I suspect they’ll have nearly complete indexation within 3-7 days. However, depending on whether the pages they encounter produce duplicate content or faceted navigations that show a lot of the same links/questions/answers, they may start dropping a lot of that over time. Hopefully, Quora’s been thoughtful about how they built their information architecture to help solve this potential issue.