Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
“I feel death, cold.”
“That place… is strong with the dark side of the Force. A domain of evil it is. In you must go.”
“What’s in there?”
“Only what you take with you.”
Internet forums are fun. Moderated by the users they are designed to serve, any site focused on answering questions eventually falls into the cesspool of comment hell. YouTube is far gone. Yahoo Answers is ugly and useless. LinkedIn Groups or whatever it’s called is overrun by marketers. Even the once-trusted Digg is more promotion by a few than democracy of the crowds. Unless that site stays small and niche – think Reddit – they all eventually topple over under their own venom.
You certainly get what you bring with you with Quora, the new-ish Q&A site allegedly stocked with VC guys from Silicon Valley, programmers from New York and money guys from anywhere, the latest attempt at making answers pay (but not with real moolah). While they don’t make any money nor do they have a plan for doing so, they’re attracting users like crazy. You’d think they were giving out prizes for sign ups the way my follower invites were overwhelming my inbox – prompting me to turn them all off.
Quora is also more proof that apps (let’s call it appification) are taking over. No longer do we have to toil away asking and answering questions using detailed thoughts on our own sites/blogs, now we can all share that information on Quora and receive little for it. Turns out, some people don’t like having to go somewhere else to get that info, anyway.
Quora seems gimmicky at first. It feels like it should be part of something else, so we don’t have to spend our time qualifying answers and wondering how full of shit everyone really is. It feels like it should be Friendfeed. That is, until I started to do a comparative Google search, attempting to find answers to the same questions I asked on Quora. My results were a mixture of paid ad placement, fairly spammy search results and…answers from Quora. Holy s***, the site works.
It’s long-term survival depends on a couple of things, 1) user moderators must assert themselves (think MacRumors) to get rid of the crap questions and 2) they must develop STRONG anti-spamming software along with bans for anyone caught spamming at all. Even if that happens, I still can’t tell you who visits the site.
Just who is the Quora audience? Is it a fairly well informed dude in his 30s that could find most of those answers everywhere? Or is it for people who like to ask asinine questions like “What do the 1500 Facebook employees do all day” and “Where can you get a PhD in the Social Media field” or is a place for gems like “how can a foreign startup receive recurring payments in the U.S.” and “what is the single biggest consumer complaint of touchscreen devices”?
Is the Quora audience full of people looking to ask questions or provide long-winded answers? Is it populated by the same people who relentlessly answer Twitter contests? Who are the moderators?
I sure as hell can’t tell you, but I bet Quora could.