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Quorsum Quora? – first experiences

The trendy ubergeeks amongst you will have heard of Quora. Most will not.

The Google meta description suggests that “Quora is a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it.”

According to Wikipedia “Quora is an online knowledge market, founded in June 2009, launched in private beta in December 2009, and made available to the public on June 21, 2010. Quora aggregates questions and answers to many topics and allows users to collaborate on them. Quora was co-founded by Adam D’Angelo (Facebook’s former CTO) and Charlie Cheever. In March, 2010 Quora received funding from Benchmark Capital, valuing the start-up at a rumored $86 million.”

The site is used by a number of high profile techies and there was a flurry of activity on my twitter stream a week or two ago that drew it to my attention.

The nature of these things is that you have to get in early to bag a good username – tref, for example, so I did. You can look me up.

I also tried asking a question. It took me several attempts to get the question in a format that Quora would accept.

My question was “How doth the friendly crocodile improve his shining tail?” The 19th Century grammar was unacceptable to Quora so after a number of attempts to understand the issue I negotiated replacing doth” with “does”. Not as good in its dumbed down form I’m sure you will agree but at least it doesn’t lose the basic tenor of the question.

It wasn’t long before someone came up with the right answer to the question – which is part of a Lewis Carrol poem.

Yesterday I got an email from Quora admin:

“This question is possibly more appropriate for a dedicated poetry website. It currently does not fit within the Quora policy and guidelines. Please modify. See Quora Question Policies & Guidelines: What are the guidelines for questions on Quora?”

Rather than compromise the fundamental philosophical nature of the question (at least in my mysterious mind) I decided to delete it. Turns out I couldn’t or at least I couldn’t within the amount of time I was prepared to spend finding out how to do it

I left Quora a note telling them this and suggesting that I was happy for them to do it on my behalf. They have now changed the question to

What did Lewis Carrol mean by “How doth the friendly crocodile improve it’s shining tail?”

I doubt that Lewis Carrol meant anything by it.

I guess my point is that I have probably wasted about an hour of my time with Quora. Quora hasn’t been the best of experiences though I imagine it has enough high profile supporters to keep hyping it for a while and I wish them luck.

This reinforces my belief that there are so many new things happening all the time that it is virtually impossible to keep on top of them all. It is better to wait and see which ones get established.

Hmm – that way I might miss out on the good username though…

PS one wonders how scalable Quora is? I realise that my question didn’t necessarily fit within the spirit of what the platform is trying to achieve but if it gets scale it won’t be practical for a Quora admin to police each question for appropriateness. There is a flag that allows users to question questions but whether this will be good enough only time will tell.

Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of, writer, poet,

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