The danger of Quora seeing a drop in quality and becoming a popularity contest has been in the spotlight recently.
Quora is like voting for high school queen and king. Popularity trumps intelligence and wisdom.
In my previous post on Quora, I said that it would be difficult for a few influencers to dominate the site. The process of admins moderating the site has apparently not scaled well, compared to the overall spike in usage. See this Quora thread for a few examples of wrongly upvoted answers. This specific threat to the quality of Quora is also discussed in this thread.
Is it possible for Quora to avoid becoming a popularity contest? I certainly think so. Quora can utilize a Person Rank algorithm and completely revamp its voting mechanism to get rid of this problem.
Person Rank (User Quality) Algorithm
In response to the challenges it faces as it scales up, Quora co-founder Charlie Cheever posted about some of the initiatives they have planned. An interesting element is the development of an algorithm to assess user quality (or Person Rank):
We’re developing an algorithm to determine user quality. The algorithm is somewhat similar to PageRank but since people are different from pages on the web and the signals that are available on Quora are different from those on the web, it’s not exactly the same problem. We’ll use this to help decide what to show in feeds, when to send notifications, and how to rank answers.
Signals to Leverage for Person Rank Algorithm
What signals should Quora use while developing this algorithm? In my detailed response to this question on Quora, I have listed several signals grouped under these categories:
- Positive Signals for Community Contributions
- Signals for Content Quality
- Positive Signals for User-to-User Behavior
- Negative Signals for User-to-User Behavior
- Positive Signals for Overall Quora Usage
Of these, only the User-to-User Behavior is a group of signals that reflect popularity. The other signals are reflective purely of quality of contribution to Quora. (My answer also highlights those signals that are difficult to game or fake). These and other such signals can be appropriately weighted to arrive at a representative Person Rank for user quality.
New Voting Mechanism for Answers
Once a Person Rank score is in place, the answer ranking need not be based simply upon the number of upvotes, but should also take into account the user quality of who is voting.
Thus, a popular influencer’s answer may be upvoted by his or her significantly large following, but the answer may still not rank at the top because fewer other people with higher user quality have upvoted another answer.
Quora need not display the number of votes for each answer, and can replace it with a “Quality Score”. This will also reinforce the emphasis on quality, not quantity, in Quora’s UI.
Only time will tell if Quora is able to scale well keeping pace with mainstream user adoption. With approaches like these, I still think Quora has a good chance for maintaining content quality and not degrade to the levels of a popularity contest.