Is Quora Becoming What Google Buzz Should Have Been?

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Which service is generating the most Buzz these days? Unfortunately, not Google Buzz.

In a succinct and well-argued post, Robert Scoble asked if Quora is the biggest blogging innovation in 10 years. I think it is more than that. Quora is becoming the go-to place for having intelligent conversations on any topic. This is what FriendFeed once aspired to be, with Google Buzz following in its footsteps.

Scoble pointed out:

Fifth, they learned from FriendFeed, Digg, and other systems that let you vote up things. If you watch a question that has a lot of engagement you’ll even see votes roll in live. It’s very addictive.

What is also important is what Quora learned from the mistakes that FriendFeed and Google Buzz made and how it circumvented them.

First, Google Buzz adopted the FriendFeed aggregation model, and failed to KISS. Quora avoided aggregation altogether. It has kept it simple, stupid.

Second, Quora avoided what Scoble called “The Chat Room/Forum Problem”. Tons of people chiming in with their 2 cents and devolving the ‘conversation’ into a flame war problem. Google Buzz faced it and didn’t learn from FriendFeed. The flip side? Quora Admins are moderating the site, which will lead to a few complaints. There’s a price to pay if you want to keep a high signal-to-noise ratio.

Third, Quora has understood and respected the fine line between designing for influencers and early-adopters. There is no way for a handful of influencers to dominate the service completely overshadowing others.

Fourth, the Social Graph built on the Follow model provides Serendipity, but it is complemented by the Interest Graph based on Following Topics, thus providing Personalization. Quora gets close to achieving Personalized Serendipity, the hottest space in the startup scene today.

Fifth, for Quora, Relevance is the most important guiding principle. When you follow someone whose tech opinions you respect, your feed isn’t unexpectedly filled with their kids pictures voted up by their adoring fans. The Interest Graph overrules the Social Graph. Pure Signal, No Noise. There is no other service on the web today with such a high signal-to-noise ratio, period.

Will Quora appeal to mainstream users? Among all the Q&A Services out there, if anyone of them goes mainstream, I think there’s a good chance it will be Quora. If you haven’t done so yet, join the conversation! You can follow me on Quora here, if you like.

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  • http://rohit-mishra.blogspot.com/ movingahead

    For me, quora’s biggest strength is its relevance. The items that appear in my Quora feed are much better in quality than the items I see in “Top News” on FB. Right now, the community at Quora is amazing, which reminds me of Aardvark. Even Vark was phenomenal, but has rapidly declined as the questions have become repetitive and insipid. It will be interesting to see how Quora manages to keep the relevance high as mainstream users flock in.

  • http://KnowtheNetwork.com Keith

    Excellent points and I agree that if any Q&A site is going mainstream is going to reach relatively broad adoption its going to Quora or it isn’t going to happen. That being said I’ll take issue with one point and pose a question.

    Issue – Quora Admin Moderation – I think saying it is going to lead to a few complaints is an understatement. Without better disclosure of moderation practices and reasons this is going to be a real problem. The moment I read Mark’s post I had trust issues (and judging by the initial reaction on twitter I’m not the only one.) If you give the right tools to the community your users will self moderate. In the short term admin intervention might improve its value but I don’t see it being sustainable. How does it work when “everyone” shows up? The task is too great and the tide of spam and noise becomes overwhelming.

    Question – How does Quora reward users for sharing knowledge for free? That might be the sticking point for longterm use. Sure contributing is fun now but these high quality essay answers take time and without some reward system I’m not sure how long people will continue to answer. The reward system could be anything from a reputation system to bolstering your existing web presence but if you expect this level of time investment users will have to see engagement benefits. (See the discussion w/ @kr8tr today where we dive into this in detail http://netkno.ws/quora).

    I dig Quora, and I really hope it succeeds. We’ll watch and see.

    I’m http://www.quora.com/Keith-Crawford

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Thanks, Keith and I agree with your concerns.

    Both the moderation and reward topics are also being discussed on Quora. There is no lack of transparency whatsoever. See the moderation topic being openly discussed here: http://www.quora.com/Quora-Moderation – you are free to ask questions and participate. Same with the rewards thing – the beauty is that Quora is using its community to gather feedback. :)

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    The question of how Quora can manage to keep relevance and high quality after mainstream adoption is also being discussed on Quora: http://www.quora.com/Quora-Quality

    That is the beauty of the community :)

  • Chuck Falzone

    I guess I should give Quora another try. I had found a lot of sniping and axe grinding, albeit in a polite manner, but it sounds like more aggressive moderation has that under control?

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Hey Chuck,

    Not sure. Because we all follow different topics, I don’t think we could generalize in that way across the whole service. I haven’t encountered any sniping or axe grinding so far, fortunately!

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  • http://paulgailey.com Paul Gailey

    i think the answer to your blog post title is certainly yes, but what is noticeable is how fickle or generally intolerant users are of services that don’t quite get it right first time around. Are ‘early adopters’ really ‘fast exit makers’ forever searching for greener grass?

    I also really enthuse about Quora but I’m not sure if the current adoption curve is a cognescenti led kink or really a long term ramp. I dissected the curves and I’m betting on the latter.

  • http://www.victusspiritus.com/ Mark Essel

    I’m not confident that mainstream users will wish to contribute lengthy answers due to time requirements, but I’m pretty sure Quora will provide value to mainstream visitors searching for info. They’ll be competing with StackExchange variants.

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  • http://www.iphso.com Iphso

    Quora is solving the problem that Google’s been trying to solve forever – creating the database of intentions.
    Quora takes a huge leap towards solving this by helping me with “what question do I ask to get the best answer” because someone has probably already taken the time to craft an intelligent and well-formed question to extract the best quality answers, and other clever people have decided what the best answer is.

    More here http://bit.ly/g9dIye

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