Quora – factory of experts?

I just read this post from Robert Scoble in which he explains why Quora is not the biggest blogging innovation in the past decade. And for the past few months, everybody has their own opinion on whether or not Quora is worth their very high valuation (already $80M it seems). So I thought why wouldn’t I give my opinion? 

During my time at Yahoo!, I was part of the team who studied the knowledge search phenomenon in Korea, and then in Taiwan, and then I worked on the launch of Yahoo! Answers globally. I saw it grow from 0 users to 85M in less than 6 months. The secret sauce (beyond the distribution power that Yahoo has) is to keep the integrity and the quality of the contributions, while making the service fun to use (in this case, fun means getting an answer to your question super fast or being rewarded for answering well). For a Q&A product, you first need questions. Then you need answers. Once the ratio answers / questions reach 2 or 3, you need quality answers. 

There are different ways to focus on each of those steps and get users to do those. The most obvious one is to “gamify” the product. Give points or badges for asking a question, more points for answering, and even more points for a quality answer. Then based on which stage you’re at, remove points for asking a question, or for giving a bad answer etc… More importantly, you can also use this to create a reputation system and raise people to the “expert” level. 

I don’t think Quora has launched any of this yet (or at least I haven’t been exposed to it), but I’m sure Adam d’Angelo and the team have thought a lot about it. Those guys are smart. But imagine if Quora becomes a “factory of expert”. Like American Idol is a factory for new artists. Some of you may say: but that’s the whole point of Quora, only experts answer the questions! Well, even among the top people in a category, someone wants to be known as the best. 

When I was working on TypePad, we talked a lot about the aspiration model. If one of your blogger becomes successful thanks to their blog, showcase them to the others, to create this goal in each of them and get them engaged. The challenge with a blogging platform is that each blog is its own island, and the relationship between the blogger and the platform is not obvious. But in the case of Quora, it’s obvious people can become expert on Quora, thanks to Quora, and by Quora’s standard. I think that’s huge. 

Quora will probably focus a lot on content quality and discoverability & on mobile experience but i think their biggest priority should be the community. And not just checking whether or not the content published is of quality, but creating a hierarchy within their users. Give more and more power to the users climbing the levels, which contributes to the integrity of the site and the quality of the content. Finally, showcase the best of the best, get them book deals, or whatever, making them superstars in their field, not only on Quora, but in the world. This, I believe, is how Quora could be the biggest innovation in the blogging world in the past decade. 





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