Quora – Capturing the Intelligence of the World

Quora is a question-and-answer website created, edited, and organized by its community of users. It was started in June of 2009 by the former CTO of Facebook. The website has been open to public since 2010.

“Our mission is to share and grow the world’s knowledge,” says founder Adam D’Angelo.

They don’t reveal the user metrics of the website and that is the one question you won’t be able to find on Quora. D’Angelo says, “Usage numbers don’t reflect quality and user experience, which are what’s important to us.”

What is most impressive to me about this crowdsourcing Q&A site is its simplicity and substance. Distinguished people such as Larry Summers, President Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Mark Cuban, Ashton Kutcher and more actively use this forum to answer questions. This translates to very high quality content and enhances the user experience of those who are going to this site for the questions. The bar for credibility (expert knowledge) and quality (well-written posts) are very high.

How do they manage the crowdsourced information and maintain the level of quality?

  • Personalization engine using statistics, math, and machine learning to show you the most relevant questions and content
  • Developing an algorithm to determine and rank user quality
  • The ‘Upvote’ feature adds credibility to answers that are recognized by other users, and higher upvotes increases the visibility of your answer. The best answers will still go on top, the worst answers get shoved off the page
  • The administrative team actively filter answers that are deemed to be of low quality –  not relevant, identical or ‘jokey’. One Quora admin team states, “As an admin my job is to keep the integrity of the site intact.”
  • Users are verified using their name and identity, which increases the reputation gain or loss of bad content posted
  • You can at any time ‘Ask A Question’ and invite specific people to answer your question
  • Quora credits force a level of quality that everyone benefits from. You try to write better answers so you can get more credits and ask more questions

People use Quora because it gives them validation and connections, through the social recognition for their expert knowledge as well as their contribution to the community that they are learning from.

Quora creates value by engaging individuals to share their opinions and personal experiences, and recognizing them as an invaluable part of human knowledge.  Quora attracts a great number of “brightest and best” in certain subject areas, which attracts even more as they talked Quora up in their respective spheres of influence.

It has raised $141m to date its investors include Peter Thiel, Y Combinator, Tiger Global and Benchmark. “The main thing we are going to do with the money is make sure Quora lasts forever,” says Marc Bodnick, head of business operations. “We are permanent, a prominent library, and we will stay independent forever. The company intends that for the long term and to not be acquired. So we will keep most of this money as insurance.” The path to monetization does not seem clear, although the most likely path is advertising or an entry into the education space.

Through its UX design, core community values, admin diligence, critical mass of quality contributors and evaluators, Quora draws out our very best as we reflect on our experience to provide appropriate answers to a learner’s questions.




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Student comments on Quora – Capturing the Intelligence of the World

  1. It’s amazing to see user and content growth on Quora’s platform over time. I think what Quora has done well was to target the tech sector initially to get high concentration of users and content in the tech community before expanding to other categories. Power users, i.e. users who post and comment frequently, also have played a huge role in developing the platform.

  2. It is really impressive how Quora has become a very realiable platform in which to get answers to very hard questions from relevant people on the matter. Today is easy to see how answering in Quora will give your reputation a boost but I wonder how did they start? How did they get relevant people to answer the questions?

    1. It’s true that it’s difficult to get the network effect of the platform started. One key advantage that Adam and his team had was that they were Silicon Valley insiders who worked in Facebook before, and could tap into their strong network there to get this going. It definitely isn’t easy but I believe their experience in the early days of Facebook helped a ton.

  3. I wonder how this type of crowdsourcing will pan out in the future. If only power users and reputable people answer questions and everyone else in the world freerides, wont the information available be limited to the views and biases of a certain type (type A, people who enjoy being part of an online community etc) of people?

    1. Thanks Cal for the comment. I believe that today the users of Quora are very diverse and a lot of the answers that I read come from a wide spectrum of views. It’s refreshing to read the point of view of an industry veteran and also that of a high school student. It might be true that this segment of people answering are probably more confident with sharing their thoughts online, but at least we get to tap into their knowledge collectively.

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