When we were doing the VC rounds, the company (rightly or not) that was on every VC's radar in the Q&A field was Quora.

Link to sign up: http://quora.com/hackernews

Quora is a question and answer site focused on getting really high quality, authoritative content on any topic that people are interested in.

The big idea is to try to get every question page to be the best possible resource for anyone who wants to know about the answer. One way to think about it is as a cache for the research that people compile by searching the web or asking others. The feeling you get when you see a Wikipedia article and you think "Oh, that's going to have all the information I want about that" is the feeling we want to create across a much broader space.

The best things you can do are asking and following questions you're interested in, answering other people's questions, and voting or commenting on answers.

Right now, you need to use your Facebook account to sign up. We might add other ways to join later on.

We're still in beta and are making a lot of changes and have a lot of work to do but wanted to get some feedback.

I personally don't think Quora is even on the same field as us -- we're playing baseball, they're playing football. Here's why:

  • we don't care about the social graph, we care about the information graph. Even if that leads off-site or comes from Google.
  • we believe that the best content comes from topic specific sites (cooking, programming, parenting), and the communities that form around those topics, not a "generic one size fits all Q&A engine"
  • we're not tied to Facebook (and its social graph)
  • we allow 100% anonymous viewers
  • we creative commons all our content (unsure what they do here)

This is one of those things where it's the darling of every VC's eye, and presumably as a result, there's apparently a burgeoning community of VC-hangers-on and wannabe entrepreneurs who hang out on Quora, so if you're looking for Q&A on those specific topics, it's a good destination.

Anyway, I was curious what the community thought of Quora -- we're always willing to adapt useful features from other sites, but I'm not sure we're going to drop our baseball bat and put on a football helmet, either..

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Real football doesn't have helmets. –  random Mar 31 '10 at 1:41
Real sentences dont use apostrophes –  Tyler Carter Mar 31 '10 at 1:50
I'd rather be curling. –  XMLbog Mar 31 '10 at 1:55
Well, they use facebook to try to draw people to the site, a problem you and Joel did not have –  jmfsg Mar 31 '10 at 2:02
should we be using teh facebooks to draw users to our sites? –  Jeff Atwood Mar 31 '10 at 2:22
@Jeff: do you want "facebook people" using your sites? –  Shog9 Mar 31 '10 at 2:46
You want facebook people? readwriteweb.com/archives/… –  random Mar 31 '10 at 2:50
@shog, I think all that is jealous talk... dailymail.co.uk/news/article-527458/… –  jmfsg Mar 31 '10 at 2:50
No, you should NOT be using farcebook to draw users. SO is for programmers, farcebook is for people who don't have anything better to do ;b –  David HAust Mar 31 '10 at 3:56
I thought SO was for programmers who don't have anything better to do? –  hemp Mar 31 '10 at 5:44
@Downvoter You do know that the Daily Mail is the UK's longest running joke? A by-word for incompetent and brainless reporting. –  nb69307 Mar 31 '10 at 9:08
Welp, seeing as how I don't have a Facebook account, looks like I won't be testing this. So what can we learn from Quora? Mainly that walled gardens restrict your reach and - by extension - the overall quality of your content. OpenID was a way smarter move. –  Aarobot Apr 6 '10 at 21:12
It's actually kind of fascinating to see how many of the features pinged out in the answers here have made it into the SO engine over the past year. Particularly those pointed out in @shog9's answer. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Apr 1 '11 at 10:31
The feeling I get when you I a Wikipedia article is "Oh, that's much more than what I needed to know, no way I'm going to read through all that." –  Lie Ryan Apr 2 '11 at 7:24
Most of the answers here indulge in all out Quora-bashing. Yes, the SO model is much better in many of the things that Quora. But it does not really answer "What we can learn from Quora". There are some answers that focus on that, but they are too few. (FYI I don't have a Quora account, and probably won't have one any time soon) –  MAK Apr 2 '11 at 18:50
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18 Answers

up vote 72 down vote accepted

We can learn that VCs aren't worth chasing.

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I'd say auto-accept is working perfectly :) –  Jeff Atwood Apr 10 '10 at 16:53
Is it based on votes cast during the bounty period, and perhaps the others had more from earlier? I don't mind if you feel you should take the points off me. It was a serious answer though - it's all about the audience. –  Rob Farley Apr 11 '10 at 1:56
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I'm adding this for everyone's amusement.

shoot me

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Needs more settings!!! I only needed to scroll through about 2 pages of options. –  alex Mar 31 '10 at 5:19
the Facebook family resemblance, I see.. –  Jeff Atwood Mar 31 '10 at 5:57
@Jeff: Yeah, that's way too many, just like FB... but it would be nice if SO had some options (like "Show all dates as YYYY-MM-DD HH:mm"). –  Lawrence Dol Mar 31 '10 at 8:26
"Someone endorses me on a topic"... how do they do that stuff? –  Pëkka Apr 6 '10 at 21:41
@Software Monkey: SO's beauty lies in the lack of bells, whistles, and gongs - yes, we're geeks, and geeks like tweaking things, but the less you can tweak something, the less time you can spend tweaking it ;) –  Piskvor Aug 24 '10 at 9:04
There are two ways of constructing a software design: one way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies; the other is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies. — C. A. R. Hoare –  abel Jan 12 '11 at 13:58
They did manage to scrape the best features from Facebook, you gotta give them that much. –  mvexel Jan 29 '11 at 15:31
I dont use quora, but those email settings actually look really really useful. I'm really annoyed that I can't get SO to notify me about comments on questions that I've answered, and I seriously wish SO would have those email settings. –  nathan.f77 Feb 2 '11 at 7:26
Needs more freehand circles. :( –  Justin Morgan Apr 1 '11 at 20:35
Is it just me, or is this screenshot link broken? –  Chris Frederick Sep 7 '11 at 16:50
For some reason the image was reverting back to the non-Stack version of events with the image. @chr –  random Sep 7 '11 at 17:02
@random: Weird. Maybe I'll report this behavior as a bug the next time I see it. –  Chris Frederick Sep 7 '11 at 17:13
Can't you configure how much configuration you want? –  Andrew Grimm Sep 7 '11 at 23:10
I actually believe that the lack of e-mail notifications in stack overflow is awesome for two reasons. (1) You don't feel like you are getting spammed all the time. (2) Because you don't get notified in your mail inbox, it forces you to go on site to check for responses. If you have to go to the site for this, you're much more likely to use it while you're on it. –  neelsg Feb 22 '13 at 8:18
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Ignoring all the ingratiating "social" bits, auto-followed topics (yeah, of course I want to be notified of any new questions about Paul Graham) and ugly, crowded, Facebook-ish layout...

...There are some good ideas:

(Update: all these appear to have been implemented)

  1. Topic (tag) pages have editable summaries, and display recent answers. (Expanded at Atwood's request...) There are two parts to this, and they aren't terribly related.

    1. Editable summaries touches on something that has been requested before in various forms... Quora provides a user-editable "About" block at the top of each tag page: I'd like to see SO do the same, somewhere around where the tag sponsor block sits, and of course utilizing Markdown formatting. Not all tags would need or benefit from this of course, and I suspect different sub-communities would find different uses for it (see questions linked above). One way to implement this would be to have a per-tag CW question where changes could be discussed in comments and the current revision pulled automatically into the tag-page...

    2. Display recent answers is fairly self-explanatory: all of the current views list questions, even Active and Hot. Would be nice to see maybe five recent answers posted to tagged questions when viewing a tag, as (for certain tags...) answers are often more interesting than the questions. This goes back to the original, "I have 5 minutes to kill, give me something interesting to read" SO use-case.

  2. Easy to use, near real-time notifications for events (answers posted, posts edited, etc.) - home button lights up and hovering over it displays a drop down listing recent events, with the ability to click through them and view details. This happens even if you don't reload the page: I'd barely finished writing my question when it notified me that someone had retagged it - nice!

  3. The ability to follow individual questions seems a lot more useful than SO's "favorite" list, especially combined with the notification system.

  4. The ability for new users to "suggest" edits by actually editing a post and then attaching a comment to it is great - it's a bit of work to get editing ability on SO, and while that's generally a good thing, it does leave new users unable to contribute in that area even when they have something valuable to add... Letting authors act as gatekeepers for untrusted edits is an elegant compromise.

Most of this has been suggested here at one time or another though.

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Agree with that; haven't we been mentioning that since the dark days of uservoice? (mention @Jeff just for the notification) –  Marc Gravell Mar 31 '10 at 9:48
I like #4 - allow low-rep users to merely suggest an edit that must then be approved by the op. –  Joel Coehoorn Apr 6 '10 at 19:28
I would like to hear more about your proposal for #1, with some very specific .. specifics. –  Jeff Atwood Apr 25 '10 at 10:19
@Jeff: Well, by "in that area" I did mean "editing", not "the site / topic as a whole". I think the CW system recognizes that there is a place for low-rep edits, but forces an all-or-none approach to enabling it. Anyway, I expanded #1 a bit; if you want more detail I can post something in the feature request –  Shog9 Apr 25 '10 at 22:38
@shog9 the feature request is extremely.. threadbare.. and needs a lot more information. –  Jeff Atwood Apr 26 '10 at 1:38
I like new users to be able to edit, with the auther or someone else aproving the edit. We now have lots of new users on some sites that have used other SE sites for a long time. –  Ian Ringrose Aug 24 '10 at 7:53
#4 has been implemented. –  uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN Oct 1 '11 at 17:38
...and #1, and #2, and #3 –  badp May 31 '12 at 21:23
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My guess on why Quora is 'on every VC's radar in the Q&A field'...

Have a look at the Quora About page and then have a look at the SO About page and see what's missing.

Notice anything?

Can you say 'chock full o' marketing goodness'?

SO is targeted at people (uh, programmers) who know what they want and can make up their own minds.

Quora seems to be targeted at people who love to follow the crowd and be told what is good, hence the necessary marketing voodoo mumbo jumbo.

It's no surprise that the VCs (uh, not programmers) have an investment-boner for a good looking, slick, behold-my-fancy-marketing-words site like Quora. And let them.

IMHO, just keep doing what you are doing.
If you have to change what you do or who you are to get some love, then that love won't be very fulfilling.

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I always thought "synthesize aspects of Wikis, Blogs, Forums, and Digg/Reddit" sounded rather markety. –  Super Long Names are Hilarious Mar 31 '10 at 4:37
I agree, but we should be able to synthesize improvements from a variety of inspiratons -- of course, only the ones that we, and the community, feel are a fit. Next up: SUPERPOKE! –  Jeff Atwood Mar 31 '10 at 4:48
@Jeff - you've been hanging around too many VCs - really "synthesize"? –  Dominic Rodger Mar 31 '10 at 5:30
@Jeff: SuperPoke? really? is that the new FaceSpace/MyBook-centric Trilogy site? –  quack quixote Mar 31 '10 at 5:50
Up-vote just for coining the phrase "investment-boner"... –  hemp Mar 31 '10 at 5:51
@dominic "But the brain does much more than just recollect. It inter-compares, it synthesizes, it analyzes .. it generates abstractions" goo.gl/mlIz –  Jeff Atwood Mar 31 '10 at 6:42
@Jeff I had that video on auto-repeat many months ago. Addictive :) –  Jonathan Sampson Apr 6 '10 at 5:46
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First off, linking up my Facebook account? Why in the name of all holy things? I hate associating other accounts with something. I don't want to type my password into anything other than the service. I don't want you to look at my "friends" and make suggestions. I don't want you to send emails to all of my contacts. Social networking is something I'm glad to turn on and off as need be.

If you need to register just to view the stuff then I'm already turned off.

Second, I really don't like how they have the non-marked up editor. I want to see the tags in the answer box.

I haven't honestly given the site a lot of time due to the above immediate nuisances.

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This. As long as the Facebook requirement remains they'll miss out on a significant portion of the tech-savvy, which are crucial to have as early adopters. Quora is going to sputter and die. –  Kyle Cronin Mar 31 '10 at 1:56
that's fair, and FWIW I agree, but it's not really evaluating the merits of the site. –  Jeff Atwood Mar 31 '10 at 2:22
+1 WANTING the people to register just to VIEW is really BAD –  Tech Jerk Mar 31 '10 at 5:16
@sri that might be because they're still in beta, I think –  Jeff Atwood Mar 31 '10 at 5:57
Indeed. I have a FB account which I visit a couple times a week for a few minutes (in contrast I visit SO a couple times a day for a few hours). But with they way they are going with their privacy controls I am seriously considering closing it. –  Lawrence Dol Mar 31 '10 at 8:20
It's not like using Facebook (or whatever Connect ID service) is that much to ask... Especially if you look at how many people have such an account anyway. Plus I would only use Facebook since it's easier to log in, not to link accounts. –  Ivo Flipse Mar 31 '10 at 9:36
@ivo Quora "mines" your contact list to try to figure out what you can answer. So it's not exactly only used for auth. –  Jeff Atwood Mar 31 '10 at 10:47
And would you consider that a bad thing @Jeff? The way I use Facebook, they won't gather much interesting information, so for me it's just authorization –  Ivo Flipse Mar 31 '10 at 11:24
@Ivo: I would consider that a bad thing. –  Josh K Mar 31 '10 at 21:36
@Josh: Why not create a socketpuppy account then? Which can be used for logging in and sharing with "friends", keeping it seperate from your private one –  Ivo Flipse Apr 1 '10 at 5:28
@Ivo: More work for me, another email account I have to manage, another login I have to remember. –  Josh K Apr 1 '10 at 13:35
I can't evaluate Quora because I don't have an FB account, and don't have any particular plans to create one. It is a high pressure turn off to me, that's for sure. –  Jonathan Leffler Apr 6 '10 at 22:45
"I hate associating other accounts with something." Well, just to play devil's advocate... most SO users use a Gmail account to log in... :) –  Kip Apr 26 '10 at 13:13
But SO doesn't root through my mail box asking if I want to tell everyone I'm now a member of SO does it? It also uses OpenID, so I can use any flipping OpenID provider I want. Heck, I can be my own OpenID provider. –  Josh K Apr 26 '10 at 19:06
Being forced to connect with your facebook account is a "strong identity connection." says so right on the site. –  Pëkka Jun 22 '10 at 8:05
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I like the idea of having one portal to follow all your topics/questions of interest.

When coupled with better following of interesting tags, you could have one site that keeps you up to date, rather than having to visit several seperate sites.

This is going to be especially more useful when/if new Stack Exchange or "Trilogy" arise that you wish to follow. Though I see no problems for simply consuming (reading questions), I have no idea how this should work with posting new questions through a portal...

And as already mentioned, the inline editing is much, much easier than having to go to an editing page!

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we need a way to follow all the SE sites you are a member of on a single page. –  Ian Ringrose Aug 24 '10 at 7:57
+1 My tab set of SE sites is getting too big, and some of them don't sync my profile while others do and so on... a global reader would be useful and a combined profile with all the flare, complicated or impossible at it sounds on a lot of levels, sounds interesting. –  Oskar Duveborn Jan 13 '11 at 9:13
Are there RSS feeds from SE sites? In particular, are there feeds from tags (of new questions), questions (of new answers) and answers of new comments)? If there were, an RSS reader might be all you need. Or someone could mash up a nice Facebook news feed style interface on top of those. –  Tom Anderson Apr 1 '11 at 18:34
“A single page that feeds you stuff”, à la Twitter, is definitely easy to use, and will end up being memorised and revisited. –  Tobu Jan 3 '12 at 23:43
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The first thing that hits me is the subscriptions. While we have interesting and ignored tags, I think (and this is probably a duplicate request) that having some sort of mechanism that fed me more of a few types of questions on a home-like page would be really beneficial.

If we look at what we have now, we have JavaScript filtering for tags that we don't like and highlighting for ones we do. I realize it is like this because then it is easy to cache because the server simply sends out the home page, and the client filters it.

I like Quora's pull mechanism, where people pulled questions into their feed instead of just filtering out stuff they didn't like. This lets the user have an entire page filled of things that interest them instead of the current Stack Overflow home, which at least for me has 1/3-2/3rds of the page filtered out (adding C, C++, ASP, and Java to your ignored list will do that).

I feel that you can't really do friends AND reputation. You can only pick one, because they are kind of conflicting if you are trying to get a system where reputation quantifies your community trust/worth, but friends just up vote you.

In this topic I think Stack Overflow is a big improvement over Quora because the type of people that use Stack Overflow, programmers, probably don't have that big of a social circle that they haven't already turned to before asking their question. Instead it is just a giant knowledge dump where anyone and everyone can try to answer it.

You can also edit everything from day 1. Seems like a lot of damage could be done really quickly in that regard. Reputation +1


If you start to type an answer, it pops up an Ajax box saying who is currently answering this question. That is so incredibly awesome!

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Re: Ignored tags: You can set it (in your profile somewhere) to not display ignored questions at all instead of just graying them out. I personally don't, but it's an option. –  Super Long Names are Hilarious Mar 31 '10 at 2:40
@Length Yes, but then there is giant amounts of whitespace as it doesn't give me more questions to fill the page. –  Tyler Carter Mar 31 '10 at 2:42
@Chacha - That's probably the main reason I don't use that option. Perhaps this should be considered a bug. –  Super Long Names are Hilarious Mar 31 '10 at 2:44
It is so a bug @Length Limits on Names are Stupid as is shown in my name right here –  jmfsg Mar 31 '10 at 2:52
@cha that's a Webkit-specific "feature".. in firefox the invisible ones collapse. meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/2063/… –  Jeff Atwood Mar 31 '10 at 5:00
@Chacha102 - I must disagree about "you can't really do Friends AND Reputation". For example, I now spend a fairly unreasonable amount of time trying to "track" a couple of people whose opinions I value. –  DVK Apr 3 '10 at 14:42
I disagree that the pull mechanism is better. If you're only seeing questions on topics that you know you enjoy, you will miss questions on topics that you didn't know you would enjoy. –  Chris Apr 6 '10 at 19:10
Following people, besides topics, gives you some of that serendipity. There's also a "trending topics and people" sidebar on the homepage that hints at other stuff you might find interesting. –  obvio171 Jun 10 '10 at 23:36
«PersonA starts writing an answer. Jon Skeet starts writing an answer a minute later and PersonA gets a notification: Jon Skeet has started writing an answer. Go! Type faster! Hurrrrrrrry! » – rchern –  badp Jan 25 '11 at 18:46
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Looks like Quora is all about the cult of personality and less about the actual content. The posts have so much author clutter that your eye and attention has to create blocks to get to the actual content.

Two good features:

  • Auto-next pager - Kind of like endless scrolling but done in that Twitter style. Where if you're at the bottom, you have the option of loading only by clicking a button, instead of having it do for you. Which would be annoying in cases of where you just want to sit at the bottom of the page.

  • Interest follow - They have it on questions and people, but it would be nice to click next to a tag on a question to have that auto-added to your list of interesting (or ignored) instead of having to copy the text or type it up on another page.

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Personally, I'd rather have infinite scrolling. Because I'm scrolling anyway, and scrolling makes it just that much harder to hit that damn button. Slashdot has the same problem. Agree on the follow usability - they make it really easy to keep track of pretty much anything you happen to be looking at. –  Shog9 Mar 31 '10 at 2:44
where would this "auto-next pager" be? every page? –  Jeff Atwood Mar 31 '10 at 6:00
Not everywhere, no. Have it on the questions which for some unfortunate reason have more than one page of answers. Not to say that would/wouldn't encourage more pages. @jef –  random Mar 31 '10 at 6:40
Slashdot had autoscrolling (like Shog9 suggests) but it was slow and made the page jump around a bunch. If you can avoid those 2 problems and not introduce others, then it'd probably be acceptable to everyone, even those that think they prefer clicking a button to scroll more (like me). –  Chris Apr 6 '10 at 18:51
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Q&A for all range of subjects & the sum of all human knowledge? Sure, why not. Let's let some guys from Facebook give us that too. Quora is as ambitious as it is useless, which is not to say that VCs won't devour it whole (this could be a fabulous question on Quora).

Stack Overflow, et al. is great because it is partial (like truth). It relegates itself to certain subjects. It sets a limit on its reach, establishes authorities on certain subjects, rewards good answers and punishes bad ones. It even goes so far as to weed out bad, misplaced or irrelevant questions altogether, while Quora embraces the warm sophic mantra of a high school guidance counselor: "There are no stupid questions." Stack Overflow leaves the lofty goal of peeing on every tree in the forest to Yahoo, Google, Quora and whoever else wants it.

If you post a dumb answer on Quora one can only hope someone on Facebook might have the sense to de-friend you. Using Quora is like letting Wikitravel plan your family holidays. Let the VCs have it, they can lead us into the next bubble carrying it aloft.

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Example: quora.com/What-does-it-feel-like-to-be-stupid –  holden Apr 1 '11 at 14:36
That's one of the best answers I've seen in a while +1 –  Adam Rackis Apr 1 '11 at 20:46
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In Quora, each question can be given an answer summary which is merely an editiable post that stays up the top. In Stack Overflow, this can of course be done by Community Wiki, but if a question already has many answers, then the summary may be buried. However, this type of feature is most useful for survey type questions, which are mainly community wiki anyway, and so someone could simply add the summary to the question. Having an explicit option would encourage this to happen more often, at the cost of greater complexity, of course.

The search box autocompletes with topic names or question titles. It is nice to have an idea of what search will bring up, as you can adjust what you search for (add more keywords) or sometimes avoid completely typing something out. I think this would work very well with favorite questions for Stack Overflow.

Another feature they offer is followup questions. This seems to place the question in the related questions section on the side and also creates a link from the new question back to the old one. Currently, the method for following up questions is to post a link in a comment or to edit the original question. Featurewise, this seems to only add a slight convenience (no need to manually link the question) and a slightly increased visibility (comments can be buried).

However, socially, I believe its impact would become much greater. I only registered today, so I haven't had a chance to use it much myself, but I will attempt to speculate on the effects anyway. Firstly, having a follow up question would greatly increase how much it is used - it almost seems rude to post a link from someone else's question to a new question you have asked that hasn't been answered yet. I can imagine that a series of questions could become almost like a discussion thread on a normal forum, but in a way that is natural to the Stack Overflow paradigm. I think that this feature would be especially interesting for Stack Exchange, where people will want to use it for more discussiony things.

Sorry, no screenshots, their site isn't working for me at the moment.

Update: Quora now saves drafts of posts.

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good feedback -- can you provide more detail, examples or screenshot of this? –  Jeff Atwood Mar 31 '10 at 2:21
Don't forget free hand circles (red)! –  jmfsg Mar 31 '10 at 2:53
@Jeff: I added much more detail for you –  Casebash Mar 31 '10 at 8:47
@case excellent, that helps! –  Jeff Atwood Mar 31 '10 at 9:29
w/r/t linking posts see blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/04/new-linked-posts –  Jeff Atwood Apr 26 '10 at 6:36
@Jeff: Nice solution –  Casebash Apr 28 '10 at 0:08
@Jeff not sure the "Linked" sidebar solves the same problem. The biggest impact of the follow-up questions, as this answer says, is social. The concept of a "follow-up" question is technically the same as linking, but semantically different. It implies a much stronger connection between the two. The follow-up is about the original question or one of its answers, not just something that someone happened to mention somewhere. And the sense of a link is highlighted (on the Linked sidebar they're bidirectional), which gives you the timeline of the conversation. –  obvio171 Jun 7 '10 at 17:09
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I love Quora, but it's entertainment, not information.

When it comes to code and programming, I find myself correcting ignorant myth-based information on Quora at least as often as I am actually posting a new answer.

That pretty much never happens on Stack Overflow.

When you bring in the masses, your signal-to-noise ratio drops off a cliff.

It's a GOOD thing that Stack Overflow doesn't have Quora's usership.

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Yeah, Quora's users are a strange bunch... –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jan 14 '13 at 4:57
What is "usership"? –  Peter Mortensen May 12 '13 at 0:08
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Information on the Internet has become so quickly available that being forced to go through even the simplest register-wall becomes a waste of time. I took one look at their "sign up via Facebook to continue" corral and thought: "Screw this, I'll just Google it."

People will respond much better to restrictions on posting information than they will to restrictions on finding information. The former is clearly necessary. The latter is obnoxious.

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(Posted as an answer due to the length.)

Quora is just starting up. They want to be a definitive source for everything that is asked on it. It might not be easy, but surely achievable. They plan to make it available for scraping, and their terms are slightly open. They might make it big, and we will have another resource to link to (like Wikipedia) and that is not bad, but will they share the same ethics? In the future, we may see Stack Overflow providing quick answers to the questions at hand and linking to Quora for further intensive reading on the topic at hand. The intensive nature of the content, IMHO, will define the crowd at Quora, which will be different from Stack Overflow (but will have an overlap nonetheless).

quora mobile screenshot

Send questions to experts on any topic

That is not what Stack Overflow does, we allow "experts" to see the questions, but we do not "send" questons to other users or experts. Such questions Quora would probably be tweeting or pasting to the walls.

Answer questions by following topics that interest you

This is what Stack Overflow does.

Build consensus around the best answer

The same as with Stack Overflow, and even the screenshot is so similar.

Quora Usage Terms vs SO License

Subject to these Terms, Quora gives you a worldwide, royalty-free, non-assignable and non-exclusive license to re-post any of the Content on Quora anywhere on the rest of the web provided that the Content was added to the Service after April 22, 2010, and provided that the user who created the content has not explicitly marked the content as not for reproduction, and provided that you: (a) do not modify the Content; (b) attribute Quora with a human and machine-followable link (an A tag) linking back to the page displaying the original source of the content on quora.com (c) upon request, either by Quora or a user, remove the user's name from Content which the user has subsequently made anonymous; (d) upon request, either by Quora or by a user who contributed to the Content, make a reasonable effort to update a particular piece of Content to the latest version on quora.com; and (e) upon request, either by Quora or by a user who contributed to the Content, make a reasonable attempt to delete Content that has been deleted on quora.com.

Terms which do not match:

  1. do not modify the Content is starkly against CC-by-SA's You are free to Remix

  2. upon request, either by Quora or by a user who contributed to the Content, make a reasonable effort to update a particular piece of Content to the latest version on quora.com has no match in the CC-by-SA license.

  3. upon request, either by Quora or by a user who contributed to the Content, make a reasonable attempt to delete Content that has been deleted on quora.com has no match in the CC-by-SA license.

Terms which match:

1.attribute Quora with a human and machine-followable link is similar to You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor

Dubious Terms?

  1. upon request, either by Quora or a user, remove the user's name from Content which the user has subsequently made anonymous vs CC-by-SA's Moral Rights Clause In addition to the right of licensors to request removal of their name from the work when used in a derivative or collective they don't like, copyright laws in most jurisdictions around the world (with the notable exception of the US except in very limited circumstances) grant creators "moral rights" which may provide some redress if a derivative work represents a "derogatory treatment" of the licensor's work. appears deceptively similar to me. It may also be compared to the Privacy part of the CC-by-SA license

Quora's license terms are not so open at the moment, especially due to the absence of remixing rights. This is surely not something that Stack Overflow would like to emulate.

Avid (and) users of quora (I don't have an invite), may be able to tell more.

If they want their question page to be THE authoritative page for that topic, they are aiming towards being an encyclopedia, rather than a question and answer site. Authoritative content which already exist in textbooks, may not always be reproducible in full without trampling on copyrights. And content produced by "experts" may not be authoritative for everyone.

Stack Overflow's philosophy of making the Internet a better place is more valuable than making a website "THE" place for something.

As far as Quora's social links are concerned, using Facebook to recruit users is something that some of Stack Overflow's sister sites try (but on a different and smaller plane). If Quora can attract Facebook's crowd to use Quora for their discussions on sundry topics, we will be looking at massive ad revenues for Quora, but with a lot of noise on their authoritative question and answer boards. Geeks (and experts of all kinds) will still flock to the place if the place becomes interesting enough (based on usability and content), and Quora will have a lot of authoritative content. If ad revenues are their primary aim, they will always have to contend with noise, and in which case the geeks will always be looking for a better place.

You need ad revenues, and you need to balance that with your ambitions of what you want to be. It's a tight rope, but I have no idea how that works.

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hmm, interesting analysis -- I hadn't looked at their attribution terms, but ours are easier to find (look for the cc icon) –  Jeff Atwood Jan 8 '11 at 10:25
@jeff That's where I got the CC-by-SA link. Offtopic, but what's different between 2.5 and 3.0 versions of the CC-by-SA license? –  abel Jan 8 '11 at 10:28
www.quora.com/challenges seems to be something different too. –  abel Jan 8 '11 at 11:16
I actually like some aspects their license - they cover some things that CC does not (like a user wishing to anonymize their contributions) - for better or for worse... –  Pëkka Apr 1 '11 at 10:57
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I just did a search on trying to decide between "Puppet" and "Chef" for provisioning Virtual Boxes, and I landed on a Quora page for the first time. At first I thought "Wow, is this another Stack Exchange/Stack Overflow?"

But then I noticed that for a lot of the answers one's required to login to read "more".

That put me off. Personally that requirement makes me not want to be part of that community. It's yet another closed off garden. Even if there are some good answers to be found on that system, the fact that one needs to login just to read the answers runs counter to what I've grown to expect and appreciate about more open systems.

I seriously hope that Stack Exchange doesn't adopt that requirement. If it had, I probably would have never joined in to begin with. If it does, I might just go back to doing my research on Wikipedia :)

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the requirement to log in to see more answers is somewhat new there, and it's not on all questions. But I agree, it's not a welcome change. –  Jeff Atwood Jul 2 '12 at 2:07
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One thing you can learn is that VCs love Facebook. Facebook now gets more hits than Google, and it's only a matter of time before they figure out how to seriously monetize that traffic. If there's one thing we know VCs will chase, it's money.

Comparing Stack Overflow to Quora, I think Stack Overflow has a big advantage in terms of the addiction factor. You guys do a much better job of giving people a technical reason to figure out how to participate. On the other hand, Quora does a much better job giving you a social reason to participate. Both are valid. Quora also does a slightly better job of reminding and helping you to participate. Quora does this in part by tapping in to Facebook.

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On the contrary - Quora is very addictive as well, especially for those of us who have a wide range of interests beyond programming or computers. –  Robin Green Nov 3 '10 at 16:07
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I signed up for Quora today to check it out. I'm not liking the un-threaded view of the stacked questions/answers. Of course I haven't spent enough time to give the overall UI a fair verdict.

One thing I think they did right though, is that if you create an account using Twitter or Facebook ID, right away it shows you questions from your existing Twitter and Facebook friends, so you don't feel like a stranger to a new community. This is great for new users.

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I can't sign up even after linking my twitter account. It still asks for an invite. –  abel Jan 8 '11 at 10:32
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As someone who is using the Stack Overflow engine for my website, I think the subject matter covered by sites like Quora are just too broad. The Stack Overflow model is simply about specialized mentors and mentorees connecting. That's why sites like Stack Overflow, Super User, MathOverflow ... and yes hopefully over time PM Verge ... are really the best angle to take. They represent a thin-sliced view where subject matter experts can interact and not a one-stop shop like Yahoo! Answers where just about anyone can answer your question about RTOS or inversion of control (IoC) principles.

I assume Quora hopes to take the social aspect of Facebook and use that as a way to funnel people together to collaborate on content, but I don't think the use case of Facebook is about work ... I think it's tethered heavily to people's personal lives and talking shop is not something people go to Facebook for.

I've got a good background in building knowledge management solutions for the intranet/Internet going back into the mid-1990s, and by far the Stack Overflow paradigm for capturing and weighing the value of information is the best model I've ever encountered. If you could close out the solution with a good way to present back the highly refined data in a meaningful way other than searching or asking a question, you'd have quite a complete knowledge management solution in your hands.

Keep up the good work.

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What is PM Verge? –  Peter Mortensen Jan 20 at 0:25
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Wanton deletions are a big problem on Stack Overflow.

On Quora, content is preserved, and if not "useful", it gets downvoted and de-emphasized from search. Note the quotes around "useful". One man's trash is another man's treasure. On Quora, content can be retrieved later by those interested, because (with the exception of blatant spam) Quora doesn't assume that a bunch of individuals can decide for an entire site.

On Stack Overflow, moderators are assumed to have the infinite wisdom to decide between right and wrong for everyone. Spam and bogus questions are easy to decide. Off-topic questions are somewhat easy. But not everything is black and white.

This assumption of absolute objectivity on the part of moderators and users who can delete posts, results in disturbing situations where a moderator can single-handedly (without any voting!) delete a question that has been up for four years and has hundreds of upvotes, without regard to anyone who's bookmarked it, without sending a courtesy copy of the content to those who've written it; in short without giving a damn.

This wanton destruction of content makes contributing on Stack Overflow extremely frustrating for me. As soon as I write a post or like one, I take a snapshot of it using a web archiving service, because you never know when your content will be wiped out. Worse, you can't even access your own deleted content.

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