In a nutshell: from the following observations as well as seeing the response to my only Quora answer so far, I feel that Quora is a place for conformism, not critical thinking.

It’s been maybe a week since I have been browsing Quora content.. and I had begun to really like that place.. extensive topics, their voting and credit system and so on.. Highly sensible design decisions, well oriented towards the question asking, reading and answering. Quite enjoyable. [That alone should have set the alarms ringing in my head]

( For months before that, I had been largely ignoring all the Quora posts that keep coming on the Facebook news feed. Even when a question that prodded my curiosity came along, I would ignore their ‘login to view’ banner and read off the answer from the page source.. just to deny them the satisfaction of having coerced another user to register. Quite juvenile, maybe.. but I have redressed that now, finally. )

So yes, Quora as an experience is quite popularly enjoyable. And then I realized.. Enjoyable? Discovering the truth and coming to terms with it can hardly be considered an enjoyable process for the masses. I thought the quest for truth is supposed to be an unexpected, uncomfortable journey, with many more questions and blurry brainstorming, than answers that are confidently upvoted and reinforced over time.

So then, what is Quora doing, if not exposing people to discomforting facts and perspectives? Well, creating less questions and many more answers. Of which the ‘right’ one will get upvoted, is how one expects that system to work. Thus, this system is not really meant to work for open-ended questions that may have no right answer yet.

(My answer so far has neither been voted up or down, nor received any response, favourable or otherwise. Ignored? Well.. so much for critical thinking. Especially since I think my answer does expose the readers to a very different facet of the original question. Isn’t that supposed to unguide us away from our own localized views? )

What I would like to see is the Quora credit system turn around on its head.. a place where you get to ask as many questions as you want for free, and you will earn credits if people upvote your question, because it means that your question provokes something they either don’t know already, and/or consider to be worth critical thinking or discussion. How would people’s answers be credited? Not sure; maybe pay-to-respond. So, only if you have asked enough good original questions, would you be able to respond. This mechanism seems quite harsh at the moment. So again.. not sure about this.

4 responses to “Quora?

  1. When i feel information hungry, I prefer lurking around the stackexchange forums rather than quora. Their credit system is pretty much modeled as you would like to see it, besides their no nonsense policies. This format encourages a fact based question-answer format, where you get to make your own interpretations, besides having the choice to not make one, and look for a better answer.

    Quora gets nauseous after a bit with its answers mixing up personal viewpoints, facts, credibility and eloquence. Couple this with it’s userbase of social networkers, and all I see is one giant mass of subjective opinions. Frankly, I fail to see any grand scheme in place here, leave alone lofty pursuit of knowledge.

    • I have never answered on Quora, though I did ask a math question (one which I had already solved, and asked for alternate methods of solution) for which I got some interesting answers. I think rather than criticizing it for being something which it is NOT, one can either design a forum that deals with more objective questions, and/or integrate such a forum into quora as a non-pop Quora, though that might mean narrowing down the range of opinions and ideas a question might invite, but such is the price of objectivity and precision.

      Also, can analyzing the question v/s most popular answer be an interesting study? Maybe a method for categorizing answers according to certain criteria and within certain classes and analyzing at what will soon now be (if it already isn’t) another member of the big data family.

      • Well, it is only after browsing Quora did I come to realize that it is not what I initially thought it was: a potential platform for brainstorming. Which is a pity given its popularity, that’s all.
        And perhaps the “objectivity” end is being reasonably served by stackexchange forums? Quite possibly, though not too sure myself.. actually, what I was (erronously) seeking from Quora was somewhat the opposite of objectivity.. namely, an interplay of diverse perspectives of looking at the same facts, and not just any one opinion being repeatedly reinforced through upvoting.

  2. Pingback: What next, now? | Magnets and Miracles

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