Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What Is The Big Deal With Quora?

Over the past few days, I have noticed an increase awareness surrounding a web site called Quora. On Sunday, Robert Scoble wrote a blog about it, "Is Quora the biggest blogging innovation in 10 years?" Today, Mahendra Palsule asked the question on his site, "Is Quora Becoming What Google Buzz Should Have Been?" Louis Gray even noticed an increase of Quora connections, which he mentioned on Twitter. So, what is this Quora and why should you care?

In this post, I will provide a basic introduction of Quora, share a few reasons to check it out, and offer six tips on where to begin.

What is Quora?
Quora, using a very general definition, is a web site that offers both questions and answers. The service, which opened to the public on June 21, 2010, empowers users to create a resource for finding relevant information on anything. Similar to Wikipedia, users can make changes to questions, tags, and descriptions in an effort to improve the overall experience. In addition, users can choose to promote or demote answers based upon their relevancy, quality, or helpfulness.

In essence, Quora takes the best of the social web and seeks to build a solid platform for sharing topical information.

What is the value of Quora?
The simple answer is, "Information." Imagine what you could learn if allowed to ask topical experts, entrepreneurs, and corporate leaders any question you wanted and then have those very people respond. With Quora, that is the general idea and when people like Reed Hastings (CEO of Netflix), Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook), Steve Case (Past CEO of AOL), and Robert Scoble (Technology Guru) take the time to answer questions, you get a credible source of information.

Where do I begin?
At first glance, I wasn't sure where to start with Quora. There is a lot going on with the news feed, questions, and other notifications. To aid in the process, I have adapted Quora's six tips for beginners.

Follow some topics that interest you. Quora provides a search bar on each page. Start your session by looking for topics you like. Each topic has a page filled with questions and related answers. To stay abreast of recent changes in that topic, simply click the Follow Topic button.

Browse questions that interest you. Similar to the topics page, each question has its own page. Users can receive an alert the next time someone answers the question. To be notified of changes, click the Follow Question button.

Add answers to questions you know about. Once you have identified topics and questions of interest, it is time to start answering questions. Quora recommends that you answer the question directly and provide your reasons. Remember, the more comprehensive the answer, the better chances you have it will get promoted by other visitors.

Improve question pages. As I explained above, users can edit the question, description, and tags, in an effort to make it better. Consider fixing misspelled words or other grammatical errors, for one. 

Find people you know who are already on Quora. Sharing information and holding interesting conversations with friends can be quite enjoyable. Quora makes it easy to connect with those friends from the popular social networking sites, Twitter and Facebook.

Check out the Quora FAQ for New Users. Should you run into any immediate issues, take a stop through the FAQ for beginners.

Initial Observation
Unlike many of the early adopters, I'm not entirely sold on Quora. I recognize there is something interesting about the site, but the "Aha!" moment hasn't quite struck me yet. Some argue it has a higher payoff than blogging (see Mark Suster's blog post), others believe it will replace blogging in the future, and yet there are some who haven't quite decided (see Jesse Stay's blog post). I fall into the latter group.

Clearly, there are similarities to the old fashioned discussion board; however, instead of wading through meaningless posts to find answers, users push the good stuff to the top. That is a plus.

Additional considerations for using Quora is that questions and answers are now showing up on Google, I mean on the front page of certain search queries. This is great news for those looking to gain recognition for topical expertise.

Unfortunately, as one who is trying to build a community on damondnollan.com, I'm wondering if it's wise to invest too much time on an external site. How might I bring traffic to the home base and not the other way around?

If you're interested in connecting on Quora, you can find me Here.

What do you think about Quora? Is it going to be the game changer many early adopters predict? Are you using it? If so, what value do you get from it? Let me know in the comment section below.

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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