Quora floated to the top of my Google search results recently thanks to an article published by ZDnet. The author, Violet Blue, focuses around misogyny, trolling and other problems Quora is facing relating to online abuse.
What women have been going through on Quora is harrowing: Harassment and threats, stalking on and off the site, and an atmosphere that enables ongoing targeting with moderators that don’t understand, or help.
I, on the other hand, wanted to write about something that’s been on my mind for a while now.
I joined Quora a good couple of months ago with the promise, if I remember correctly, to “follow and discuss with real people (market leaders) from the industry”. This is how Quora was sold to me and I remember that very well. I usually forget why I join a website if I don’t use it in the first place. The reason I remember this instance is because of the disappointment.
The site description states “Quora is your best source for knowledge. Quora aims to be the easiest place to write new content and share content from the web.” I wonder if this is a genuine strategy to compete with Wikipedia for being the best source for knowledge.
Also, Google “Quora” and look at the result: For me it’s a big “no no” already as this is not the type of content I was supposed to find there. And how does this look like in the light of article from ZDNet? I wanted to read what thought leaders, market leaders, representatives of top tech companies have to say. Engage with them; perhaps build some sort of valuable relationship over time (the idea of social media?). Throw my 2 cents in, contribute to something great, but not to look at another set of “Top 10 beautiful women in *insert location here*” questions and answers. After those few months, I have just unsubscribed from email notifications from Quora. I haven’t deleted the account yet, because I’m interested to see how it evolves.
What happened? Relevancy happened
Or rather, lack of it. I followed a number of companies and topics I found interesting, read a few entries and discussions, was receiving relevant content and notifications. Then after a while I realized I wasn’t clicking on any email notifications I received. After a while I decided to investigate the reason for me being a Quora “dormant account”. I am sure for quite some time their email notifications were broken. Whenever I clicked on a topic in the email the page I landed on didn’t have the content I was looking for. That might have been only me. Okay, you could argue that it’s the browser cache, browsing history, or some abnormal coincidence. Yet, I’m still pretty sure it was just a bug lasting good couple of weeks that made it impossible to reach the interesting content.
What happened? Quality content happened
Or rather, lack of it. I might have to rephrase that to “quality content vanishing in the crowd of low quality content.” My expectation was to talk to people who know more and find new information through informed conversation. I’m feeling the expectation is not being met with a product that’s slowly turning to Yahoo! Answers.
Here are a number of random questions found on Quora that make me think I’m part of Yahoo! Answers.
- How can I plan to become a billionaire in 2 years?
- What is it like to be a high school dropout?
- What are some things that marketers know that most people don’t?
- Who are some of the most ‘conventionally’ good looking women in India who are not fashion models ?
- What does it feel like to lose your attractiveness?
- What are common first signs of pregnancy?
- What does it feel like to be pregnant?
- Why should I stay married?
- What does it feel like to be stupid?
I could go on forever. Just pick a topic and you will find a question of this type, usually at the top of results.
I understand that from search engine perspective it’s all great content because it’s unique (written by real people), but is it really unique content knowledge-wise? For a place claiming to be “the best source of knowledge” there is nothing unique about it. It is content that is available on hundreds of other websites, forums, social media, newspapers, etc.
It all comes down to the point what people consider “quality content”. While for some the examples taken from Quora are quality content, for me they are not. Especially, with the platform being sold as the go-to place for knowledge and easy content creation. I know there’s still plenty of interesting topics there, but I don’t think Quora is focusing on them anymore. They’re somewhere out there hidden in the bloat of content that can easily be found and researched online using search engines. I was looking for real quality, yet I ended up with refreshed Yahoo! Answers (no offence, but we know that it’s famous for all sorts of trolling).
Is this what happens when a product opens to a wider audience? Is Quora here to teach us that vetting (whether content, or users) is the only way to retain high quality user generated content? My eyes are on closed invite-only communities like Quibb, which value quality over quantity. I will be looking at Quora to see which way they will go and what they will do to become relevant and troll-free place again.
Your thoughts on this? What do you consider “quality” content?