Discovering Quora

I have tasked with investigating a new social networking site as part of my coursework and have decided to focus on Quora. Prior to this, I had heard of Quora but never felt compelled to check it out. My (brief) introduction to it happened when I was searching Google for help with a very specific situation. I don’t remember the topic of my search but I know I typed in a complete sentence as opposed to just using keywords. For this week’s discussion, I decided to try it out and see if I want to become a regular user of Quora.

Background Info: Basically, Quora is a website for questions and answers. Users ask and answer questions on a variety of professional and personal subjects. Upon signing up, users choose from a variety of feeds they want to follow and subjects about which they are knowledgeable. The characteristic that sets Quora apart from other services with “Q&A” features like “Yahoo! Answers” is that users can collaborate, suggest revisions to answers, “vote” or “downvote” both questions and answers, and comment. While other sites like Reddit have very similar uses, Quora seems to encourage collaboration to a higher degree. Simply put, it aims to be a community of experts sharing their expertise.

Creating an account was easy. After clicking the Quora link, I signed in via Facebook and was given suggestions for feeds and topics based on the interests I had on my Facebook profile. Using a search feature, I selected feeds that matched my work and academic interests (Instructional Design, Libraries). I could’ve selected personal interests too, but I want Quora to be designated for professional activities. Overall, signing up was quick and painless.

Immediately after creating an account, I started exploring. Questions categorized in the feeds you selected appear on your homepage with a side menu that allows the user to narrow it down to specific topics. To ask a question, users type their queries into a search box at the top of the page and tag it with subjects. I decided to test this out for myself and asked, “How do you deal with a difficult patron?”. Once I entered my question, I removed the suggested tags (tequila?), added “Libraries and Librarianship”, and posted the question. Once posted, I noticed that I could “ask to answer” or “answer the question” (even though it was my own). Within a few hours, i got a very detailed answer with lots of links to helpful materials. I could also see that others had voted on the response in agreement. All in all, very helpful and efficient.

My next step was to answer a question. I found one on qualifications for a library job and decided it was a good place to start. In doing so, I noticed that many people had already answered the question and a particularly high quality answer received a lot of votes. I personally felt it was a great answer and gave it my vote.

I am very intrigued by Quora. Using it reminded me of the book Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge. I read this book when I was getting my first Masters Degree and remembered it vividly. In this book, Cass Sunstein discusses the advantages and disadvantages of an “information society” and the impact on sharing and obtaining information. In short, there is a lot of good and bad information out there. This directly relates to Quora because it seems as though the purpose of the site is to promote good and weed out bad information. Overall, I think I will contribute to Quora and think it has a lot of advantages over similar sites. I strongly feel that I can answer questions effectively and vote for answers that I think are helpful.

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