Posts Tagged ‘Quora’

Used with permission.

Quora is my newest favourite website. And it’s clear I’m not alone. After quietly building buzz through 2010 Quora has blow up, doubling in December and then doubling again in the first week of 2011.

I’m not surprised: Quora, a question-and-answer platform, is tapping into a really important trend, the rise of the interest graph alongside the social graph in online importance. Nathaniel Whittemore discussed this in a smart post a couple of months back:

If Facebook is the service with the internet’s most complete (visible) social graph, Twitter is the service with the internet’s most complete (visible) interest graph. “Following” a person — even one you don’t know — is an affirmation of your interest in their insights and recommendations. “Friending” someone is simply an act of acknowledging an existing relationship, that in many cases, has more to do with a previous shared experience (think: your freshman dorm) than with a really active shared interest.

At the time of Nathaniels post it did seem that Twitter offered the best example of the emerging interest graph. It’s non-reciprocal linking structure allows you to follow those that interest you, not just those you know, creating a blended social/interest graph. Hashtags further allowed you to follow specific conversations and connect with new people who share that interest.

Quora was built intentionally to capture the interest graph (Twitter was originally built to allow friends to keep track of each other) and so naturally takes this the next step, encouraging you to formally “follow” a variety of topics that interest you, from locations (“San Francisco”), industries (“media”, “tech”), companies (“Facebook”, “Twitter”), concepts (“crowdsourcing”), individuals (“Larry Lessig”, “Jack Dorsey”) and more (all examples are topics I follow). In addition you can follow specific questions, to get a notification each time there is a new response, and you can follow individuals, those you know or otherwise. Your feed is a blend of the topics, questions and people you follow.

This design influences your behavior on the site. There are people I follow on Twitter, because they are my friends and I’m interested in them, who I would not follow on Quora, simply because we do not share significant interest in common so their questions and answers are less likely to be relevant to me. While Quora is social I’m not there for a social experience per se, I’m interested in learning and, where possible, giving back in the form of answers.

The quality of the information being shared currently is phenomenal. It’s common to see founders of companies, even very large companies, responding to questions about that company. Steve Case responds to questions about early AOL decisions. Ashton Kutcher gives his opinion on how to get cast for a show. Evan Williams shares how Twitter managed to blow up at SxSW. Insiders share the thinking behind business deals or technology advances. It’s very skewered towards Silicon Valley/tech/startup but if it can maintain this quality across other topics it will become a vital site for many people.

For cause-focused organizations Quora also provides another powerful platform for sharing knowledge and stories, building authority and connecting with people who care about your issue. This has to be done respectfully, by passionate advocates of the organization, speaking as themselves. Credibility is built by thoughtfully providing answers and asking honest questions about things you seek to know. Admitting you don’t know everything is more likely to build support than pretending you do, and may even bring you unexpected answers and ideas.

It will be interesting to see how Quora evolves under the strain of growing users and the need to improve the user interface to encourage less tech-savvy participants. What I do know is that right now I’m leaning more useful, actionable information from Quora than anywhere else. For those that never likes the 140 character constraints of Twitter Quora might be the social network for you. Here’s my response to a question on, where else?, Quora, Is Quora more interesting than Twitter right now? Why or why not?:

Absolutely. It’s the best of twitter and blogging together in some ways (although I don’t think it will replace or impact either). There is so much knowledge here, freely and cogently expressed, and this knowledge is vastly more searchable and accessible than that shared through Twitter. That said, I’m not sure Quora will be the relationship-building tool Twitter has been for me.

Are you using Quora? How are you finding it?


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It’s fun, and a strong blogging tradition, to look back over year just gone and create “best-of” lists. So here’s absolutely the definitive list of the best music, books and films from the year.

Just kidding, it’s just a random list of my favourite stuff of the past year, conjured by my imperfect memory and no-doubt riddled with omissions, but filled with gems regardless, promise!

Best Music (I discovered this year):

Tijuana Cartel

A great band from Australia’s Gold Coast introduced to me by a friend who stayed with us earlier in the year. alternative/electronic/hip hop/flamenco. Unique and awesome.


An incredibly-talented kid from Berkely whose first album “The Human Condition” will be released next month. We found him a couple of months ago via a friend and he’s been on high-rotation ever since. His sound is… um… pop-orchestral soul?

You can choose what you want to pay to download the album pre-release.


The ex-lead singer of Sigur Ros released his first solo album this year – “Go” – and it’s wonderful. As ethereal and soaring and gorgeous as you would imagine.


I adore Shpongle, so no surprise I think their latest album “Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongeland” is another classic.

Ulrich Schnauss

This album isn’t from 2010, or even close. A Strangely Isolated Place (which the track below is on) is from 2003, and Far Away Trains Passing By came out in 2001, but I only discovered them by chance this year and regret the years I was unaware of this gorgeous ambient music.

Best Books (I read this year):

The Tall Man – Death and Life on Palm Island – by Chloe Hooper

Absolutely my book of the year and genuinely one of the best things I’ve ever read, The Tall Man – Death and Life on Palm Island is the story of an Aboriginal death in police custody in 2004 and a searing portrait of white/indigenous relations. Should be required reading for all Australians.

Switch – How to Change Things When Change is Hard – by Dan Heath and Chip Heath

The follow up the Made To Stick, Chip and Dan Heath have done it again with Switch. It’s both an inspiring call to action and a practical hand-book for creating change in your life, community or world. Switch is written with the journalistic flair and storytelling style of Malcolm Gladwell but rather than describing a phenomenon it extracts lessons and teaches you how to do it too.

The Eternal Frontier – An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples – By Tim Flannery

America is a very big, very diverse and very beautiful country. After we drove from DC-SF in June I wanted to know more about how it got to be the way it was, so read Flannery’s riveting account of North America’s evolution over the past 65 million years. Ever since I have been able to impress friends with insights on how the Sequoia’s survived the asteroid impact, why most of the world’s edible nuts are from North America and how horses evolved here. Americans – if you want to understand the continent you are standing on, read this book.

Cognitive Surplus – Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age – by Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky is the internet whisperer. He brings together diverse trends and disparate information and weaves them all together to reveal a deeper and more nuanced picture of the world social technologies are creating. Like his previous book Here Comes Everybody it is the most insightful thing I’ve read on the subject, aimed not at illuminating some business strategy or risk as so many books on the internet are but instead designed to reveal how these technologies are changing our cultures, societies and, ultimately, us.

Rand McNally Road Atlas

We set off from DC with two smartphones, an iPad and a GPS. They weren’t nearly enough. With coverage in the middle of the country incredibly patchy and the GPS being useless for choosing long-distance routes on day 3 we bought a proper countrywide map, the kind you spread on your lap in the passenger seat (or “navigation station” is it became known) and get an overview of your next three days of driving and imagine alternative ways of getting there. So much more fun this way too.

Best Films (I saw this year):

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Banksy’s first film and, like much of his art, it’s edgy, unique and a lot of fun. It combines incredible footage of now-famous street artists like Space Invader and Shepard Fairey with a is-this-real-or-not portrayal of the arts industry they (and he) have created.


A wonderful and bitter-sweet biopic of the short-lived but groundbreaking political career of Harvey Milk. And we live just a few blocks from where it all happened!


One-third Alan Ginsberg biopic, one-third the courtroom drama of the Howl obscenity trial, and one-third a psychedelic animated reading of Howl, Ginsberg’s most famous poem. 100% great.

Avatar 3D

A genuine technical triumph. Just a great cinema experience.

Best Websites (I used for the first time this year):


I’m really enjoying keeping my alternative, shorter, “bits and bytes” blog over on Posterious. Check it out if you haven’t yet.


A super-intelligent question-and-answer site. So much wisdom so freely shared.


I’ve been looking for a homepage like this for a while.

Best Software (I used for the first time this year):


Integrates social media with gmail, a really powerful tool for building business relationships.


What I’m using to draft this post. The opposite of Rapportive in a way – it blocks out all the noise on your screen (social media notifications, tabs, various programs), giving you just a plain black box to type in. It’s helped me become much more productive when I write.

That’s more than enough, I hope you either had or are about to have (depending on where you are in the world) a fun and fabulous New Years Eve and that 2011 has amazing things in store for you.

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