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Summary:

I’ve been looking at Quora to see if it might be valuable for web workers. I’m skeptical that sites powered by the public can provide fast and reliable information. But here are some things you can do to improve exposure for your questions.

Quora

I’ve been looking at Quora for the last month, trying to figure out if it might be valuable for web workers.

What Can You Do On Quora?

In simple terms, you can ask a question on Quora and include some details for your question; comment on a question; answer a question; add a followup question, or flag a question. You can also publish a post to Quora, but for now, let’s just focus on the Q&A portion of the site.

Using Quora can be very confusing at first. Finding a topic, for example, isn’t immediately obvious or intuitive. Your only option seems to be “Add Question” in the field that appears at the top of the page. If you start entering a question, the site begins looking for questions with similar words, presenting them in a drop-down menu.

To find a topic, you need to enter a keyword, rather than a question. This will cause keyword matches to appear in the drop-down menu. You can then select the closest match, without having to click on the “Add Question” button. You can find a person or reference in the same manner.

To “filter” information from Quora, you can follow a topic or question, then receive notifications on your Quora home page about these activities. You can also specify 40 different activities that will trigger emails to you. While the granularity of settings is commendable, it can be intimidating to a new user.

How to Get Your Quora Questions Noticed

I’ve had extremely low response to my questions so far. The most-answered question I’ve posted had to do with relating Twitter to current events; the question was more asking for opinion than factual information.

Here are a few things you can do to improve exposure for your question:

  1. Ask compelling questions where others can showcase their knowledge and experience.
  2. Add topics to your question to tie it in to relevant areas on the site. Once your question has been posted, click the link above it.
  3. Share your question with your network, through the Twitter and Facebook buttons on the right side of your question’s page; via Quora’s inbox to share with someone specific; through your other social networks as updates; and even via email.
  4. Answer other people’s questions thoughtfully to build your reputation and profile on the site.

Over time, it seems like your valuable contributions on Quora will bolster the chances of your own questions being seen and answered.

Will Quora Be Useful for Work?

At the moment, many people are probably participating in Quora because it’s been getting a lot of notice. Until recently, Quora relied on a small group to ask and answer questions. At that stage, there wasn’t as much noise, so it was easier to see new questions. There was probably even a bit of “peer pressure” or reputation-building. But since the new year, all heck has broken loose.

In actual use, getting your answer addressed — and in a quality, thoughtful manner — seems to require:

  • the “right” people noticing it or being notified of it,
  • being posted at the “right” time, and
  • providing the “right” incentive for others with appropriate training or skills to respond quickly and thoughtfully.

Having a strong social network may help expand the reach of your question, but only if your network is paying attention, and all the other variables are in alignment.

In a recent post, Mathew Ingram asked if Quora can survive its growing popularity. Quora has features and algorithms that could help create the environment needed to generate quality responses. It would be a shame if Quora turned out to be based more on popularity than relevance or importance.

Like anything that relies on the serendipity of the right people, the right time, and the right question, Quora may not necessarily be “useful.”  Or it may be folly to rely too much on Quora, or such sites as Yahoo Answers, Mahalo Answers, ChaCha, LinkedIn Answers, and Aardvark, for any serious work. I’m skeptical that sites powered by the public can provide fast and reliable information, particularly for work-related needs.

What do you think of Quora? Has it helped you accomplish any actual work?

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub. req.):

  1. Matthew Frederick Sunday, January 9, 2011

    Many of the StackExchange sites are very active; it’s not uncommon to start getting answers within minutes, especially during the US day. The parent site, StackOverflow, is especially active and is a godsend for developers, making their work easier every day.

    Quora’s lack of directory/topic list confounds me. While it might make the site seem less intimidating at first glance, it also makes it appear to be useless.

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  2. I am not a big fan of Q&A websites thanks to extremely unhelpful responses to questions from people just looking for traffic to their websites/blogs. Was wary of Quora but decided to give it a try last week. And it pleasantly surprised me. Yes, it’s a little hard to find your way around the place in the beginning but its not exactly rocket-science. What I loved was the simplicity of the website – clean, sharp looks with no fancy flash-work or ads popping up. The whole ambiance is warm and welcoming although the following post did leave me with a bit of a bad aftertaste: http://www.quora.com/Lucretia-M-Pruitt/Welcome-to-Quora-Do-Yourself-a-Favor-Slow-Down …. but we are all entitled to our opinions. Having said that, I am thinking of starting a VA services providing firm and I asked a couple of questions to understand what my first steps should be and I got a great response from users. The answers actually made sense and were very helpful unlike the usual links posting to articles on the web that one gets on Yahoo Answers! or LinkedIn Answers. So, I for one, am a fan. Will that change in the future? Only the future will tell.

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  3. I’m still trying to get an invite to quoar, can any1 send me one pls My email is t at the domain listed as my site, I don’t want my comment to go to spam filter

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  4. The quality of answers on Quora is currently very high, as oppose to many of the Q&A sites. StackOverflow is an incredible resource for developers. An SO question with a great answer is very often the first and best result on a Google results page for a development query. If Quora remains high quality, I think it will become a really useful resource over time.

    I’m interested in private Q&A tools for organisations. Your colleagues would be the people answering your work-related questions, as they do on email, but with a searchable archive.

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  5. [...] recently wrote about using Quora for getting answers to business-related questions. While I think the quality of conversation on Quora can be good, sometimes you feel like you are [...]

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