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Thanks to Quora, now you can’t read anonymously

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Quora, which I believe is one of the most over-hyped startups, has introduced Views on Quora, which essentially shares which users have read each post. This is no different than the passive sharing that has been promoted by Facebook or Path. Now on a closed network like Path, which is based entirely on intimate relationships, I can understand passive sharing. After all, if you have seen my photo or a check-in and I know that, it is okay because you are on my approved list.

However, the kind of sharing Quora is promoting doesn’t jive with me. And neither does it sit well with author Jeff Jarvis, who despite years of advocacy about the benefits of living in public isn’t a fan of this view feature.

While it is understandable for social services to use passive sharing — after all, it quantifies the act of content creation and/or content sharing –but I do feel that anonymous reading has its value.

Quora exec Marc Bodnick tells AllThingsD’s Liz Gannes:

“People on Quora are writing to be read. What we’re telling you is that Quora is a distribution mechanism that works.”

Like many others on the Internet, I too get lured into clicking headlines that are intriguing only to find myself on a list or a news item that only infuriates me. So to see my name associated with that page is disingenuous. Also, if I spent two seconds on a page, does it really count as a “view?”

Liz, who has written about the death of online lurking, wrote in a post last month:

“Passive becomes active. Lean back becomes lean forward. Stalking becomes, well, showing you’re interested in someone.”

In other words, the so-called Quora view that is generated is a false endorsement. What if I have landed on the the post accidentally or have been lured there?  I see this is a curse of Facebook (s fb), which has propagated the positive bias syndrome on the web thanks to its Like button. It is not surprising — Quora was started by ex-Facebookers, who like the social-giant itself don’t seem to put real human context around the data signals. (It is not the only bad behavior they have carried over from Facebook.)

How to get rid of Views: Click on your profile icon (top right hand corner) and hit settings in the drop down menu. Find Views (just above Deactivate option) in the right hand column. Click and chose no. Views are turned off.

30 Responses to “Thanks to Quora, now you can’t read anonymously”

  1. Hmm, I have long felt to be strong benefits to the minimisation of lurking. In other words, if you decide to watch someone, they should be aware that you are watching them (same goes for marketers, law enforcement, etc.). So I welcome this change… TO AN EXTENT. Non-lurking is not the same as public endorsement. In other words, I think it would be a good idea if the person who made a post/comment/etc. could see everyone who read it. I do not think it is a good idea if EVERYONE can see the same.

  2. “Like many others on the Internet, I too get lured into clicking headlines that are intriguing only to find myself on a list or a news item that only infuriates me.”

    Seems like you’ve got anger/ego issues. Log off the Internet, go outside, watch the birds play. Life’s too short to be “infuriated” by news items.

  3. TechGuy

    I can only imagine this will reduce the amount of people who read controversial or sensitive questions. I wouldn’t want everyone knowing I was interested in certain subjects.

    Also there seems some potential problems if one were to secretly redirect people to embarrassing posts on Quora just so they show up as having read it.

  4. Owen Byrne

    I’m having trouble resolving the “can’t” in the headline with the last paragraph in the article, that basically tells you that you still “can” read anonymously. Am I missing something?

  5. Quora has gone the way of expert-sexchange, showing up in Google search results for interesting questions, but then overlaying/replacing most answers with blur and “sign up to read”.
    Borderline SERP cloaking, to say the least.

  6. david payne

    Well, I can tell you, Quora is flawed. The top voted answer isn’t always the best or accurate. So if you’re looking for the right information, Quora doesn’t have much. What Quora has is some big guys like CEO’s of huge corporations using it, so it might take a while for them to fade off. And I really hope they fade off, because its not accurate. You rather not give someone an answer instead of giving them a wrong answer.

  7. Tom Morris

    So, this is why this scares the shit out of me. Today, I answered a question on Quora from someone who wanted to commit suicide because he was mortified about being gay. It’s filled with positive and supportive responses. But that’s the sort of post which shouldn’t be “passively shared”.

  8. Tim Letscher

    Om, you hit the nail on the head regarding link baiting headlines that we all sometimes click on and then just as quickly hit the back button or close the tab.

    In a similar vein, I wonder how many Viddy and Socialcam viewers felt more than a bit sheepish to discover that their hundreds of Facebook friends could see they had just watched “dude gets punched in the face” or some other captivating social video in the app’s Popular tabs. This frictionless world of the open graph is going to take a different level of awareness about our actions online.

  9. netgarden

    I love Quora, and am regularly surprised by the interesting threads that I discover (usually via Twitter), but I HATE this idea.

    Why should I have to qualify before I click whether the click is worth broadcasting? How does that serve me as the user?

  10. Zachary Reiss-Davis

    I very much agree with the Jeff Jarvis quote (and just retweeted it) — I like pushing a lot of stuff public, but what I read isn’t close to being on the list.

  11. Concerned Individual

    What’s most disturbing is that they followed Facebook’s approach of degrading your privacy settings without your consent. Such behavior should be outlawed on any web site.