How can I have my question answered by the right person on Quora?

  1. Lurk in a topic for a little while. Go through the list of most viewed writers, and check whether they look like they know what they are talking about.
  2. When you A2A, go to the View More menu, then go to the relevant topic, and pick not the first people that come up, but the names you recognise as knowing what they talk about, and failing that, the names with the most answers in the topic.
  3. You can’t find a relevant topic? Then for pity’s sake, go back and tag the right topics on the question. That’s actually step 0.

Do you pronounce BMW as “bee em double-u” or as “bey em vey”?

English: Bee Em Double You.

Australian English: Beamer.

Greek: well, Greek only referenced English as its default foreign language in the last generation. So it’s the German pronunciation: Beh Em Veh. (Μπε εμ βε)

Cypriot Greek: from memory, Pemve (Πεμβέ) —/b/ is rendered in Cypriot Greek as /p/, since Cypriot Greek has a three way contrast of /ᵐb p pʰ/.

NLP children

Natural Language Processing is locked.

Fell upon Arabic NLP. A bit niche, but ok. Tried to make it child of Natural Language Processing. Failed.

Should the topic deprecate in favour of Arabic (language) + Natural Language Processing? Or should it stand, and have a bunch of child topics? It only has 5 followers and 2 questions.

Why do you really loathe Quora?

Strange things are afoot. Until those things are clarified, I’m holding back on saying anything about them.

But I have been thinking a lot about what my responsibility is in criticising Quora, and I have been challenged by a couple of people on what I should be doing.

I welcome these challenges. There’s no learning without challenge, there’s no maturing without challenge. And even if I do not agree with the challenges, it’s incumbent on me to articulate why, and to do so rationally. I owe that to those who challenge me in good faith.

Before the latest weirdness, I received a message 10 days ago from Abd Ul-Rahman Lomax. Abd Ul-Rahman will be known to some of you from the Quora Users Free Association, which welcomes banned users on its mailing list. With his permission, I’m posting his challenge here, and my response to it—which gave me the opportunity to introspect, on why I get so worked up about things I see wrong with Quora.

I’d like for this to be a dialogue, with him and others, and I welcome thoughts in comments.

Abd Ul-Rahman:

My suggestion. Lighten up on the loathing. So Quora Inc. is poorly managed. If I were a shareholder, I’d be screaming at them. However, that would stress my heart and I could fall over and die. Further, people rarely respond well to being loathed. Quora Inc. does not actually exist in reality, it’s a human concept and construct, but people who work for Quora may take it personally.


So, on the scale of problems in the world, of course Quora Inc doesn’t even rate. And I don’t spend night and day plotting their demise, honest I don’t. Even if it sounds like it. I haven’t even had the heart to do any more memes about Quora, on The Memes of Production; I’d be seeking out things to protest, if I did, and I don’t want to do that.

Moreover, I’ve started to make a conscious effort to be constructive in my criticisms. Especially on Rage Against Quora (I will not piss on the welcome mat in Tatiana’s house), but even in general. Yes, the spikiness is still there in my criticisms back on my own turf; but I try not to seek it out, and honestly I wish I got less A2As on it. I didn’t join Quora to protest an admin team.

So what is it that gets me so annoyed? At a secondary remove, the apparent mismanagement, sure; and that’s been sharpened by conversation with Scott Welch, who after all has excellent insights in how to run an IT-based company. But that’s secondary.

And it’s not because I’ve been impacted all that much by misfires on Quora. I got no moderation notices my first 15 months here. Whatever UI misfeatures impact me, they’re just annoyances.

It’s because I have formed friendships here. And I am indignant on behalf of my friends, when they are mis-targeted, or put out, or frustrated.

And because I made a conscious decision. I am IRL a meek person. A conformist. Part of the problem, if you will. I decided that here, to maintain my self-respect, I would speak out more at what I see as unfair. Maybe because the stakes here are not all that high, ultimately. Maybe because online it’s easier.

Yes, it likely has backfired with the humans behind Quora Inc. I haven’t had outright snark from them yet, but I may yet. And yes, this may cost me the TW, although you know, the TW honestly isn’t that big a deal. Then again, if they curate a community, they have a responsibility to be aware of the problems the community has. I do try to speak more for them than for me.

And just as you put together the Quora Users Free Association (which I was aware of), I put together Necrologue. To serve the community where it was not being served, although in different ways.

But yes, you are entirely right. Be the change, don’t let any struggle consume you, and keep perspective. Thank you for pulling me up on this.

Would you prefer a (new) Bounty system at Quora?

See the Quora Knowledge Prize topic and . Such a prize already exists, and is funded by external sponsors. These are the current questions:

The topic has a lot of questions about misgivings on the prize; and the prizes to date have been on just IT and US politics.

Why are there so many more answers to “how to” questions compared to other forms of questions?

I don’t know whether there are more answers to “how to” questions than others, and I think it is an artefact of your topics. I tend towards humanities topics in my feed rather than technical topics, and there’s not a whole lot of room for “how” there: there’s a lot more “why”. I also have a lot of Quora Socialising in my feed (such as Survey Questions and Quora itself), and they’re not “why” or “how”: they’re mostly “let’s swap anecdotes”.

I am interested to hear from others in tech topics whether OP’s impression is accurate.

I have some dimestore speculation for why tech topics would have more hows than whys:

  • More how questions: The Stack Exchange model: I come to a Q&A site in response to an immediate practical need. I don’t need a why, and I don’t need an analysis, I need a fix to a problem or challenge I am currently facing. That’s not to denigrate the answers you’ll get: all of us who program are deeply grateful to Stack Exchange for getting us out of fixes. All of us also know that Stack Exchange is not where you go to for longterm prognostication of programming language trends.
  • More how answers: It is easier to reproduce my praxis in an answer (this is how I go about a task), than it is to reason about the causes and motivations behind a phenomenon (this is why things are the way they are, this is why people are more interested in doing task A than B, this is why you’re coming to a Q&A site). That’s not to say that the people answering hows are dumber than the people answering whys; hopefully they substantially overlap! It is to say that a how answer is just easier to write than a why answer: you don’t have to go digging as deep, you just recount what you do.

Where did the pronunciation of Ancient Greek (in modern times) come from? Who determined that it should sounds this way and why?

The ball got rolling, as Pronunciation of Ancient Greek in teaching – Wikipedia notes, in the early Renaissance, a generation before Erasmus. Erasmus published the system that prevailed in the West since, and that was a closer approximation of the modern reconstruction than Modern Greek pronunciation was:

The study of Greek in the West expanded considerably during the Renaissance, in particular after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, when many Byzantine Greek scholars came to western Europe. At this time, Greek texts were universally pronounced using the medieval pronunciation which survives intact to the present day.

From about 1486, various scholars (notably Antonio of Lebrixa, Girolamo Aleandro, and Aldus Manutius) judged that this pronunciation appeared to be inconsistent with the descriptions handed down by ancient grammarians, and suggested alternative pronunciations. This work culminated in Desiderius Erasmus’ dialogue De recta Latini Graecique sermonis pronuntiatione (1528). The system propounded in this work is called the Erasmian pronunciation.

The pronunciation described by Erasmus is very similar to that currently regarded by most authorities as the authentic pronunciation of Classical Greek (notably the Attic dialect of the 5th century BC). However Erasmus did not actually use this pronunciation himself.

The Modern reconstruction was informed by more close reading of the ancient authorities, internal reconstruction, better knowledge of ancient dialects through inscriptions, and comparative historical linguistics. Once you look at the comparisons of Greek with Sanskrit and Latin, the reconstruction becomes pretty obvious.

What is the most popular swear phrase in your language or country and what does it mean?

For Greek, I’d say γαμώτο, which is Mediaeval Greek for “fuck it!” (The Modern Greek is το γαμώ). See Nick Nicholas’ answer to What’s the best translation of the intensifier “the fuck” in other languages?, with further erudite syntactic discussion thereof.

See also Nick Nicholas’ answer to How do you say swear words in Greek?, although they are not swear phrases (as in, expressions of anger). “To my balls” στ’ αρχίδια μου and “To my dick” στον πούτσο μου (meaning, “I have contempt for you”) are pretty popular, and I was delighted to find the former is shared with Turkish and Azeri.

Should Emily Savage be unbanned from Quora?

Don’t know Emily. I posted her on Necrologue when notified of her banning, and asked her friend to convey my regrets, as I regret any ban.

The general argument I will address is, should sock-puppetting be zero-tolerance, or should there be the possibility of cutting users some slack?

  1. I know people who have “accidentally” (in fact, no-quotes accidentally) created second accounts, and appealed their ban successfully. I know people who have no-quotes accidentally created second accounts, and were permabanned.
  2. The proportion of people being banned for sockpuppetting—including longstanding, very popular Quora Users—is astounding. Don’t risk it, people. They will find you, and they will nuke you.
  3. Quora’s onboarding is execrable. No, strike that, it would be execrable if it even existed. People have to go looking, to find out what a big deal sockpuppetting is to moderation.
  4. Myself, I think sockpuppetting is a far lesser issue than trolling and threats, just as I am unconvinced that Real Name insistence actually achieves much of anything. But that’s my opinion, I don’t run Quora, and neither do you guys.

Assuming for the sake of argument that Emily sockpuppetted inadvertently, at least initially—which is what is being said here.

  • The arguments for bringing Emily back are: precedent (there have been successful appeals), corporate responsibility of Quora for poor onboarding, and, well, mercy. Which should be a part of any justice system. Take the circumstances into account, take the likelihood to reoffend, allow the person some good character references. Cut the kid some slack. She won’t do it again. She didn’t mean to.
  • The arguments against bringing Emily back are: consistency (Quora can’t be seen to be playing favourites), clarity (those are the rules, no exceptions), and what Marc Bodnick once delightfully called the “rule-bound” nature of Quora Moderation (or something like that): apply rules absolutely, without wiggle-room, so that moderators (including subcontractors and bots) don’t have to expend an inordinate amount of time on decisions.

I know which side I’m on. I can see which side Quora is likely to be on. But I’m laying out the reasoning on both sides as I see it.