This fate has befallen me: e.g. Am I shallow or superficial for thinking Australia’s aboriginals are the least attractive race of humans in the world? (QUESTION DELETED) by Nick Nicholas on Opɯdʒɯlɯklɑr In Exile. I’ve just been asked this in PM about another instance of an offensive question with answers skilfully refuting its problematic assumptions: Mike DiGirolamo’s answer to Is it right to be publicly anti-gay?
Even if the questions are offensive, good answers refuting those assumptions are useful and constructive, right? They spread knowledge and virtue, they can motivate great writing, they can challenge readers and make them more critical. So why get rid of them?
Read it, because he nails what it is Quora is after, and indirectly, why Quora would not give a toss about the virtuous answers deleted along with the offensive questions.
Quora is only interested in answers to questions. Specifically, answers to questions people are likely to google (and, I should add, that will not scare off advertisers).
Their primary interest is not good writing. Not virtue. Not challenging readers. It’s providing answers to Google-worthy questions.
What brings new users to Quora? High-quality answers that provide domain expertise to questions as they are asked.
Going beyond is fine. Adding personality is fine. But many writers looking to build an audience end up doing the three things that Quora views as unhelpful, effectively treating questions as writer’s prompts instead of narrow knowledge queries.
While there can be genuine value in this (e.g., exposing the hidden bias inherent in a short-sighted question), the future value of Quora as a platform is tied to the IPA market (Siri, Google Assistant, etc.) — which means that bio credibility and domain expertise are far more valuable than writing or entertainment skills.
In fact, look at Quora’s answer to What does a good answer on Quora look like? What does it mean to “be helpful”?, which Jeremy cites:
You should always assume that people are asking in good faith and really want help. Helpful answers don’t change the subject, obsess over faulty premises, or make fun of the question.
Quora does not want you to “obsess over faulty premises” of an offensive question. And the offensive question will attract undersirables, and repel advertisers. Quora just wants the question gone.
Btw, I deeply enjoy writing answers that “obsess over faulty premises”, both in the question and in other answers; I love applying my critical faculties and going beyond the glib first answer that pops through people’s outrage. That enjoyment is certainly worth more to me than a jacket.