A history lesson: Run-Over-Pedestrian-Gate

Srikar Vallabhaneni’s answer to What are some of the most controversial answers ever written on Quora?: an account of Run-Over-Pedestrian-Gate (Sep 2015).

That boycott threat that initiated Cordially Resistant? Look at the list of people who in fact did boycott Quora, for two weeks to a month, in the wake of Run-Over-Pedestrian-Gate:

Quora gossips will be amused by people boycotting Quora while distancing themselves from other people boycotting Quora.

One of the people doing the boycott started a career of Quora dissidence then. One of them was close to ending it, and was banned shortly afterwards. One of them was banned as a result of it. One of them is a good egg. One of them no longer posts here. One of them is as inner sanctum as it gets.

The upset against the instigator of Run-Over-Pedestrian-Gate was considerable, and the issue of personal intervention in Quora decision-making much more overt. This was a game played at much, much higher stakes than the bans of teen Quorans we have seen more recently.

Did anything come of that boycott?


Eivind Kjørstad, Sep 20, 2015

I don’t know if it’ll matter to you. But I’d like to tell you that some very minor steps DID get taken towards rectifying 2 of these wrongs.

First, Marco Procopio’s block got reversed. Marc acknowledged that blocking him was wrong, apologized, and undid it.

Secondly, Feifeis identical question about USA has been reinstated, and is no longer deleted.

Personally, I’m still disappointed in the way this has been handled, it’s good that those 2 things has been fixed, but I’d like to see a unblocking of Feifei and Noel too.

Read on in the thread:


Eivind Kjørstad Sep 20, 2015

I’m starting to think that it’s problematic to have the Top Brass for moderating the community be as active as he is in participating in it.

I mean, Tatiana looked at it, but you can’t really expect anyone to manage to neutrally decide on whether or not their own superior at work broke the rules.

Besides; even when the evaluation truly is fair; it will give the impression of not being; and impressions matter a whole lot in situations like this. If reasonable people reasonably get the IMPRESSION that Quora handles such things in a poor way, then that’s a problem no matter what the reality of it is.

And there’s one more thing; If you’re in position of authority like this, it’s really not enough that you stay a hairs breath inside the rules. You want to stay such a comfortable distance from the edge that nobody can even reasonably accuse you of having overstepped.

If you’re top brass at a anti-DUI-organization and you’re pulled over with a BAC of 0.075% then you’ve royally messed up; even if you’re in a state where the legal limit is 0.08%.

Instead, what I hear is: “I really think my behaviour was marginally on the right side of the limit, and employees of mine confirm this, so I don’t see a problem.”

And that’s a problem.

For better or worse, I don’t think we’ve had anything *that* blatant in the past two years. And there is an upside to the Quora staff not using their own product—at least, not as much as the particular former staff member did.

Eivind Kjørstad, btw. Once again, confirmed as a Good Egg.

Will Quora launch a version to support any languages with non Latin scripts?

Refer to Nick Nicholas’ answer to After “Quora auf Deutsch” what is the next language Quora will target? for the summary of the Lohr /Nicholas/Stefani deliberations on Quora internationalisation.

Quora will launch a non-Latin script version of the site when it fits their commercial imperatives. D’Angelo is already on record that he will give Chinese a miss, because of the impenetrability of the Chinese market (Quora raises $85 million to expand internationally and develop its ads business). Similar constraints may well apply to Russian, and to Japanese. Islamophobia among VCs may get in the way of Arabic. As already noted in Heidi Cool’s answer, the high level of English literacy in India precludes Hindi.

It’s a tossup between Russian, Japanese, and Arabic, and I suspect Portuguese will get implemented before any of them.

What motivates you to write?

A2A by Abigail (Abbey) Beach. See, Liana? I’m not ignoring your A2As; it just takes me a while to get through them.

By the time I met PROF Anne FREADMAN,

I was the departmental IT guy, setting up Macs, and misquoting Peirce to her, a Peirce specialist.

She certainly did not owe me any academic mentoring.

Yet bless her, she did. And one of the pieces of academic mentoring she offered me was how to get me motivated to write academic papers.

Just read what other people have written. You’re eventually going to be so annoyed with how bad everyone else’s work is, you’ll want to write your own.

No, esteemed fellow Quorans! I am not saying that if I answer a question you have already answered, it is because what you’ve written is crap!

… at least, not always. 🙂

But yes, realising that other people do not have the last word on something, realising that you have something to add to the conversation; being, in fact, part of a conversation. That is a powerful motivator.

That’s what you get here.

You know what is not a powerful motivator? Just having something to say, if it’s outside of a conversation. I wrote a fair few academic papers. They were pretty niche, the only people that might care to read them were in Greece, and I wasn’t over there.

There wasn’t really a conversation: I was shooting out papers, and never heard anything back. After a few years, I stopped writing papers.

What is a brief history of Quora Moderation?

As Konstantinos Konstantinides’ answer says, you have to go digging to find out. I joined in August 2015, when the new dispensation of moderation was already in place; and by the time I started paying attention to moderation (after Jimmy Liu was banned in May 2016), Run-Over-Pedestrian-Gate had already been and gone.

I haven’t dug enough; but this is what I have pieced together. See also: Research:Online Community Conduct Policies/Quora

What are the policies and guidelines around Quora profile pictures?

Quora’s answer to What is Quora’s Policy on Sex-Related Content? What is Quora’s policy about nudity and sexual images? What about answers and comments that use sexual language/content in questions that aren’t about sex?

Sexual and sexually-provocative images. Sexual, sex-related, and sexually-provocative images are only allowed on pages involving adult topics and which have been tagged with the appropriate Quora Adult topic(s) (i.e., Specific Types of Adult Content, Sex and/or other topics), which will restrict its distribution. See How can I control whether I see adult content on Quora?

Because user profile pictures appear throughout the site, sex-related image content are not permitted in profile pictures.

What are the most important new discoveries that have been made about the ancient world in the 21st Century?

In Greek philology, the biggest finds this century have been:

  • The previously unreadable texts in the Archimedes Palimpsest, that have become readable through a synchrotron, including a couple of new texts by Archimedes, a new speech by Hyperides, and a new commentary on Aristotle by Alexander of Aphrodisias. Transcribed and released in 2008, though only the Hyperides speech has had scholarly publication to date.
  • Two new sets of fragments by Sappho, in 2004 and 2014; the latter includes the Brothers Poem—here recited by Quora’s Own Ioannis Stratakis:

Stratakis’ podium-arts.com is not a new discovery, as such, but it is certainly an invaluable 21st century resource…

Should people be banned from Quora?

Thanks for A2A, Stephen McInerney.

I run Necrologue, and the stream of banned users I keep posting, including users I have come to consider friends, has made me numb and disillusioned. The reflexive defending of current moderation practices, by beneficiaries of The tribunal of the marshals, has made me break communion with some of them, and block them—including one respondent to this thread.

It is also the case that the bans that get attention are the ones that should be controversial. The no-account no-follower spammers? The overt trolls and death threats and illiterates? Noone notices their passing, noone questions their banning, and noone laments them. The ban needs to be an option to Moderation.

It also needs to be an option wielded with discretion and judgement. Informed and sensitive judgement. Human judgment. The judgment, in fact, already afforded to a subset of users by the Tribunal of the Marshals, at least if the user exceeds some objective notability threshold. (The Quill is not an objective notability threshold.) It was thus before the Great Insourcing of Moderation. I do not have confidence that it is the case now.

I agree with Peter Flom’s answer; but where he says “It just needs to be done a bit better”, I’d say “a hell of a lot better.”

Not that it will.

If Socrates came to Quora, would he be run off for being a “troll” by the PC Squad?

Erica Friedman’s answer to What distinguishes honest questions from sealioning?

Coda: Another version of this same question (ah, irony!) asked what made sealioning different from Socratic method. Socratic method – as Socrates executed it – is a completely different form of trolling, but do not doubt that it was trolling. Socratic method – as Socrates executed it – is meant to lead an unclear thinker to deny the position they initially took with slightly misleading questions. It is no more sincere than sealioning, but is a different form of being a jerk.

How does Quora have an above average number of smart people relative to other social networking sites?

Some answers pooh-pooh the notion that Quora is social networking—as does Quora itself. To which I say, pooh-pooh right back atcha. If you want to use a Q&A site with no social networking frippery, you use Stack Exchange. And Quora is not Stack Exchange.

(Even though, ironically, Stack Exchange has much better gamification than Quora does.)

Some answers also point out that Quora is not immune to social media stupidity, which indeed it isn’t—though I don’t know that I long for the Elder Days of Quora, when you could get any question you wanted answered on Quora, as long as it was about venture capital. There is an Eternal September phenomenon on Quora, but I certainly don’t want to go back to the Internet of 1993.

So, Quora does indeed attract a higher proportion of smart people than other social networking sites do. Why is that?

I nominate three factors.

Early Hubris. Quora was founded with unsustainable hubris. It was going to be the go-to destination for anyone of woman born that ever had a question. It was going to have the best answer to any question. It was going to replace Wikipedia. It was eventually going to replace Google.

I’m not making this shit up. Look at some of the early stuff D’Angelo was writing.

That was nonsense, and it was nonsense that it took a long time for Quora management to walk back from. (It has, mercifully; D’Angelo now talks about the best-informed opinions, rather than the best facts.) But the mission that Quora set out for itself attracted smart people, because they were interested in giving those best answers. Even if at the very start Quora had a very narrow focus, it soon broadened enough that a critical mass of smart people were contributing to it.

And of course, even before that, the hype. Oh, the hype. The hype made it clear that Quora was where smart people would hang out and give smart answers. That perception of Quora has endured to this day; not without justification, although the other two factors are what have ensured that it remains justified. Jennifer Edeburn and I have independently defined Quora as Facebook For Smart People. (I think Jennifer’s daughter’s term was Geek Facebook?) The infamous article How to Get Thousands of Leads from Quora in Five Months defines Quora as “a question-and-answer site and community for intellectuals to voice their opinions—think Yahoo Answers but with actual good advice.”

Network Effects. Smart content begets smart content. Once a critical mass of smart content is there, smart people will notice it in their googlings (or however else they come to be aware of Quora), start reading what they find interesting, and eventually start contributing more of the same.

And the much-pooh-pooh’d social networking frippery is what keeps them here. Absent the gamification of Stack Exchange, or the professional reach Stack Overflow already has within that stable, social networking frippery was always going to be how it keeps them here. Even if D’Angelo allegedly wanted to do away with comments.

Then again, I’m not sure it matters what D’Angelo or Cheever (remember him?) originally had in mind. I’m happy that Quora exists alongside Stack Exchange, rather than as the more bombastic duplicate of it.

Good Content Curation. There is much about how Quora is run that I have little time for, as those who have been reading me know. Quora Design? Runs around in circles, and accidentally generates 20% of Quora content, through people asking how to do things now that the UX has changed. Quora Moderation? The unseen 90% of what it does makes this a better place. The seen 10% of what it does deserves all the vituperation it gets. Quora Community Curation? What Quora Community Curation? It takes a little more than a Patagonia Jacket to sustain a community, rather than having your best writers repeatedly feel fungible and flee.

But Content Curation: that the bots do well. Good answers really do float to the top of the answers to any given question. They do get exposure. The topic bot is stupid, but not so stupid or resistant to community topic gnoming that it doesn’t generate real value. (QCR is another matter.)

As a result, when you come to Quora, you see smart people’s smart content quickly, and you often have to hunt to see dumb people’s dumb content. (The multiple iterations of comment redesign have been an attempt at this as well, though a rather more brutish one.) That makes it obvious to newcomers that there is smart content to be had here, and if they happen to be smart, it motivates them to stay.

How do Greeks feel about the fall of Constantinople?

I’m somewhat confused by several answers talking about the present day status of Istanbul, or Golden Dawn’s vision of retaking the City.

Greeks may continue to refer to Istanbul as Constantinople (except for the Rum that actual live there), but most of them do know the difference between the Byzantine city of yore and the modern Turkish city.

And the dividing line between the two, the 1453 Fall, is still a defining event in how Greeks see their identity. It is a disproportionate reaction to what actually happened historically: the real damage was done in 1204, and the city state of 1453 was not worth salvaging. If anything, it is an insult to the thousand years that preceded it: what Greeks have come to care most about the Byzantine Empire is that the Turks conquered it. And focusing on what you have lost is not how you go about standing up on your feet again.

A lot of the focus on 1453 has been driven by nationalist education. Even more of it has been driven by the need for a creation myth for the hostility between Greeks and Turks, which has deep roots.

Yet myths do matter. Almost as much as history does. It remains a signpost, and it remains a Shrine of folk memory.