What is Quora for?

Oh what a day it’s been. I’m overwhelmed with comments to answer in the wake of QuoraDetailsGate (Changes to further emphasize canonical questions by Sumi Kim on Quora Product Updates), and it isn’t letting up.

One of those comments provoked my latest thinking on what Quora is for, a topic that I’ve been in a lot of discussion about today. Forwarding for consideration:


I think the knowledge database doesn’t really make sense as a goal: with all the bots in the world, there’s too much human noise in the questions to extract The Right Answer through machine learning. Although bots can get a hell of a lot out of the answers anyway.

The Facebook For Smart People is real, and it’s happened, but I don’t think that matters to Quora.

The Peacock Den (Robert Maxwell: Maxwell’s Peacocks) is also real; Quora’s friendly to it, because it brings in Benjamins and Benjamins-enabling buzz. But the real money is still where David Rose identified it: in the ads. Scott Welch’s answer to When do you think Quora is going to end?(Rose is one of the VCs who advertises here, and he’s the guy who got the scales to drop from Welch’s eyes. He’s pro the latest change, btw 🙂

I think there’s some belief in the “democratising knowledge” thing up in Mountain View, although it’s confused; the most cogent presentation of current thinking on Quora’s Mission is Mills Baker’s answer to Why should designers work at Quora?, and I have real trouble following it.

But the advertising revenue must have been in D’Angelo’s mind from the beginning; as I was discussing with I think Nancy Jacobsen today, if D’Angelo was just doing this for philanthropic reasons, he would have joined Wikipedia. Quora was never going to be a not-for-profit.

So: lots of advertising revenue (the peacocks are the cherry on top); lots of machine learning tech which, if they have any sense, they’re commercialising; and some vague notion of Furthering Knowledge For The People, which can stay aspirational.

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