Why do some Quorans reject the Top Writer title?

You know, I had a long post on this issue written at my The Insurgency blog. The draft got deleted by the ever-malfeatured Quora UI, because I was under a too-frequent blog post block. (Who knew? Nick Nicholas’ answer to What is the rate limit when you get this message on Quora?)

So I’ll try to recreate that post here, as a meditation on a Shermanesque statement about TW. As in:

If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve.

Some might think this a flounce. To them, I say: Flounce off. These are my misgivings about accepting TW, should I be offered it, and they are pertinent to what the question is asking.

Those that know me on Quora know that I am a Welchite about Quora: that I am disgruntled with a lot about how Quora is run, both day-to-day and underlyingly. I have just created a whole blog about my gripes: The Insurgency.

Those that know me also know that I have become a moderately popular writer on Quora (800k views, 800 followers). Laura Hale has run the numbers (Laura Hale’s answer to How can I become a Top Writer on Quora?), and that level of popularity likely makes me eligible for Top Writer next year.

(Some might think that is awfully presumptuous of me, for there are no doubt worthier recipients. I’m sure there are. But I am eligible, so again: Flounce off.)

This raises a conundrum, that my astute friend Clarissa Lohr has remarked on, and that in fact I have been pondering for a few months. If I dislike Quora Inc. and their lack of transparency so intensely—including in how they award TWs—then would I welcome formal recognition by them?

These are my pros and cons:

  • I have invested much time and effort, much intellect and emotion, in my content here, and in curating the community here. It would be nice to see my efforts acknowledged. PRO.
  • I don’t go looking for the quill when I pick who to follow. It certainly doesn’t count as a guarantee of quality to me. In fact, I find myself following people despite the quill rather than because of it, when they have it. MILD CON.
  • As with so much else in Quora Inc., there is no transparency in how it is awarded, and there is suspicion about whether it is withheld from people out of favour with Quora Inc. (I don’t care if it’s true or not; this is about perception, and the lack of transparency guarantees the perception.) CON.
  • There are many things I dislike about people who are TWs; I’ve listed a few at What are some aspects of famous Quorans that you dislike? (DELETED QUESTION). They include cliquishness, upvotes independent of quality, hectoring, and lack of two-way engagement.
    The thing is, though, they’re not really the result of the quill: they’re just correlated with the quill. They’re the result of being an extremely popular (and thus overstretched) writer, or of being the kind of writer who lots of people will follow (and thus make popular). I’ve caught myself starting to succumb to unmerited upvotes, for example, because I have a cadre of mutual upvoters (though at least I keep saying “Vote #1 Person Who Had A Better Answer”).
    The dislikables would apply regardless of whether Ms MegaSuperstar Quoran, with 50k followers, 300 notifications a day, and 70 simultaneous arguments in comments, had a quill or not. I would still need to work against them and not be an asshole on here, whether I got the quill or not. NEITHER.
  • The existence of the quill cultivates an atmosphere of Us vs Them, of plebs vs patricians; this was an early criticism of the scheme, and it persists. The more one ascends the rungs of popularity, the less pressing that concern seems. But then again, Hristo Smirnenski has an ever-timely slap in the face for those who do: The Tale Of The Stairs. I’m not Above the users with 5 followers and 2 posts a week; and I don’t come here to feel Above them. MILD CON.
  • The TWs are cultivated by Quora Inc as favoured users, with their own Facebook lounges, rumoured early access to new releases (though apparently that has actually happened only once), better access to Quora staff, and more of a say in the development of the product. Power users are good people to use as a testbed and a sounding board, that is true. But given how little us plebs hear from Quora Inc at all, this has thrown me into apoplexy.
    I have been reassured by those on the inner side that the rumours are exaggerated, and that the TWs don’t seem to have much more influence on the Quora UI roulette than anyone else. I guess. But the existence of the Facebook lounges still offends me to the core—especially if it’s used to strategise behind closed walls; and if I do accept TW, I will have nothing to do with it. CON.
  • Don’t need the swag, although my wife would happily take the New York Times subscription. I would read it, except I spend too much time on Quora to read anything else. NEITHER.
  • Some of my friends are tickled at the prospect of a Quora critic making TW. OK, one friend, Zeibura S. Kathau; hey Z-Kat, we can throw spitballs together! It would certainly help mitigate any perception that TWs are corporate lackeys. I don’t know if there is any such perception; then again, I’m wearing Smirnenski lenses. It won’t be unprecedented: Scott Welch, after all, made TW in 2015. … Though not 2016. Hm. MILD PRO.
  • It’s way too much work to reject the blasted quill, and so few have done so (Nick Nicholas’ answer to Are there any writers who have rejected awards on Quora?), that it’s going to be taken as a flounce, and be pilloried and misconstrued. Just shut up and take the award already. PRO.

OK. Those are my thoughts. What do others think?

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