Well, I guess they have a CFO now…

Quora raises $85 million to expand internationally and develop its ads business. Bérénice Magistretti wrote this piece.


Founded in 2009, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company has grown steadily over the years, unfazed by the enticing allure of startup stardom.

… I concede, this is true.

“There’s this media hype a lot of companies in Silicon Valley go for,” said D’Angelo. “I think it gets in the way of the mission and it’s not in our culture or values. We’re just really focused on making a good product.”

… with the proviso that Good Product does not mean “pleasant for its users”, but rather “effective at what D’Angelo wants to see happen”: (1) profits, (2) training bed for AI, (3) some notion of democratised knowledge, that I *still* don’t understand, even after reading Mills Baker’s answer to Why should designers work at Quora?.

And it seems users are responding, as the platform currently has 190 million monthly unique visitors, according to D’Angelo. The user base has nearly doubled since he last reported the metrics a year ago.

And remember: those are Googlers, not active Quora users. Which is where the advertising money is going to come from.

D’Angelo believes translating Quora helps democratize information online. “The English ecosystem on the internet is very strong, as there are various blogs and forums out there,” he said. “When you go into some of these other languages, however, there’s really not as much.”

… I like the untapped advertising market explanation better. And the “blogs and forums” quote has amused me when this was cited here two weeks ago, since that’s emphatically what Quora says it is not in English.

When asked about a Chinese version, D’Angelo answered: “It’s very hard for U.S. internet companies to make it in China.”

Zhihu (Q&A website): a Quora knockoff that beat Quora to the Chinese market.

Competition-wise, Quora is often compared to Wikipedia, even by our account. But D’Angelo doesn’t view the online encyclopedia as a direct competitor. “We’re trying to be a primary source of information, and they’re a secondary source,” he said. “And Quora is more about people’s opinions and analysis rather than factual information.”

There’s a lot of Quora users I’d love to wave that quote under. Including, I suspect, the 2010 version of D’Angelo.

Q for quality

… Wha?

Last year, D’Angelo answered a question about Quora’s user base, explaining that the company doesn’t focus much on these numbers because it usually optimizes for quality, which comes with a tradeoff against volume.

… OK…

Rather than burn cash and scale too quickly to show off inflated metrics, the company says it has been cautious when deploying new products.

… Cautious?

And the quality of the content shows.

… Wha?

In addition to implementing stricter rules to ban bad actors from the platform,

Jack Fraser, how have those stricter rules been working out for Mike Cavedon? 😐

And why does Magistretti assume that copy pasting a press release on anonymity controls counts as journalism?

Quora has put in place a series of carefully curated editorial formats, which include “Writing Sessions.” World leaders such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former U.S. President Barack Obama, and more recently, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have all been hosts and answered questions.

That is a highlight feature of Quora? Really?

I’ll admit to disappointment. But of course, the casual random surfing Google really is impressed by that kind of thing.

Investors in the Valley apparently believe Quora is a good bet and seem to trust D’Angelo’s steady leadership. Backers include Benchmark Capital, Peter Thiel, and Y Combinator (Quora is a YC alumnus from 2014). The company has raised a total of approximately $235 million to date.

I hate it when David S. Rose is right.

The fresh money will be used to expand the platform internationally, grow the business side,

Well, that had to happen, and it *is* a good thing.

and make new hires, especially machine learning engineers, to help personalize the content users see.

… Shit. More bots.

Today’s funding announcement begs the question of when Quora will file for an initial public offering (IPO). “Our goal is to be a long-term, independent company,” said D’Angelo. “We expect that we will go public at some point.”

Not surprised Magistretti misuses “beg the question”. She was impressed by Clinton’s interns hosting a writing session. 🙂

One indication of a gradual shift into exit mode is the implementation of a self-service advertising model on Quora. “I think ads is a very good way to be a sustainable business and become cashflow positive,” said D’Angelo. “And it’s very compatible with our mission to provide a free service to everyone in the world.”

Yup. Ads are going to be the way of the future. They’ve just gotten a smidgeon more obtrusive on the mobile version; there’s going to be a lot more of that. Emmanuel-Francis Nwaolisa Ogomegbunam, your theory on why there is so much blank space in the Quora margins is about to be tested.

Quora’s recent hires also suggest a future IPO. Shortly after its head of business and community, Marc Bodnick, left last year, the company went on a hiring spree.

… An interesting juxtaposition by Magistretti…

In the past six months, Quora has recruited a group of powerhouse women, including Kelly Battles — who is on the board of trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation — as Quora’s first chief financial officer (CFO), and tapped Karen Kramer to be the company’s first general counsel. Other hires include Helen Min, Quora’s first head of marketing (who joined from Dropbox), and Tami Rosen, who will be joining from Apple in May as vice president of people, responsible for HR and recruiting.

Hey! We can add these to that question about what Quora’s Org Chart looks like!

Oh wait. Quora already locked it.

And they didn’t even do so on the advice of counsel.

Clarissa Lohr: Why German and Italian?

Originally https://insurgency.quora.com/Wel… .

Clarissa Lohr:

I’ve wondered why Quora picked German and Italian, of all languages, to internationalize, because they aren’t spoken by that many people (compared to, say, languages like Arabic), and particularly Quora in German doesn’t make sense going from how many active users it could reach:

  • The target demographic of active Quora users who contribute content are educated, curious, internationally-minded netizens who don’t mind wasting their time on the internet.
  • While it’s true that not all native German speakers speak English, the subset of native German speakers that fit the above criteria does generally have advanced English skills. Educated, curious, internationally-minded internet-savy people in D-A-CH countries do speak English.
  • So in terms of active contributors, Quora in German can’t reach many more people than Quora in English.

But after I read Scott Welch’s answer about Quora’s strategy, it all made sense.

  • Quora doesn’t care so much about active contributors, Quora cares about views and about showing up in Google search results.
  • That means the target demographic is not educated, internationally-minded people who spend a lot of time on the internet – the target demographic is everyone who uses Google once in a while.
  • This target demographic is much broader. As good as everyone uses Google once in a while, even people who wouldn’t want to spend much time on Quora and really contribute content. It includes German speakers who don’t speak English.
  • German speakers usually phrase their Google queries in German. Including people who speak English. It’s one thing to resort to English in order to write something if you already know about Quora and want to participate in it and it’s not available in German. It’s another thing to Google a question if you don’t know about Quora in first place. People who might be okay with writing in English because the Quora rules say so still won’t find Quora in English in first place because their Google searches won’t direct them to Quora in English.
  • That means that for Quora it’s essential to have questions that match German search queries out there on the internet. And maybe it doesn’t even necessarily need good answers in German, because the link to the same question in English is available, and if people’s passive English skills are okayish they might be okay with just following the link to the English question and read answers in English. That means that maybe Quora can benefit if the translation bots just translate the most-googled questions from English into German, and the entire purpose is directing people to Quora in English, because German speakers won’t find Quora in English as long as the questions exist only in English.
  • D-A-CH countries have a strong economy and are a good target for advertising.

Will (and should) Quora ever pay its content creators?

John L. Miller’s answer:

If I give you a computer because I like giving people computers, that makes me happy. If I give you a computer because you’re paying me $50, I no longer have the joy of giving AND it is worth more to me than $50 (even if no one else will pay anything for it), so I’m losing money and unhappy.

  • Per John L. Miller’s answer: If I wanted to get paid a humiliatingly low amount for my intellectual output, I’d be spending even more time on Upwork. In fact, I’d spend time on Fiverr; I’d likely make more money there than the 20c I’d get out of Quora.
    • Nah. I’d write another monograph. Even that’d give me more money than Quora is likely to.
  • If you thought the fissures in the Quora community are bad now, you should see what’d happen if people started getting paid. The strikes. The complaints about no pay. The conspiracy theories. The accusations of collusion with Quora management. It would destroy what community and good faith there is here. People would go postal.
  • Re Jon Davis’ answer: Quality? Monetisation would drive up quality?! It would drive up the pablum populist crap we already get on the Digest and the Facebook feed. (Why yes, I have had some answers go to the Digest. I didn’t get any answers as good as mine fed to me, while I was subscribed to the Digest.) And Wikipedia did not need monetary incentives to get where it is.
    • And quality on YouTube as a paradigm for the quality monetisation would bring to Quora? I’d like to think my content on Quora aspires to be more like a Wikipedia post (or at least a science blog) than like a YouTube how-to video.
  • I write here because it’s fun. If money were to come into it, it would no longer be fun. It would be a job, and it would make me much more overtly beholden to the bumbling behemoths of Mountain View. My employer already owns my soul; some of us still want a venue where our souls can be unfettered.

Will they? Doubt it: it’d be a logistical and community nightmare. Answers from three years ago, when monetisation was but a twinkle in D’Angelo’s eye, thought it unlikely in the foreseeable future, and pointed out that noone was asking for it anyway. I’m not convinced that many more people are asking for it now.

Should they? It doesn’t advance Quora’s agenda. It undermines my agenda. I come back to John Miller’s answer: it’d take the fun out, and whatever we got in recompense would be insulting—like a $50 computer.

I come back to the question details:

Quora doesn’t currently have any revenue, but when it does start making money, will/should some of that revenue be shared with the writers who create the content (or even with just a few of the best writers, whose answers bring in lots of views)?

I am already uneasy with the notion of Top Writers, and even more with the air of entitlement of too many Old Planter Top Writers, and the fact that Quora staff give the appearance of only talking to them. If, on top of that, Quora were to arbitrarily pick the most popular hundred writers, pay them, and not pay anyone else… my God. Those writers had better disable their comments if that happened: their life on Quora would not be worth living.

Those of you who don’t think there is community to Quora might like that proposal. I want no part of it on any Quora I’m on. It’d be the ἀρχέκακος ὄφις: the serpent at the root of all evil. 1 Timothy 6:10.

Who is the most feminine woman you know?

A2A by Emlyn Shen.

Now, I am cis. Emlyn is trans.

Inspired by this tweet,


— jordan (@redazarath) May 2, 2017

—I asked a trans friend of mine. I would have asked Emlyn herself, but she A2A’d me, so that hardly seems fair.


You’ve reflected on femininity; you’d have a much better informed answer than me. Who do you think the most feminine woman out there is?


well in all honesty I don’t think there’s an answer. femininty not being simple, I guess there are many different ways to possess it

so I could name some feminine ppl, but ~most feminine for me doesnt have a meaning

Now, you see the pic of Aristotle on the left? I’m that guy when it comes to music; which is why “What’s your favourite piece of music” is a question I find meaningless.

See that pic of the ginger two–year-old on the right? I’m that guy when it comes to gender. Which is why I asked Janna “Who do you think the most feminine woman out there is?”

Janna, OTOH, is that Aristotle guy when it comes to gender. (Only she’s a chick.) Which is why she handled the question the way I’d handle a similar question about music.

So, as a ginger two–year-old when it comes to gender, I could pick, oh, I dunno, some archetype like Marilyn Monroe or Ophelia or Jessica Rabbit. But given what femininity is actually about—a performed identity, an identity learned and that can be reflected on, I’m picking Janna.

After all, how many cis women do you know that wear stockings?

What were the biggest highlights of Australia’s cultural history?

Ooh. That’s a tough one, and I’m going to want backup on this.

  • The nationalist writers of the 1890s: Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson. Culturally defining figures.
  • At the same time, the Heidelberg School of painters (back when Heidelberg was on the outskirts of Melbourne, instead of suburbia); just as strongly defining of Australia’s self-perception, and the mythologising of the bush.
  • I’m not a visual arts guy, but Sidney Nolan in the 1940s was another mythic figure.
  • The Whitlam prime ministership. Seismic shift in Australian self-perception, and seismic shift in funding of the arts.
  • Australian film in the 1970s and 1980s, from Picnic in Hanging Rock through to Mad Max.

What is the schwa in linguistics and where can I find it in Ancient Greek?

For what is a schwa, I refer you to What is the schwa in linguistics?, and Schwa – Wikipedia. It is the “neutral”, mid central vowel.

You’ll find the schwa in lots and lots of languages, including English (uh…. ; about; and in fact most unstressed vowels of English). You won’t find it in Ancient Greek.

Schwa used to be reconstructed in Proto-Indo-European though, as the phoneme behind the correspondence of i in Indic to a in Greek. For example, pitár ~ patēr was reconstructed as *pəter-. The distribution of the “schwa indogermanicum” was somewhat problematic, and it is now more economically reconstructed as a syllabic laryngeal (*p-h̥₂ter-); it’s plausible that in late Indo-European, the earlier syllabic laryngeal would have been pronounced as a schwa.

Is there a blog for sharing and reporting spam accounts?

Spam detectives

Steven de Guzman, who was the main poster to the blog and spam detective, got banned three times. The third ban has stuck.

Quora does not like this blog, and in fact thinks that it is getting in the way of them doing their own job. See the arguments between Timothy Wingerter (Quora employee at the time) and Guzman in comments; e.g. https://spamdetectives.quora.com…, https://spamdetectives.quora.com…, and especially https://spamdetectives.quora.com….

(Do read that last comment, even if it is quite long. It’s very rare that we hear anything from Quora employees about what they’re doing, and Wingerter does make a cogent argument for why they don’t want their spam process usurped by users.)

Not to mention Is Spam Detectives at risk of being deleted? by Steven de Guzman on Spam detectives, and Incorrectly banned on @Quora for allegedly having sock puppet accounts (Part 2) —Steve’s second ban was rescinded on the condition that he did not continue to report spam, which he did not adhere to. (His return prompted Wingerter’s comment that he’d rather the blog did not exist.)

Read the blog and comments, talk to other posters there, and make your own assessment; but anecdotally, if you link to or repost too much spam, the bots and/or mods will mistake you for a spammer, or find that your efforts are getting in the way of their efforts, and take action against you.

If Mandarin has a lot of homophones, how are the different meanings understood while speaking?

There’s no shortage of Chinese speakers here, and they’ll give better informed answers than me. But:

Mandarin Chinese is not Classical Chinese. Classical Chinese was a bit of a scholarly game, and writers relished the ambiguity of the homophones and the overall oracularity of it all. People in real life don’t, and Mandarin has dealt with homophony the way many languages do, by adding disambiguating words. Though people still have fun with Homophonic puns in Mandarin Chinese.

So the word for bat, 蝠, is homophonous with the word for good fortune, 福, and as a result bats commonly feature in Chinese art. But people who actually speak the language don’t call bats fú. They call them 蝙蝠 biānfú, combining two words for bat.

For another instance of ambiguity, look at Megan Cox’s answer to What are some homophones in Mandarin Chinese?. As Megan points out, there is homophony between bīng 冰 ‘ice’ and bìng 病 ‘illness, esp. mental illness’.

That’s not as homophonous as it gets; bīng (soldier) is a true homophone, and Wikipedia’s article on homophonic puns reports that in 1882, when there was fear of rebellions around Beijing, the sale of ice was banned as a result.

But even with that near homophony of bīng and bìng, Megan as a learner of Chinese may have been confused, yelling 你有病吗? “Have you got a mental illness?” at the convenience store when she thought she was asking for ice. But the shop owner worked out what was going on, and he wouldn’t have been confused if she was fluent in Chinese. Ice as a noun is not bīng 冰 , but bīngkuài 冰块 ‘ice piece, ice cube’. So it would never be ambiguous with the noun bìng 病 ‘illness’.

How do you translate “It is what it is” into Latin?

A non-trivial one. The meaning needs to be captured, and the meaning is that “it is no more than what it already is; we are stuck with it.” Which means I’d rather render the second is as ‘become’, ‘end up’.

Est sicut factum est “it is as it has become” is a start.

Ut fit sic sit “as it becomes, so let it be” is catchier, though perhaps it goes in a different direction (“if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”).

Est id, quidquid fit “Whatever it is becoming, it’s that” is maybe a bit closer.

Are there any Armenian restaurants in Australia where one can get pure Armenian food?

In Melbourne:

“Pure” Armenian? There was an Armenian Cafe restaurant before I got together with my wife, but that’s long closed.

There’s Sezar | Modern Armenian Restaurant, which is Nouveau Armenian (Nouveau, as most upmarket ethnic restaurants in Melbourne are). We’ve been once, and it wasn’t strikingly “pure”. Pleasant, though rather heavy.

It’s next door to Armenia, and the cuisine is quite different, but I have much affection for the Georgian cuisine of the Umbrella Lounge Bar.