Scott Welch: How Quora should communicate

This is excerpted from Scott Welch’s answer to When will Quora be removing our names from the comments they created based on the question details we edited before deprecated in August 2017? The comments should have been authored by a Quora bot, not by innocent users. I want this post to focus not on BadHombreBot-Gate (Viola Yee’s term for the spurious attribution of erstwhile Question Details), but the corporate communications aspect:

Quora’s answer to When will Quora be removing our names from the comments they created based on the question details we edited before deprecated in August 2017? The comments should have been authored by a Quora bot, not by innocent users.

This has already been fixed; this was a mistake and we’re very sorry. Migrated question details are no longer attributed to users and are not visible in user profile edit logs.

Scott Welch’s answer:

Quora has now responded to this question. I’m going to list the elements that would constitute a professional communication piece. I’ve lifted them from my initial response above. I invite you to see how Quora did.

  1. The information should be communicated clearly (that means including full details of what happened and a commitment to chance the process which lead to the problem)
  2. effectively (that means using a combination of media to reach all users)
  3. and promptly (that means being proactive, not reactive)
  4. by Product Management (that means a real human with a real name)
  5. in close cooperation with MarCom (that means reading like it was written by somebody who actually cares)
  6. and with full support from the C-suite (that means a quote from at least one C-suite denizen, taking responsibility)

By my calculation, Quora scored zero out six.

Discussion on whether this is a reasonable expectation or not is welcome.

Clarissa: The limits of what users can do to protest


Reposted from…

One thing is that just withholding answers doesn’t matter to Quora because your value to Quora is your already existing answers. These answers will get views as long as Quora exists and provide them a neverending stream of income. They don’t care if you leave.

That means that the only way you have power over them is if you delete all your answers, and maybe then they could still reinstate them. Though I’m not sure if that would be legal. If you wanted to make it harder for them, you could also edit all your answers and turn them into Lorem Ipsum filler text or other word salad.

But still then, a single user or even a largish group of users isn’t a real loss for them. Even if several thousands did that, they would be dispensable. The number of people who would need to join forces in order to make Quora really vulnerable is just too high, it’s never going to happen.

A lot of people who have contributed to Quora are emotionally invested in this and attached to it. No matter how upset they are, they aren’t going to leave.

This recent episode was probably the most outrageous thing Quora ever did, it angered even the people who normally defend Quora, and I don’t see large masses of people leaving it. I don’t know what Quora would have to do to really shoo people away large-scale, and I hope I’m never going to find out.

And really, what matters is not so much what users could realistically achieve, but what threats users could make against Quora. If there was a way to make Quora believe the users can hurt them, we’d all be in a more powerful position.

On the other hand, I’m glad users aren’t a hive-mind that make unified decisions but a group of individuals. Such a hive-mind would be a bit creepy.


Why does Greece produce such amazing music?

Given the amount of Greek songs that I’ve written about over at Hellenica, of course Greece has produced amazing music. The notion that it hasn’t, which Konstantinos Konstantinides’ answer gives, is to me as strange as the question itself seems to be to him.

Of course, there’s a catch with the presumption behind this question. All cultures produce amazing music, because all cultures are cultures born of the human spirit, and the human spirit is capable of amazing things. All cultures’ musics have resonances and histories and tropes and subtleties and transcendence. It’s just that any given observer will have more familiarity with one culture’s inventory than others, and accordingly will find it easier or harder to read another culture’s music.

There are specific circumstances which make the Greek musical tradition rich, but I don’t enumerate them to say it is superior in any way to its neighbours, or to yours. Just that they are part of what makes it distinctive.

  • A cross-roads of major musical traditions. Most places are, of course. Specifically, the complex of Byzantine, Arabic, Turkish and Persian music, and the complex of Western musics. This has resulted in several waves of fusion; rebetiko has proven to be the most fertile, siring its own range of musics.
  • A wide range of folk music practice, reflecting the interaction of major musical traditions, different geographical and historical influences, and separate local developments. The folk music of Macedonia sounds nothing like the folk music of Cyprus. The folk music of Cretan Christians sounds different from the folk music of Cretan Muslims (although similar enough that Christians could appropriate the music of the departing Muslims.)
  • Strong extra-musical associations for Greek music, with political or historical movements and events. Particularly in the 60s and 70s, there was much ideological investment in music. (Of course Greece is hardly unique in that.)
  • Perhaps more controversially: in some strands of modern popular music, ongoing belief in the transcendental power of song, and in the distinct vocation of the lyricist. (Separate lyricists and composers remains the norm.) There always has been disposable Greek pop music, but for every lyric that reaches Leonard Cohen levels of art in English, there are 10 in Greek: not because Greeks are inherently more poetic, bus because there is a much greater cultural expectation for that kind of thing. Arguably, Better Poetry in lyrics inspires Better Music. Certainly, better poetry in lyrics leaves audiences with the impression that the music is better.

Why do you like imitating Masiello?

Those of you who are new to Quora will not be exposed to the privilege and the gift that was Masiello, The Magister, as I chose to call him: a professor of literature of rare and universal erudition, of piercing insight, and of Rabelaisian wit; of deep humanity, befitting a scholar of the humanities.

He’s still lurking, but he’s had a gutful of the place.

He left behind him a blog dissecting the obscure words he peppered his writings with: Masiello’s Mega Words. Mary C. Gignilliat set that blog up. She’s been banned.

He left behind him a blog of his trenchant dismissal of people asking homework questions about Shakespeare, rather than reading the damn play: Magister Masiello’s Belligerent Bardolatry. They were not answers in the spirit of Quora, which sees nothing wrong with homework questions, and everything wrong with answers saying you should just read the damn play.

He left an oeuvre that made you feel better just to share the planet with him. Answers that have now faded out of people’s feeds, and will not be renewed and topped up. If you’re in New Jersey, find where he’ll be lecturing; that’s where your feed will get refreshed now.

I did imitate him once or twice; he had (well, has) a distinctive voice, with well-placed use of the right recondite word. I went to look for the answer I remembered, where I imitated him for a game of Guess The Quoran, by writing anonymously in the style of someone prominent. The question was deleted by Quora, because it violated anonymity (Zis is Kvora! Ve don’t make jokes about anonymität here! by Nick Nicholas on Opɯdʒɯlɯklɑr In Exile). An eponymous variant of the game has surfaced since, and that’s great; but I don’t feel like playing.

Why did I like impersonating Masiello, the one or two times I did? Because I appreciate the distinctive voice. The voice that pierces over the noise and the run-of-the-mill. The voice that resounds like a friend you’ve always known, and you feel you can imitate in fun, right to its face. And the camaraderie that enabled it. Just like John Walton used to be able to Michaelis Maus, say: see John Walton’s answer to Which Quorans should I follow if I want to read writing like that of Michaelis Maus? (Oh, Michaelis has been banned too.)

Why yes, there is a recurring theme in this answer.

There are those on Quora who won’t think that imitating each other is a proper use of the platform, a platform meant to be about “sharing and growing the world’s knowledge”, and not banter between friends.

I have an account on Stack Exchange; I am proud of what I have contributed there to date, and I will be contributing more.

And if I wanted my experience on Quora to be Stack Exchange, I would be using Stack Exchange right now.

Has Quora ever discontinued a feature and later brought it back?

In fact, ironically enough, the feature of Follow-Up questions was removed in 2010, and is now (2017) reported to be in A/B testing:

The irony is, I suspect this question is being asked in the context of the recent removal of Question Details (Changes to further emphasize canonical questions by Sumi Kim on Quora Product Updates). The reintroduction of Follow-Up questions after 7 years is plausibly connected to the removal of Question Details, as the second linked post speculates (based on a connection made by Dot McHale).

Answered 2017-08-07 · Upvoted by

Martin Strohmeier, Quora Admin Emeritus