Why are so many people upset that Quora removed the question details?

There are consistently changes in functionality without warning on Quora; the roll out of new anonymity was the only exception recently. Of course, if you don’t know about the blog Quora Product Updates, that doesn’t make much difference.

(There was warning about this change from German and Italian Quora, which had no question details from the beginning, but few would have been aware of it.)

There is always much push back against sudden feature changes. But this time was quite unusual, even before Bad Hombre Bot (as Viola Yee called it), the spurious attribution of question details to whoever last edited them. The pushback included a lot of high ranking users, including users that normally defend Quora. The Top Writer Facebook lounge was baying for blood, reportedly.

The severity of this time is less to do with the suddenness of the change, I believe, and more with how it impacts users’ aims for using the site. This was not just a UX tweak: this went to the core of what Quora is used for.

And remember: users use any website for their own purposes, not for D’Angelo’s. Hence me alluding in comments elsewhere to Die Lösung.

A lot of question askers needed details to make the answer useful to them, whether because of personal particulars, or because of of the specificity of the question.

Question details are not necessarily as salient to those writing an answer, particularly as many of us use questions as prompts for writing rather than as pleas for assistance. But clearly, a lot of users really do treat questions as the latter. So the change got in the way of them feeling they were able to be helpful.

Even those that weren’t as invested in those two aims were surprised at such a disruptive change. The Mantra of Reusable Questions was known, but many questions ignored it in practice, and most users didn’t mind it being ignored, given the two benefits I’ve mentioned. This change was not just an annoyance: it was a reduction in users’ freedom of action. Even if they weren’t going to make use of it, users aren’t going to like that.

The changeover was handled abysmally, and should be a classroom example about how not to do things. (Much of how Quora does UX is, as Leonid S. Knyshov once mused.) But it’s the nature of the change, not its implementation, that made the uproar truly generalised this time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *