Why I’m still here and not on Medium

At Kat’s prompting, I’m writing a positive rather than negative essay, on what keeps me on Quora, and I invite you all to do the same; it will help us put our disgruntlements into proper context, and enable a better cost–benefit analysis for us.

Done as a video, because I have a headache. You guys don’t have to do so. Posts here welcome.

Hiotis vs Hendrix

This is not high Greek culture. This is not even low Greek culture. This is stoopid Greek culture. But I got a laugh out of it, and I’m translating the YouTube comments about it.

In the left corner: Jimi Hendrix. This audience, I assume, needs no introduction to him.

In the right corner, Manolis Chiotis. How do I describe Manolis Hiotis? Well, if Vamvakaris was the Bach of Bouzouki music, Tsitsanis the Beethoven, and Zambetas the Offenbach, then I guess Hiotis was the Paganini. He was a virtuoso, he pioneered the electric bouzouki in guitar tuning, and he was wildly popular in Greek film. But his songs, I dare say, are not the greats of the genre. A few have nostalgic appeal (Περασμένες μου αγάπες, Θεσσαλονίκη μου μεγάλη φτωχομάνα, Ηλιοβασιλέματα), but they’re way too European, and way too light. I love “My Thessalonica, Great Mother Of The Poor”, but on reflection, I think I love it most for that verse. The tune is on the frivolous side, and the intro is actually quite awkward.

The vid says that he was the man who dragged the bouzouki out of the mud, perfumed it, and made it fit for the salon. I don’t think that counts as praise, and I think you’ll find Tsitsanis did that first. Tsitsanis might have been bourgeois, and had no idea what getting stoned was, but at least he had a soul.

That’s not a universal opinion on Hiotis; in fact, it’s bound to be a controversial one. But it’s mine.

Anyway. Here’s a YouTube vid, made by Greek government TV no less, about the urban legend that Hendrix ran into a show by Hiotis in New York (supposedly in ’65, which would have been before anyone cared what Hendrix had to say; user Voodoochile79 offers it was supposed to be ’69), and stated that he may have been the best stringed-instrument player he’d ever heard. Mary Linda, Hiotis’ wife and musical partner, is interviewed to corroborate it. I think the vid hints that Hendrix even learned his technique from Hiotis; I dare not play it in full to find out.


“Hendrix says X is a better guitarist than he is” is an exorbitantly widespread urban legend (Phil Keaggy Greatest Guitarist?); this, I guess, is the Greek variant. The origin of the urban legend is the alleged exchange from 1969 “How does it feel to be the greatest guitarist?” “I don’t know, go ask Rory Gallagher.”

If there ever was a kernel of truth to this, which is extremely doubtful, it may be in what user SUNBLESSED ATHENS reports in comments there:

Ο Χεντριξ το ειπε οπως εκανε και αλλα παρ ομοια σχολια για πολλους ανα τα χρονια.Απλα δεν υπαρχει καταγεγραμμενο ντοκουμεντο για την δηλωση του οσον αφορα τον Χιωτη.Όσον αφορα την ΑΛΗΘΕΙΑ…διαβαστε να σας την πω εγω, Λοιπον.. αδελφος του παππου μου που ζουσε εκει χρονια αναμμεσα σε πολλους καλεσμενους σε εκδηλωση ηταν εκει..στο Αμερικα..και το ακουσε ο ιδιος..απο τον πιτσιρικα νεαρο κιθαριστα ο οποιος σε μπλα μπλα..με δημοσιογραφους και μουσικοφιλους ειπε κατι σαν.. ”That Greek guy from the other night..(ειχε παιξει ο Χιωτης 2 μερες πριν)..was really good..i think he is the prob the best.!!Ισως μεταξυ σοβαρου και αστειου

Hendrix did say it, and he made similar comments about a lot of people over the years. There’s just no documentary evidence of him saying so about Hiotis. As for the truth: read on. So, my grandfather’s brother, who lived over there in “The Amerika” for years, was invited to a reception, and he heard it himself from the kid guitarist, who in the middle of some yadda yadda with journalists and music fans said something like, “That Greek guy from the other night” (Hiotis had played two days before) “was really good… I think he is probably the best.” Possibly as a half-way joke.


At any rate, there’s such concentrated win in the comments, that I think I should be relaying some of it in English.

Not the stuff by people who actually believed the video. That’s depressing. Or people who actually say that Hendrix wasn’t all that, because he wasn’t a virtuoso shredder like Hiotis or Malmsteen. That’s even more depressing. And expressing incredulity about the video is shooting fish in a barrel. But after the week I’ve had on Quora, I’ll take it. Even if most of the commenters are Hiotis fans.

Chronological order. The mockery only starts a year after the initial post.

  • alucardae86: This show is in the same style as the 8 pm news: misinformation at its peak. The four-string bouzouki was not invented by Hiotis, it existed since 1912. Hendrix was never known for his speed or his crisp tone, but for his technique and his pioneering sound (corresponding to our Vamvakaris). As for his statement, that’s an urban legend that has circulated about various artists of the time. PS: Hiotis belongs to the pantheon of bouzouki players.
  • markos aggelos: Hi guys this is my comment. Hiotis is a master musician and I don’t want to take anything away from him a master musician. But Hendrix at that time was in the military from what I know. So the hypotheticals of Greek TV are as always a bunch of crap. Don’t watch TV guys they’ve stuffed us full of bullshit what a great scene they’re painting, two giants sitting back having a little glass of wine and playing Voodoo Chile haha. What next he taught him how to use a wah wah pedal too.
  • Nick Parastratidis: “He took the instrument out of the mud of the suburbs and placed it in the salons of the aristocracy.” Repulsive. He praises Hiotis, but insults his origins and the origins of all rebetiko. Historical inaccuracy coupled with vile snobbery against generations of people who grew up in the “mud of the suburbs.” Shitty little journalists.
  • John Maronidis: You do know it is possible to listen to more than 1 kind of music right?
  • Vlad Count: Mine used to play the accordion with Metallica for many years
  • Greek Bouzouki: I am sad to say that the things that impress people are the things that shouldn’t. Hiotis is not great because he impressed Hendrix, or because he played the guitar upside down, or because he played fast.
  • Dimitris Skazas: The observation made by many that this is an urban legend is accurate, and if I may say so, obvious. It regularly involves many virtuoso soloists, usually with little thought. Moreover, I do not admit the need of such comparisons between artists belonging to distinct cultures. It is true that once, in a much later interview, Mrs Linda reprised the legend, pretty much trapped into doing so by a journalist who mentioned it to her as a given, but also with some naiveté that I do not begrudge her. This confusion (not comparison) between Hiotis and Hendrix, if I may say so, is somewhat pathetic.
  • ΣΤΑΥΡΙΔΗΣ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΣ: A wonderful documentary. Only Greek State TV does such quality work BRAVO. [Poe’s law applies here]
  • mpelefroni: Hiotis at the time was known by the nickname “Rory
  • Παναγιώτης Μήτσου: Neither Gallagher nor Hiotis. (Haha, you found a video with Gallagher, you say.) [In response to someone who claims to have seen a video of Hendrix saying it about Gallagher.]
    There is a version [of the urban legend] circulating with Hiotis (Linda must have circulated it), a version which fits our national collective fantasising perfectly. And of course plenty of Greeks rush to reproduce it with wondrous ease and satisfaction. They even claim that the interview had been recorded and that they have seen it. And they’re proud of it, as if, had Hendrix actually said that Hiotis was a better guitarist than him in some parallel universe, that would be reason enough for them to feel proud themselves. Hullo barefoot family.
    • kostasaliver: And even if that is true, buddy, why ruin it? Myths are there to be preserved.

You can’t comment on my entire thread, so nyah!

If a lot of people boycott answering questions (perhaps for a day or 2) to protest Quora’s decision to remove details, would they put them back? is a question with a non-zero number of respondents who have blocked me.

I can’t comment on their responses. Of course.

I can’t comment on their comments to their responses. Of course.

What strikes me as confusing is, I can’t comment on anyone else’s comments to their response. Same goes for posts they post on their blogs.

Is this deliberate, because they should not be exposed to any content that is a child of their “story”? Even though they won’t get a notification of it?

And yet, they’ll see my content as a child of someone else’s “story”, if we’re both commenting on it.

Insert meme here: I can’t tell if this was deliberate, or just easier to program.

Topic obtrusion

This is a special shout-out to … oh, I can’t notify the head of Quora ontology, because he’s blocked me.

OK, those are the fortunes of war. Fine. This is a special shout-out to the rest of you.

So I start creating a topic for my home suburb: Oakleigh. I start typing and see “Oakleigh East, Victoria” and “Oakleigh South, Victoria”, and I figure, “oh, ok, better make it “Oakleigh, Victoria”.

Topic created. I can’t tell Quora that this is a town, because I don’t have topic admin privileges. Fair enough, the great unwashed can’t be trusted with ontology is-a statements; you have to be a certified accredited topic gnome (presumably not blocked by relevant staff) to do that kind of thing. If I was the head of Quora ontology, I’d do the same, I guess.

I try to make Oakleigh, Victoria a child of Melbourne.

Melbourne’s blocked, because blocked topics are a thing, and you have to be a certified accredited topic gnome (presumably not blocked by relevant staff) to edit blocked topics.

OK, that’s how they play, let’s see if I can work around it.

Oh, so all the suburbs of Melbourne are listed as children of the parent of Melbourne, Cities and Towns in Victoria.

Not how I woulda done it, but I see the argument, today’s exurb is tomorrow’s suburb, cool.

I make Oakleigh, Victoria a child of Cities & Towns in Victoria.

And I notice that cities & towns in Victoria are all suffixed “, Victoria, Australia.”

OK, I’d better fix that then. Rename Oakleigh, Victoria to Oakleigh, Victoria, Australia.

Computer says No. Topic already exists.

I search the topic Oakleigh, Victoria, Australia in the search box. No result.

So if there’s no topic there… why can’t I rename Oakleigh, Victoria to Oakleigh, Victoria, Australia?

Have you guessed the answer yet?

I didn’t; I gave up, and created my question anyway with the topic I was able to use. I also recounted the story to Miguel Paraz, who was looking forward to my patisserie recommendation.

Miguel has been here longer than me. And he guessed what I didn’t.

https://www.quora.com/topic/Oakl… : the topic was there just fine. The Quora Topic Bot had deleted it.

Although even when Miguel restored the topic, it still doesn’t show up in autocomplete.

So. There’s a range of things that could be a bug or a feature:

  • That the Quora Topic Bot doesn’t think my suburb exists.
  • That the Quora Topic Organizer doesn’t tell me why I can’t rename my topic to a deleted topic.
  • That the Quora Topic Merger doesn’t tell me why I can’t merge my topic to a deleted topic.
  • That the Quora UX doesn’t tell me that “, Victoria” as a suffix instead of “, Victoria, Australia” is considered harmful.
  • That the Quora UX lets you undelete a topic, but doesn’t add it to autocomplete, so you can’t use an undeleted topic.

Seriously, these may be bugs, or they may be features. I cannot tell any more.

And then there’s these more human-oriented bugs or features.

  • That Quora staff can refuse input from people who might, occasionally, be trying to help.

Seriously. Quora staff are users, and as users they can tune out whoever they like; but they are also Quora staff. I’m not convinced that, as staff, they should get to do that. A topic gnome of much longer standing than me constantly has to ask others to do things on their behalf at the Topic Gnomery blog, because they’ve been blocked too. I don’t believe that’s the most efficient way to do topic administration.

I don’t know to what extent any of these are:

I do know that after this week of DeleteDetails-palooza and BadHombreBot-geddon, I have an unusually low patience for the opacity of this UX, even by my standards.

Quora Obtrudes by Nick Nicholas on The Insurgency, I wrote last week. Quora gets in the way of me doing what I want to do here.

Quora now even gets in the way of me trying to help them.

I got the message, Quora. If you don’t want my help, I’m not helping you. I’ll leave the gnoming to others.

Why has Quora become a magnet for flat Earth and Moon landing conspiracy questions that must be given BNBR respect, even though they’re undeserving?

The question is amusing to me, given that part of Quora’s raison d’être is to sift bad knowledge from good knowledge, via both credentials and the wisdom of the crowds. See A Breakdown of Mills Baker’s Answer: Democratizing Access (Pt 1/2) by Ryan Q.Y. See on The Insurgency (much more readable than the original, though longer).

While Quora wants to democratise the production of knowledge, outside of the bastion of academia and Wikipedia, it also wants to act as a corrective to bad knowledge available online. And Quora engineers, if asked, will tell you that conspiracy theories are an exemplar of that; read the post.

And yet, Quora has awarded Top Writer to a proponent of a variant of the Phantom time hypothesis (Roman and Early Mediaeval History as we know it is a fiction perpetrated by mediaeval scribes).

It’s no more a magnet, I suspect, than other forums disseminating knowledge online. Where Wikipedia uses the cudgel of original research to block it (and in the process blocks a whole lot of stuff it shouldn’t—celebrities can’t correct their own middle names on Wikipedia, unless there’s a published source corroborating it), Quora is meant to use the gentle corrective of bots and machine learning.

It’s gentle enough that crap will get through, and that does not exempt the reader from the onus of being sceptical of anything that sounds crazy. And yes, sometimes people really are wrong, and people shouldn’t have to waste time proving to “sceptics” the entire body of work of a discipline.

BNBR is a deeply problematic notion. It can be reactionary, it can certainly have a chilling effect. In this regard though… I don’t see a way around it that will not shut down too much besides it.

In bots we trust *sigh*

If a lot of people boycott answering questions (perhaps for a day or 2) to protest Quora’s decision to remove details, would they put them back?


Protest it or boycott it, not because it will change things. It won’t. We are all fungible; we are all blips on a chart to Quora. How could we not be? Quora isn’t in the making its users happy business. It’s in the content providing business. And the content is going to keep rolling in anyway.

Protest it or boycott it, not because Quora will listen to you. They won’t.

(I’ve had a user confide to me that Quora only listens to a “handful” of users. There’s a handful of users that enthusiastically approve of the change, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence: they’re aligned to Quora’s goals, and that’s why they have Quora’s confidence.)

Protest it or boycott it, if you are going to do so, only in order to say “not in my name.” Quora doesn’t care about what you do about something you don’t like here. But you should.

And remember not to thank them for it, or doff your cap and say “I’m sure they know what we want best.” Quora did this because to them, it’s just business. Our relationship with Quora Inc. should likewise be just business. Otherwise we’re setting ourselves up for gratuitous heartbreak.

How do you feel about question details being eliminated?

Originally Answered:

Does any Quoran actually like the elimination of question details?

From the comments to the blog post announcing it: at least 3. From one of several questions about it: at least 8. Not all of them are Marc Bodnick.

I wrote the following to identify whether there were any recurring characteristics among them. And yes, I know perfectly well that it’s a ridiculously low number to say anything about.

After how many BNBR violations does Quora block you?

I’m pretty sure there won’t be a fixed amount, and that there’s some degree of discretion.

I have sighted the final appeal response for a ban to one user, who got counts of moderation sanctions in response. Their count was 39 BNBRs. I don’t know if that includes successfully appealed BNBRs or not.

I’ve seen the number 4 mentioned in variants of this question for blocking. I have had 4 BNBRs, but 3 appealed successfully (eventually).

EDIT: Matthew Bates is a data point for 4 BNBRs; I’m a data point for it being 4 BNBRs appealed unsuccessfully:

I’ve been edit-blocked for a week for my fourth BNBR violation. This one came from an answer I wrote over a month ago that already had over 1.2k upvotes.

I do believe someone is trolling me… reporting everything I write and seeing what sticks.

Anyway, I’m going to use this time to work on some other projects. If you’re wondering why I don’t say anything for the next week, that’s why.

A friend of mine with the last name Vavasis wants to know its meaning. I know the origin is Greek. What is the meaning?

I’m not sure. Really, I’m not sure. I say that, because the following is speculation that your friend might not welcome.

Vavasis Βαβάσης does not have an obvious Greek etymology to me. It may have one, but I can’t discern it.

My first guess was that it is a hellenisation of Babasis Μπαμπάσης, which turns up in Corinthia, and is thus likely Arvanite (i.e. ethnic Albanian); cf. Ndriçim Babasi – Wikipedia, a member of the Albanian parliament.

However, googling establishes a critical mass of Vavasises in Cephalonia, and (from Facebook: Πολιτιστικός Σύλλογος Πάστρας Παλιόκαστρο ) that the surname is associated with the village of Pastra. The surname is given as Cephallonian in the list at Τα επώνυμα των Κεφαλλήνων, originally compiled by Miliarakis in 1890. The surname, FWIW, is not included in the list of local nobility (the Libro d’Oro) of 1799 (http://www.kefaloniamas.gr/κοινω…)

I still can’t think what Greek or Italian name it’s associated with…

… and then, I read the Greek Wikipedia page: Πάστρα Κεφαλονιάς – Βικιπαίδεια

The village was founded by Albanian mercenaries working for Venice in the 15th century. The Pastras family are apparently the majority of the village, but I think it’s still likeliest the surname is Albanian in origin.

Assuming I’m right, I’m going to have to ask Albanians on Quora what it likely means. I don’t know that I’m right, but like I say, I can’t see a Greek or Italian origin for the surname.