Quora as a Source of Misinformation

Taking up a challenge posed by Brian Rogers, last week I posted a response to this question on Quora. (For more about that, see this post.) That was my first time on Quora; to get a better sense of what it was about, over the next few days I answered some more questions. (To see my answers, go to my Quora profile.) That was enough for me to decide that I won’t be hanging out at Quora.

Aside from the fact that the questions of interest to me don’t seem to get much traffic, I have two main objections to Quora.

First, all that’s required to answer a question is that you muster enough interest and energy to do so; expertise doesn’t come into it. As a result, the answers are all over the place, and winnowing through them is where expertise comes in. If visitors come to Quora looking for guidance on a given issue, the odds are that they’re somewhat lacking in the expertise required to make sense of the answers. That would seem to be something of a paradox.

And second, if visitors to Quora lack expertise, having them vote answers up or down would seem unlikely to yield meaningful results. But given the few votes involved, that’s something of a moot point.

Quora isn’t alone in raising these issues. In 2010 I wrote this post about the cacophany that is LinkedIn groups. My conclusions regarding LinkedIn groups apply equally to Quora: the crowd is useful if you’re looking for a narrow bit of information, or if you’re interested in hearing people’s experiences, but if you want expertise, consult an expert.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.

5 thoughts on “Quora as a Source of Misinformation”

  1. Interesting thoughts, Ken; thanks for sharing. I tend to agree with you on the value (or more appropriately, the lack thereof) of LinkedIn groups and Quora when it comes to crowd-sourcing expertise. I do, however, believe there is a crowd-sourced solution if it is done correctly. Figuring out how to do it correctly is the trick to answering the value equation in my opinion. Would a wiki edited by a board of selected editors work? It might.

    If, for example, a diverse group of selected contract aficionados (to borrow Brian’s tagline) created a wiki-like resource that included, for example, an anthology of various non-assignment clauses then you might just create a valuable and therefor successful crowd-sourced solution.

    To illustrate….a wiki-like page for a non-assignment clause might look something like this:

    Non-Assignment Clause:

    Standard Clause:

    Insert a standard non-assignment clause here.

    Commentary on Standard Clause:

    The commentary could include the history of the clause, its purpose, and, most importantly, position statements by members of the editorial board supporting their proposed revisions to the standard clause and the reason(s) justifying the proposed revisions.

    Specific Usages:

    For example, various types of non-assignment clauses for use in specific agreement types can be listed (or hyper-linked) here like the following:

    * Merger Agreement
    * Asset Purchase Agreement
    * Professional Services Agreement

    Jurisdictional Considerations & Caveats:

    * Texas
    * Missouri
    * New York

    Related Clauses:

    Here, any clause related to (or similar to) a non-assignment clause would be listed and hyper-linked to that clause.

    * Assignment Clause


    Questions, comments, observations, and constructive criticism is always welcomed!

  2. Are there really enough of you (us?) willing and able to devote the time needed to make a wiki useful and meaningful? I realize Ken devotes substantial time to on-line activities, and gather Brian does as well…but how many lawyers with the interest and inclination to dabble in contract drafting theory will/can do the same? Just the ramblings of a practicing lawyer with some time and lots of interest.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.