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.