Cue The Future

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"I'm living in the future, so the present is my past" -Kayne West

Could answering beat out blogging?

There’s a new “blog” I’ve just discovered and I’m a big fan of it — but you can’t subscribe to it in google reader, it’s only on Quora.

I recently read an answer on Quora to the question, “what have been your most important life lessons?”  The author of this answer echoed a lesson I’d recently learned (namely that we often misread another person’s insecurity as signs they don’t like us, and this harms our ability to deepen relationships). He made his point in a compelling way and also added two ideas that I hadn’t considered. The author was  thoughtful and thought provoking across the board. I was really impressed with Jack Stahl and subscribed to his answers.

Stahl’s answers on quora have been a pleasure to read, his content is fantastic. I enjoy them in the same way I enjoy my must-read/high priority blogs (like A VC, chris dixonVenture Hacks and Both Sides of the Table). Interestingly, I don’t think Stahl has a blog, and even if he did, I’m not sure I would have a found it without Quora, unless he had invested in creating distribution. This got me thinking, maybe, when we look at Quora, we are looking at a pretty effective personal blogging platform.

Generally, personal bloggers are people that want to share ideas, influence public opinion, get feedback on their thoughts, and earn reputation. In order to be a successful personal blogger, you must do two things really well:

  1. Create amazing content that make people better for reading it.
  2. Get that information in front of your target audience (generally, the people who can do something after being empowered by your content).

Quora makes it easier to solve these issues for personal bloggers focused on consumer internet startups. The community there contains some of the most prolific investors, entrepreneurs, and thinkers who have shaped, and are still shaping, the way humans interact with the web. Those people are telling the service what questions they have, what questions they find interesting, and what answers they have to offer. That directly affects those two blogging musts:

  1. The site tells you what topics are worth tackling, by letting you know what thought-leaders and really smart people think are good questions. You are looking to answer questions with high activity and/or high number of followers.
  2. Answered questions get exposed in the feed to people following that topic, leading to distribution and exposure to new people you don’t have to build a relationship with prior to them engaging. Traditional blogging relies on SEO/SEM/Social/etc. (extra work from the author) to get people there.

If Quora is able to repeat their success in attracting the best and brightest in new niche communities (their biggest challenge, but one they have successfully solved once), it could serve as the tool of choice for learning about new issues as well as demonstrating and sharing your expertise. It has some similarities to Twitter or Tumblr on this front, as it could be a great complement to hardcore blogging or complete replacement for lightweight blogging.

Quora lets interesting people focus on creating answers and expressing their opinions, which is all I care about as a reader.

That’s one reason I love Quora, why do you love quora? Answer that question here.

Define:Quora

A broader take on Quora

Quora is a new startup, founded by talented ex-facebookers, which is currently the topic of much discussion and investor lust. It is a Q&A based product that has done a great job of getting intelligent people asking and answering questions.

I am not a Quora power-user, but I do spend a few hours a week on the service consuming information, and actively contribute when I feel I have something to add. It’s a fantastic product/service that I’ve used to learn a lot of great information. If the Quora elevator pitch sounds like Yahoo Answers, it’s not. The difference is that Quora has done a damn good job of getting the right users to date and building tools that encourage them to participate.

Yahoo Answers (and similar services from that era) thought of themselves as platforms for users to find someone willing to answer or research on their behalf — this did a good job of getting mediocre to bad people involved in answering questions, usually for some reputation or monetary benefit. In contrast, Quora aggregates people around interesting questions and lets experts contribute as questions get traction. I think this is because Quora positions itself far differently from the find a decent answerer or researcher, here’s a quote from a Quora founder on how they think about the product’s value proposition:

I don’t think it’s any one thing, but it’s a bunch of little things. Part of it is the right audience. Instead of just Q&A, we think about this as blogging. Some people call it inverse blogging or reverse blogging. When you write a blog post, you write to your audience. When you write on TechCrunch, you know that these people are expecting techie news about startups.

When you come to a question page on Quora and it’s blank there are a bunch of people waiting for the answer. An expert will look at it and say “there’s an audience here and I know exactly what they want to hear. And I actually know about this stuff, or know enough to research and produce a really interesting piece of content, and it’s going to go to the perfectly targeted audience who opted in to hearing about this.”

The product reflects this view, questions are never really finalized or answered, they are simply active or not. The fact that each answer contains the ability to suggest edits, and that each question has a wiki summary are two components of this shining through. The feed structure is effective at effectively reflecting how active a question is and encourages engagement (and re-engagement) with answers to the most interesting questions.

I’m planning on posting a deeper look at why Quora might be a better blogging platform later this week, which is one of the reasons I love the service. I may also look at some other interesting use cases. If you’d like to help me (and others!) learn more about what makes Quora special, Answer “Why do you love Quora” as a question on the site. If you need an invite, let me know in the comments.

*Fun Question: Replace Yahoo Answers in paragraph three above with Mahalo Answers, does the analogy still work?

    About the Author

    Tyler Willis is the Vice President of Business Development at Unified, which builds enterprise marketing technology for brands and agencies.

    This blog is about how the future will affect technology, marketing, and the things we care about most. Learn more about Tyler.

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    Tyler is a featured speaker and instructor for The American Marketing Association, and is a popular speaker on topics related to social marketing and how technology is changing our lives.

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    Lightweight Update

    I write infrequent (quarterly at most), semi-formal updates of what I'm doing and thinking.


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