Andreas Weigend, Social Data Revolution | MS&E 237, Stanford University, Spring 2011 | Course Wiki

DF3: Quora
Assigned: April 14, 2011
Due: April 21, 2011

Create a Quora account. Play around with it for awhile (at least an hour), and make sure to:
  • Follow some topics.
  • Follow some people.
  • Answer some questions.
  • Get followed by some people (classmates are ok).
  • Vote some answers up/down.

By April 21, noon, fill out the questions on the Google Form found at:

Notable Answers

What problem does Quora solve for you (that wasn't solved before)?
Quora is like a one stop platform when it comes to questions. It holds answers to a plethora of topics firstly. From questions like ,"Is it rude to send your food back at a restaurant ?", answered by the general public to questions like " What is the story behind instagram ?" which has been answered by people like Kevin Systrom (the CEO of Instagram ) , are a reflection of the type of service Quora offers. For me , it is a service I can use to get answers to a plethora of questions , whether I want a general opinion, or reliable expert advice. This versatility and accuracy in the answers solves the problem of having to tap into different resources for different category of questions. Prior to Quora, I was generally using Yahoo Answers. On contrasting the two, I certainly felt that Yahoo Answers were sometimes funny and not informative. On the other hand , Quora imposes certain protocols for the questions and answers written by the users.I think the compactness and accuracy of Quora is a big winner.

While wikipedia and other online encyclopedias offer a wealth of information, there are still millions of questions unanswered. While facebook and twitter attempt to answer some of these questions, they lack the infrastructure, instant-like feedback and depth answers need. Quora is a beautiful combination of both world into one platform. If I posed any of these questions on facebook, I was unlikely to get the answer I wanted. And there is no way I can google or wiki them. Quora allows a Joe Schmo to sit next to an expert in the field and have a sort of conversation. In addition, Quora's wiki like approach allows several of these conversations to go on at once! Furthermore, the response is fast and can lead to further questions in depth (unlike anything else out there).

What was a hurdle; what made it hard to use?
Quora seems to do excellent jobs on serious questions instead of casual questions. I tried to ask ""where could i find good food around stanford?"" the Quora gave me some useless information, less useful than Yelp and google. To this extent, Quora is mainly used to gain knowledge more than to facilitate our daily decisions. In addition, some questions have very long answers. sometimes it's fun to read those answers, sometimes not. It often costs users to find useful points from three-or-more pages of answers.

There is no topic tree on Quora which makes it difficult for me to browse questions on particular topic sub-categories. Also, i would like to know trending questions. There is currently no easy to way to find trending questions.

What would you change to improve the service?
I would use really smart algorithms to scrape the web for some automatic answers. I believe that the ideal Q/A service needs to be both people and computers.

One problem that i find with Quora is that it takes a very long time of exploring the quora webstite to find the real value of its service. I think for a first time user it is hard to appreciate some of quora's cool features, like getting real time alerts when someone has rated your answer up or when someone wants to hear your answer to their question. I think quora can potentially lose first-time users because it currently does not have a very good way of locking them up as returning and active customers. So one way to improve the service is to think of a new strategy to engage first time users and expose them to the cool features that are not so obvious at first. This could mean having to improve the user interface so users get more involved in the service and realize its value more quickly.

What kinds of social data can Quora *better* collect on its users, that more traditional social services like Facebook cannot? And likewise, what kinds of social data can services like Facebook gather on its users that Quora cannot?
Quora might be able to better capture interests than something like Facebook as it is less self-reported. On Facebook, there is greater social pressure put on one's ""likes"" and ""interests"" which may bias what is reported towards popular or more topics. On Quora however, the act of answering a question is not an explicit endorsement of the topic, getting around response biases, but may be an implicit show of interesting. In addition, Quora captures expertise and knowledge. Whereas Facebook may capture some measures of expertise through listing college majors or graduate school programs or employer, it cannot distinguish between a casual and sophisticated cook or sports fan. Quora can do this by pairing the interests with the quality of the responses given. If someone is frequently rated one of the highest responders for financial advice, Quora can conclude a degree of expertise. Conversely, Facebook is better at capturing connections. I have little incentive on Quora to follow or interact with my friends. While for some questions it may be useful to pose questions to just them or see only their responses, most others will be global questions where I want an outside perspective. If I was satisfied with my friends' perspectives, I could likely just ask them offline. Therefore, Facebook is far better at knowing with whom I spend time and interact.