Why Quora Will Fail


Sooner rather than later

Quora, the new crowd-sourced question and answer network, has quickly gained some traction online in the past couple of months. Like all new platforms I signed up and participated.

I’m not a fan and here’s why :

You're only allowed to use your real name. Fair enough (and Quora were great in assisting me get my handle for my common law name, thanks guys).

Company names are also not allowed at this stage. Again, fair enough, it’s their site and they make the rules. But what about Edmodo or Vimeo or 37signals? It seems when you tag a question it creates a page for that brand / organisation, and here is where the danger lies : it has the potential to turn into another Get Satisfaction dilemma where they establish pages without permission or assistance from the sites / companies / organisations cited?

Quora offers nothing really new.

What about asking questions to your already trusted / established network on Twitter and / or Facebook questions? Then there’s Yahoo Answers, Wikipedia, Squidoo who all offer similar things.

(See also “It’s not a survey question” / Reaching Critical Mass below.)

It’s Broke
For some reason I can’t sign in anymore. Apparently I haven’t validated my email address. Even though I ask for it to be sent again it never appears. Now I’m quite au fait with this online stuff and know it’s not in my spam box or going somewhere else. Makes you wonder what else is broke in the code?

They Built A Walled Garden
There is no contact page. As I can’t sign in I can’t contact any of the admins to message. I have sent them half a dozen requests through their Quora presence and as yet got no replies :

can’t log into http://www.quora.com/DK as saying need to confirm email – resent confirmation not appearing – help @quora (checked spambox)less than a minute ago via web

Guidelines vs Rules
I had a quick response from one of the admins on the site who cited how the ‘guidelines’ forbid any lower case use (I forgot to use a capital “I”). I’m being pedantic here but guidelines are different from rules surely? Call a spade a spade!

Only Browser Based
The web is increasingly become mobile and without any apps to quickly check responses, validate friends requests, research other questions etc the service is somewhat limited.

It’s Boring
After a few days on the site, searching and participating you quickly get bored. Obviously this is subjective but after talking to some of my peers they feel the same way. Also it’s only text with no allowances for images or embeds like videos.

They Don’t Do Personal
I posed the following question : What is your blogging strategy?. An admin went in a changed it to “What are some good blogging strategies?”, I changed it back after personally replying to the gentleman stating the change altered the specifics of what I was asking. He said my question was against the guidelines (again) because it was a survey question:

Survey Questions aren’t allowed on Quora right now. Try to rewrite this question so it doesn’t address the answerer and is generalizable or more directly addresses the information you are looking for. For example, instead of “What is your favorite beach in LA?” ask something like “What are the nicest beaches for families in LA?”

I get it. Although my question directly relates to the individual who has that experience and information. Don’t know about you but asking what strategies work for individuals is much more powerful than generic responses… maybe they will change this going forward and allow this option to ask 'personal questions', maybe it will be too late when they do.

Reaching Critical Mass
There's been a huge take-up amongst the web 2.0 crowd. Big players banging the Quora drum and letting everyone know how cool this is. Outside of this group though I haven't seen anyone else take it up and tell others they need to be on this new platform. Therefore, it will never reach critical mass and capture a foot-hold.

(Haven't a clue what the critical mass is by the way, I just know there are far more groovier things to participate in on the web than answering / posing questions on a platform which have the above limitations.)

Then again, for exactly the above reasons Quora might succeed and I'll stick my hand up and say I was wrong. What do you think?

6 thoughts on “Why Quora Will Fail”

  1. I agree there are some issues about what makes it special, but then i initially wondered why we would ever care about 140 characters… The fact that the digirati have found it means this could still well hit the main stream, i think it is still too early to tell. I do wonder what happens if it does however and what would happen to the quality of questions to answers. If it got very busy, curating would be nigh on impossible as they currently do and finding specific information would also become more complex due to cross linking noise. We’ve all had that experience when searching in forums.

    We will see but there are some major challenges ahead and the love affair may not last long enough.

  2. Like yourself, I got bored pretty quickly, and have in fact just deactivated my account, as I just can’t be bothered. I didn’t find anything useful, and it felt like people were making up questions just for the sake of it. And of course we are already seeing a lot of ‘comedy’ answers…

    I find it amusing how the Quora admins tried to change your questions. You probably alerted them to ‘trouble’ by the name use request ;D Seriously though, how do they expect that to work? Are they also prepared to prevent people from answering with ‘My favourite…” or “My blogging strategy…” even if the question is more general.

    Concepts ‘Find general knowledge’ and ‘Get an answer to any question” are two very different concepts. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to tell people it’s not a playground, otherwise people will adapt/adopt it as such :)

  3. I agree about getting bored quickly, plus:
    – if you want a general knowledge search (an encyclopedia to play in) you’d use Wikipedia as it has more content.
    – if you want a specific question answered there are other forums out there to find the answer (and Quora appears to not like you to ask specific questions anyway).
    – if you want to ask something to which the technorati have an opinion it’s probably a great place, but there’s a limited market for that in my opinion.

    I also agree strongly with the idea that it’s not a playground. To gain adoption you have to let users play with this type of thing and find their own use. Having too many restrictions is simply going to drive people away.

  4. All – thanks for taking the time to comment guys, very much appreciated.

    Bobo – great point on what would happen if it did scale. Definitely a ‘wait and see’ one but I’m still convinced it won’t make it that far.

    Heli – glad it wasn’t just me with getting bored quickly. And yes I do think they are also expecting answers not to include personal responses. Your last point Steve covers well…

    Steve – thanks for adding a little more clarity to my points. Your take on allowing the community to define a direction is definitely something they don’t seem open to. Would be an exciting move if they decided this though.

  5. I’m a fan, and here’s why:


    Good point, but …

    As a journo, I put my name out every day. Am accountable for what I write. Suffer slings, arrows, ad nauseam. I can see why people like “DK” here might be uncomfortable but what he said made me realise Quora people must be used to living in the public eye and, like me, tire of the endless identity games and sock puppetry that comes with sorting out online info.


    Yes, I’ve had some overly pedantic overtures, so pedant in fact I could not figure out what they were trying to say. However an absence of rule enforcement combined with popularity gives you Facebook, Bebo and MySpace with millions of flashing ads telling you you’re the millionth visitor.

    Having rules enforced is reassuring for those looking for credible information – not punditry. Don’t get me wrong, this article is very helpful for sorting out my own thoughts on Quora – which were tending towards the negative.

    They don’t do personal

    I had an answer from some guy called Dave and it wasn’t until after I’d kidded him on his entry that I realised I was interacting with Dave, the founder of Spot.us – an influential news fundraiser site.

    Again, focus away from the individual and the personality pushes Quora users towards usable, credible information. I think the lack of ads, images and video is a welcoming respite, even if I’m not sure who advised them on the colour scheme – 70’s man pit, anyone?

    Will they fail ?

    None of which guarantees success. As DK points out, Quora seems “boring” to those raised in the digital era, and I haven’t yet stumbled across their revenue model.

    If they can do a better job of explaining their guidelines and offer more feedback options on each question – then market the whole properly, they might be on to … something.

    And change those colours … ech.

  6. Many apologies for the lateness of this response to your comment Jason – slipped between the virtual cracks…


    Names – am in the same position as you sir. DK is my common law name (check the bio) and if you search online you will see a stack of blog posts, videos, podcasts etc relating to my content which I stand by, therefore, nothing to do with that.

    Guidelines – agreed on your points.

    Personal – again, agree on that point. Doesn’t work when you ask the question I was asking (or wanting to explore questions like that), then again, obvious that’s not what the platform is for now in hindsight.

    Fail – with you on the colours and the closing points. I’ve been wrong in the past and who knows might be on this point. Although since writing this I’ve not heard anything about Quora and they certainly haven’t capitalised on the original momentum.

    Appreciate you taking the time to offer your thoughts and it certainly helped the debate on there – thanks.

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