I am currently reading Groundswell, which I cheekily have been recommending to whoever asks for a social media book for about a year, based on a few passages I read on crowdsourcing. I’m enamored with the idea of crowdsourcing, which I see as the democratic power of the internet.
The concept is the power the people, or consumers, have to portray brands on the web. The main examples in Groundswell–written in 2007 for clarification–are wikis representing the community’s definition; forums, reviews and ratings replacing “expert” reviews; and, tagging revealing dominating viewpoints. (Funny example here of the web tagging the blog Edelman created for WalMart as “fake”.)
Groundswell has a great five point step for evaluating a new technology, which in the book it used to evaluate Twitter…again in 2007, so about 3.5 years ago. (My God is Twitter really that old?)
I’m going to apply the five points to Quora, which is getting so much buzz. (For how Quora went viral, check out “What made Quora Go Viral?“)
1. Does it enable people to connect with each other in a new way?
Yes. Right now we “friend” people on Facebook usually we already know by searching their names. We “connect” to people on LinkedIn we know or get “introduced” through another connection. On Twitter we “follow” people we know, or know of because of their celebrity, meet in Twitter chats or have bios with similar interests.
On Quora you also “follow” people either automatically by connecting with Twitter or LinkedIn. People can “trend” along with questions if they are “key influencers” -> they answer a lot of questions. The most important new way you find someone on Quora though is if they answered your question or another question you’re “following”.
Anyone you follow is alerted via email and notifications on their Home you’re following them, so they can follow back if you’re bio or question-answering expertise suit them.
2. Is it effortless to sign up for?
Yes. Like most sites, Quora only asks for an email address which sends a verification link to your email box. As said, you can also sign up via Facebook or Twitter. You will automatically “follow” any connections you have via these sites on Quora.
(*I recommend using Twitter since your connections there are more likely to informational. While your Facebook friends may be good drinking buddies, they’re probably not all KOLs.)
3. Does it shift the power from institutions to people?
Wow, yes. In the same way Wikipedia created a “living” encyclopedia, one that could be updated the second a new scientific discovery, law or episode of Gossip Girl came out, Quora is able to update as soon as new information is available.
The feature making the most noise is the “voting” where you can vote up or down on an answer. Enough “down” votes “collapses” the answer as irrelevant. So far the Quora community has shown little tolerance for wit or opinion-oriented answers.
Anyone however is allowed to post an answer, making it incredibly democratic. There is no branding, (except personal branding), no formal answers, no constant content spewing. Each person can only answer a question once: You only get one shot, one vote.
4. Does the community generate enough content to sustain itself?
What if you had the answer to every question ever asked ever? Every day we as individuals encounter new problems, conundrums and wonder-whats. Some ridiculous, like my friend Kaiser Kuo’s “What would happen if a billion Chinese people jumped at the same time?”, some very mundane, but important, like “How Do I Get Paid?”, and some true crowdsourcing examples like, “What is the best tool to measure “reach” for a Twitter account?” The possibilities for content is as endless as human curiosity.
5. Is it an open platform which invites partnership?
Yes! Obviously being connectable to Facebook and Twitter foremost. (LinkedIn would be nice too, still waiting on that.)
When I first heard about Quora it was in the middle of the Twitter blow-up. The KOL’s were debating about whether to sign-up “just because everyone else was”. The need to “sign-up” was a turn-off, but Quora is totally findable on search engines. Questions can be viewed without signing up, and already questions are top ranking.
For example a search on Google for “What’s the most popular Chinese social networks?”, results in number 7 as Quora’s “What’s the most famous social networking site in China?” A question like “How do I make Chinese eggplant?” however has yet to make the top 50. Most likely because the best answers to these are video tutorials.
(*If/when Quora gets video, get ready for a massive blow up!)
So there you have it, Quora evaluated using Groundswell’s Five Basic Questions. For more about the Groundswell and the updated book check out the Empowered blog by author Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li’s homesite.
(Disclaimer: I want to work for Charlene because of this book, so consider this full admittance to conflict of interest on recommending Groundswell. Quora, however, I have no connections to, and recommend only as a fan of info sourcing.)