When we normally want the answer to something, we turn to our trusted friend, Mr Google, who knows everything we want to know (provided we know how to ask it the right questions). But at heart, Google is just an algorithim, devoid of any human characteristics and emotions. It is unable to look at things in context and draw upon personal experiences. It can only show what it can find on the web at that given moment, which may or may not be a pile of crap.
So what if you need the answer to a personal question? Maybe advice for an embarrassing problem? What if you need a recommendation for something, like a good restaurant or cafe? Or maybe you want to connect with like-minded people on your favorite topic such as Star Trek? Well, if you are looking for things like that, then you will be better off putting Google to one side and consulting Quora instead.
It took me a long time to warm to Quora. When I first looked at it, after being given a beta invite, I thought “meh” and logged off, intending to never return. It looked stale and boring, with all text, and the subjects mainly dry and technical in nature. But as time went on, I was astonished at the site’s rapid development. The subjects on hand have widened in scope considerably, a huge number of people have signed up and stayed as regular users, and the conversations are simply fascinating. So I started using it again, fleshed out my profile and started following people, and voting up answers. This gives it a bit of a Digg-style feel to it. The best answers get voted up – true Internet democracy in action.
I also like to compare Quora to Reddit. It has Question and Answer (Q&A) message boards on every conceivable subject under the sun, and if your desired subject doesn’t exist, you can start it. Like Digg, Reddit also allows you to vote up your likes, so the best stuff rises to the top. You can create a personal board for “pinning” your favorite Quora discussions (some of which can literally go on and on forever).
Here is mine, which I have just started, so there isn’t much to it so far. But I intend to add more to it.
As you can see, some of the questions you could find on Quora are deeply personal, heartbreaking and / or thought-provoking. A confused young man asking if it’s right that his parents think he should die for being gay. Someone asking what it is like to murder someone (I hope it’s academic interest only), but you also get light-hearted subjects like “the most embarrassing thing you have found on someone else’s computer” and “the best Craigslist adverts ever” (which are so funny, the tears were rolling down my face).
It’s sites like Reddit and Quora that are the immediate future of the Internet. With Quora and Reddit’s rapid ascendency, we seem to be relying more on “human” search results, instead of what a machine algorithim thinks you want. We “favorite” the best answers and results, we network with users on the sites, and we end up with damn good advice, and often a lot of laughs.
We see the latest memes doing the rounds on the Interwebs, and you will get sucked into the site slowly but surely, the same way that Reddit sucks you in. Suddenly several hours have gone by that you can’t account for.
Needless to say, Quora has a pretty big social networking section, comprising of lots of different sub-sections. Just typing “social” into the search engine brings up lots of possibilities.
And here is the social networks section.
Immediately, you will see that it is crammed with useful information such as people requesting recommendations, asking for advice, asking hypothetical questions and a lot more. If you are looking for the answer to a problem, a niggling query or validation of a belief, then Quora is definitely the place to come to. If your question isn’t already there, ask it by clicking “add question“. Replies can be sent to your email address so you get them right away without having to constantly monitor the site. You can also “follow” questions so all future replies get emailed to you too.
Quora is one of those sites that I visit without fail on a daily basis, along with Reddit. If you haven’t tried Quora yet yourself, give it a go and you’ll soon become addicted.