Quora is an elegantly designed social network for and system for classifying things, people and is a powerful search tool. The main problem Quora seeks to solve is how users get best answers to questions.
The site uses a social network to enable the connection between users and experts who can answer questions, but also the functional design of the website encourages and helps to find people easily who have expertise on a topic. This is important because people who are associated with a topic are much more likely to answer questions related to that topic.
Here’s an overview of some of my thoughts about how the functional design of Quora helps to solve users primary issue of getting answers to their questions:
- Users in Quora follow topics. As a user you can also follow other people who are following a topic.
- You have the ability to private message people in Quora, this enables users to have private back channel conversations about topics, questions, and other issues.
- When you answer a question in Quora you are by default indicating your expertise or interest in a topic. Quora gives users the ability to ask people to answer questions, and makes suggestions as to who you should ask to answer a question related to a topic. People who have previously answered a question are more likely to have answers and have an interest in answering a new question related to a topic.
- Quora uses gamification tactics to encourage people to answer questions. Users gain credit points when other users ask them to answer questions. You can also spend points to ask other users questions. Users set the amount of points it costs to answer a question received from another user.
- There are other ways in which to gain credits that help to promote questions. If you make a request to a Quora user to answer a question, and they answer the question. If someone votes on their answer, you receive credits. I'm not sure if the amount is currently set at a certain amount or it varies depending on the individual, but I've seen +10 credits for every vote. If someone follows a question you asked, you receive credits. I've seen +10 credits for every follow. For one of my questions I received 50 followers and received 500 credits. Therefore whether you wrote the question, or not, it is in your interests to promote good questions because you receive credits.
- Quora is also a powerful search tool. When you create a question in Quora, initially you enter your question into Quora’s search box to determine if there isn’t already an existing version of your question. If you find an existing question, you remove the need to ask a new question. In addition, the search tool results point to related topics and people who are interested in a topic. As a user you may decide to just read the existing answers from another question, read around the topic, or query people because of their expertise with and interest in a topic.
- The goal of Quora is to answer questions about a topic, while Wikipedia’s goal is to give accurate referenced information about a topic. This means Quora and Wikipedia compete around topics, but don’t compete when it comes to how information is sources and presented on both websites. Quora users can give unsubstantiated opinions, especially when questions call for opinions, while Wikipedia encourages users to give information that’s accurate and can be substantiated by secondary and tertiary sources. While you have the ability to collaborate on Wikipedia, you don’t have the ability to direct message. On Quora you do have the ability to communicate privately with other users.
- Quora’s gains a lot from being a social network. It is important because private messaging changes the value of a social technology, from providing information, or even communicating publicly about a topic, to a utility to directly communicate with other Quora members. If you start building relationships within the social technology, having the ability to communicate directly and privately gives users another reason to come back to Quora beyond the value of the information found there, you also return for the people you can find, and the people you can communicate with publicly and privately.
LinkedIn Answers Comparison
- LinkedIn restricts the available topics to questions to certain existing business related topics. While people can ask any question within the LinkedIn Answers system, the limited number of topics is a major difference between LinkedIn Answers and Quora, as Quora aims to enable any user to write any question on any topic.
- LinkedIn Answers users are encouraged to write answers because the people who ask questions have the ability to vote for user’s answers as a best answer. Those best answers appear on the LinkedIn user’s profile. There’s an incentive to gain many best answers because that recognition can establish users as an expert on a topic. LinkedIn rewards people for giving a good answer. Quora rewards people though its credit system for answering a question, and by having the community vote up an answer. Quora also increases the likelihood that an expert on a topic will answer more related questions to a topic. In the suggested people to ask a question feature, users can see how many questions people have answered related to a topic.