9 posts categorized "Quora"

Quora blog

Joe Wallin gave me a heads up that Quora had launched a new blog product on the Quora domain.

That's interesting.

When Quora launched, I expected most subject matter experts thinking of blogging would decide instead to put their effort into answering Quora questions. Certainly I thought most lawyers inclined to blog would do so, instead of setting up their own domains. But I was wrong about that. 

Back channelOffhand, the only person I can think of who uses Quora as his primary subject matter sharing storefront is David Rose. I wonder if the new blog feature will cause others to invest more online identity there.

Me, I never considered leaving this domain for Quora. But I was once taken with the service to the extent that I asked Adam Hindman to build a page for Counselor @ Law that would pull in Quora answers. That page ran for a while, but when my interest in Quora waned, I shut that page down.

I have once before toyed with the idea of an incidental, backchannel blog, a place to post random thoughts as they occur, whether or not those thoughts were grist for a daily post here at the flagship. Not promising that I will throw myself robustly into the new Quora blogging platform, but I'll experiment with using Quora in such a manner, see what happens. Here's the link: http://wac6.quora.com/.

Photo: "Applying filling to a channel back chair, 1936," US National Archives / Flickr.

Quora Pivot$

I'm not sure they realize it yet, but the folks at Quora - perhaps intending only to solve a problem with shoddy and superfluous answers - have come up with a system that may herald a new kind of money.

Screen shot 2011-09-06 at 10.41.01 PMQuora is beta testing a new system that (I think) it hopes will improve the quality of answers on the site, and thus legitimize Quora as a repository and manufactory of authoritative opinion (a kind of real time, place your bet, backed-by-authorial-reputation Wikipedia).

The basic idea is to pay experts to write answers.

The units of payment, which Quora terms "credits" (Techcrunch came up with a far better name that Quora should use: "Quoins"), don't appear to be useful to the recipient for anything other than commissioning answers from other experts. But put that reservation aside for a minute as a temporary shortcoming. Quora's credits are a currency, a way of quantifying the exchange of one person's time and attention for another's.

Writing in Technology Review last month, James Surowiecki critiqued Bitcoin for its artificially self-imposed scarcity, a structural defect dooming the virtual currency to be hoarded by speculators. "Successful currencies are used to transact day-to-day business and lubricate commerce," he wrote. Riffing on Surowiecki's article, Paul Krugman wrote yesterday that "What we want from a monetary system isn’t to make people holding money rich; we want it to facilitate transactions and make the economy as a whole rich." Bitcoin, he concluded, lays a path to deflation and depression.

But that's not Quora's currency, not as I understand it. The "money supply" expands in correlation to the time people devote to getting and spending the credits. 

Central banks aren't shuddering yet, but there's something to what Quora is doing that is beyond mere gamification to make the site stickier. Someday we may not even remember Quora's genesis as a question and answer site, and understand it instead as the lubricant of a barter economy that repels government taxation and corporate brand marketing alike.

The Quora's Gone, But It's Not Forgotten

The Quora tab and feed on this blog, that is.

I just wasn't engaging in Quora consistently enough. And I insist that everything here be about today.

Not Quora's fault I'm too busy to engage there. But the reflection prompts the following observations:

  • Quora doesn't seem to have solved the problem that people chime in unnecessarily with non-substantive or repetitive answers, rather than vote up or edit other answers. (Maybe they want to avoid being a wiki.)
  • Questions could be better consolidated, too.
  • There's something about Quora's potential that is limited by an interface that is essentially text.  There ought to be a mind map or other visual way to enter into the information.

Lawyers & Quora

The best implementation I've yet seen of Quora imported into a personal blog is what Matt Bartus is doing.

If you go to his blog on the web, Matt's Quora answers are posted on a separate page.

Picture 34In Google Reader, however, somehow Matt has gotten the Quora stream to intermix with his separate posts originating from his blog. I think that works really well, and I'll be surprised if we don't find other people copying that approach down the road. (Curiously, if you go straight to Matt's feedburner feed, it only streams the posts; so somehow via Reader he is getting two feeds to unite?)

Quora, or something like it, may step in and subsume blogging for most lawyers who decide to share their learning in new media. Regular blogging lawyers (legal bloggers?) like Matt, or Joe Wallin, or yours truly, will still maintain their own domains. But Quora serves up topics, a visible audience (at the very least, the person who asked the question), the likelihood of engagement with other users, and terms of service that permit you to export answers. Way more compelling than attempting to drive traffic to a law firm's site or a part-time blog.

Are Social Networks the New Platform for Social Activism?

The answer to this question will depend, ultimately, on the interests that those in charge of social networks choose to serve.

If choices in design and development are made to maintain the commercial interests advertisers have in targeting messages to consumers, then, no, social networks will be no better for social activism than any other means of communication. Said another way: if put into the service of advertising, then social networks will become a tool that can be used effectively, or not, by people who are otherwise motivated to be socially active. If social networks are a trick, a bait and switch, a way to expose users to advertisers and direct marketers, then social networks will end up being indifferent, able to serve good causes and repressive governments alike.

If, on the other hand, choices in design and development are relentlessly made to privilege a user's access to relevant, uncensored, unsponsored information, even at the expense of advertisers who would prefer to control what is known and said on all media, then, yes, social networks become a platform for social activism of a qualitatively higher order than any other means of communication. Social networks then become a way to amplify the human power to share, sift and analyze knowledge.

Today's leading social networks show a lack of ambition and an unimaginative willingness to resuscitate 20th Century business models that might well otherwise be exhausted by now. So it will be up to others to displace today's leaders in social networking, or to end run them, if social networking is going to actually improve the human condition.

Quora is a promising candidate (in part, no doubt, because it is so new and not yet committed to a revenue model). If it stays open and permits itself and others to iterate relentlessly on ways to gather and syndicate real time information, it could be part of the more ambitious of the two paradigms, the one that has social networks destroying advertising altogether.

Speaking now to those who found social networks: IMHO the place to start is to honor authentic speech and to put the technology to the service of natural persons. If you can afford to never make design or business choices that compromise on those principles, you could do something relevant for the world.

The title of this post is a question from Quora. This post is my answer from last night.

Who's Using Ted Wang's Series Seed Docs?

Hard to say, but Quora might be a good way to track at least those who are volunteering the fact!

And we all should so volunteer, those of us who use them, when we can. Because that helps the cause of keeping legal fees associated with a seed financing proportionate to the relatively modest amounts of capital being raised.

I'm using them, as I told Quora, though for "general solicitation" concerns my clients aren't announcing the deals yet.

I see that Jason Crawford of Kima Labs and Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz have said on Quora that they've used them, so there we have public endorsements from an entrepreneur and an investor, respectively.

Fred Wilson has also said, in a comment thread, that he'd be open to using them, if an entrepreneur asked him to.

The other way to track this would be to review charters as they're filed in different states. But that's not as easy to do today as it should be. At some point charters, like all public documents, should be searchable on the internet.


Sucking Quora Content Into This Blog

Thanks to Jason Thane and Adam Hindman of General UI, I am now pulling Quora threads into a page on this blog.

Picture 24If I'm interpreting my Google Analytics and Feedburner reports correctly, most of my readers consume the content of this blog on RSS feeds. For you, for now at least, I think to access the Quora page you are going to have to click through to the web version of this blog, to find the new Quora tab in the nav bar.

I like how simply Adam has presented the Quora content.

Over time we may experiment with pulling additional content, but for now we are pulling only Quora threads I am following or interacting with.

Quora is exciting. If it can spread outside the tech community and motivate people in other fields - architecture, painting, history, economics, civil engineering, theoretical physics, whatever - it could push us closer to the Internet that ought to be, the Twitter that might have become. If it gets co-opted by marketing - which is possible, given the sad lack of imagination the leaders in social media have demonstrated in choosing business models to pursue - it may be a flash in the pan.

Whatever happens, though, the Quora content on topics involving startup law, early stage financing, angel investing, is super, super promising. Those are sampled on the Quora page.

Prediction for the legal profession, by way of follow up to yesterday's post about startup law practice: lawyer websites won't go away, but most lawyers who blog casually or were thinking about blogging will turn to Quora instead. It makes sense to invest time into content that will be read, reacted to, possibly improved, content which, at least under current Quora TOS, can be re-purposed for narrower audiences, anyway.

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