Question: Why use Quora?
December 5, 2018 10:49 AM   Subscribe

The question and answer website Quora has been hacked, leaking data on over 100 million user accounts. But there are other reasons not to use the service argues MeFi's own Andy Baio.
posted by gwint (47 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Hell, even Ask MetaFilter lets you export your history, and that was mostly built by one person."
posted by box at 10:53 AM on December 5 [13 favorites]


Hi! I should clarify — obviously, more than one person worked on Ask MeFi, but I think the export feature was built entirely by pb. (MetaTalk thread here.)
posted by waxpancake at 10:58 AM on December 5 [15 favorites]


Oh god do I want to get my hands on that data. Every once in a while I dip into Quora but it quickly becomes clear that in all but the most specialized areas the questions are being generated solely to bump numbers and keep the regulars occupied.

I’m guessing with that data dump I could nail that theory down once and for all.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:59 AM on December 5 [3 favorites]


with that data dump I could nail that theory down once and for all.

2. ???
3. Profit!!
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:03 AM on December 5 [2 favorites]


I dip into quora from to time and it is always a depressing experience. I get it that ignorant windbags need somewhere to hang out but why would anyone join them? It baffles me how it ever attracted a cent of funding.
posted by epo at 11:05 AM on December 5 [18 favorites]


It's a home for all the Yahoo Answers refugees who still need to know how babby is formed.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:18 AM on December 5 [47 favorites]


I occasionally click on a link and it takes me to Quora, and it's always a confusing, jumbled experience.
It makes me read an ad before the answer or something like that.
I just deleted my account right now and said to hell with it.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 11:21 AM on December 5 [6 favorites]


ha.
this post reminded me that i have a quora account. i signed up to see an answer at some point but never fully set up the account.
periodically i get emails from them that i delete.

this post inspired me to finish creating my account - so that i could delete it.
posted by entropone at 11:22 AM on December 5 [3 favorites]


Same here - just deleted my (never used at all) account. What a flurry of emails and confirmations (and again) and crap.

I have too many random accounts across the internet. I need to cull them at some point.
posted by Brockles at 11:32 AM on December 5 [2 favorites]


My reaction to any question-and-answer site that requires real names, like Quora does, is pretty much the same as a robot made of meat's in this 2011 comment: "It's not OK for a future employer to google me and find that I didn't know Cayley's transformation."
posted by Ralston McTodd at 11:32 AM on December 5 [4 favorites]


You can delete your account on Quora nowadays? When I tried, customer service ignored me and I just deleted all of my posts one-by-one.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:32 AM on December 5


The last digest email they sent looked more like a list of fanfic writing prompts than question in need of an answer.
posted by cmfletcher at 11:34 AM on December 5 [8 favorites]


In fairness to Quora, they allow a lot of questions about specific details of Rick and Morty episodes that would probably get deleted as chatfilter by the faceless bureaucrats who moderate AskMe.

Seriously, in a moment of weakness and foolishness many months ago I logged in to Quora with my actual email, and now I get fucking Quora Updates and they are constantly bugging me to check out newly-posted questions about Rick and Morty and, yes, babby formation. GIRL, YOU ARE PREGNANT. Go see a doctor, jeez.

But I am very sad for the very professional experts with well-manicured LinkedIn profiles who may now have to find some other craptacular website upon which to burnish their Personal Brands as Thought Leaders.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:36 AM on December 5 [5 favorites]


I always found it creepy that anyone can edit the questions of Quora. Because of that I barely ever used it.
posted by Harpocrates at 11:37 AM on December 5


I dip into quora from to time and it is always a depressing experience. I get it that ignorant windbags need somewhere to hang out but why would anyone join them?

Didn't Jordan Peterson's march to fame begin with a Quora answer that went viral and got him a book deal? I mean, to set an ignorant windbag baseline.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 11:45 AM on December 5 [15 favorites]


I disagree with Andy Baio's basic premise. There are certainly good arguments in favour of preserving information that has been posted on the web. But there are also good arguments in favour of not preserving all of the information that has ever been posted on the web.

I don't think that Quora is actually all that interested in the good reasons. I suspect it's just part of their monetization (such as it is) plan to limit free access to the information they've collected.

Quora's motivations aside, there should be plenty of space on the web for people who actively don't want their information preserved forever, and Quora has chosen to be one of those venues where people *can* change their minds later about what they want to present to the world. That is not inherently bad.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:46 AM on December 5 [3 favorites]


Quora popped up on my radar when a friend told me that someone had posted a question about their partner's net worth. I thought that was pretty creepy and invasive, and then I had another thought and did a search and sure enough, there was a question about how much I had made when I sold my company. I poked around a bit more and found tons of questions about private individuals' economic status, relationship status, etc. And as far as I could see, Quora had no issues with their platform being used that way.

So yeah, fuck that spooky ass platform and company.
posted by phooky at 11:53 AM on December 5 [9 favorites]


I made an account for some reason, once. Now if I ever look at the site, I get an email a few days later asking if I am still interested in whatever I looked at. I find that to be too needy.
posted by thelonius at 12:05 PM on December 5 [2 favorites]


"Hell, even Ask MetaFilter lets you export your history, and that was mostly built by one person."

Datadump that mf already.
posted by srboisvert at 12:05 PM on December 5 [2 favorites]


I poked around a bit more and found tons of questions about private individuals' economic status, relationship status, etc.

I've noticed that, if I type the name of a person into Google, autocomplete prompts me with "$PERSON wife" and "$PERSON net worth", which is kind of off-putting to me. I just tried a female celebrity name, and got "$PERSON age" :(
posted by thelonius at 12:08 PM on December 5 [5 favorites]


I mean correct me if I'm wrong but isn't Quora where people go because they don't know about AskMe?

And it's a shame, too. I remember a few years back, before the revenuepocalypse, AskMe had like a crazy high search ranking. It's kinda sad to see Quora steal its thunder, because dollars to donuts people get better advice on AskMe by a factor of ten.
posted by panama joe at 12:08 PM on December 5 [6 favorites]


The content on Quora is decent enough, but the site design is incredibly off-putting. When coming in from search, any page beyond the first one blurs the text and throws up a big window requiring you to register to continue. You can get around it by sticking a question mark at the end of the URL, but still -- why should you have to register just to read?

And the one time I did register (to message a question to a user), they required a real, public facing name to join. I balked and put in a plausible pseudonym based on my email, because fuck that. Before I could do anything they suspended my account and sent an email insisting I upload photo ID to prove I was using my real name. Nosy little twerps, aren't they?
posted by Rhaomi at 12:21 PM on December 5 [6 favorites]


You can delete your account on Quora nowadays? When I tried, customer service ignored me and I just deleted all of my posts one-by-one.

Just did it. Went to my settings. It's at the very bottom of the "Privacy Settings" tab.
posted by tofu_crouton at 12:22 PM on December 5


Reason given for not allowing archiving: "We need to preserve our users' privacy."

Contra: "We need your full, real name."
posted by clawsoon at 12:30 PM on December 5 [17 favorites]


Those aren't inherently conflicting decisions. The fact that they require a full, real name to post (and again, there are arguments for and against that) imposes a greater burden for protecting the postings and information that then get associated with the full, real name.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:35 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


"Hell, even Ask MetaFilter lets you export your history, and that was mostly built by one person."

I often send mf links to friends and people I would want to join here. But I try to not post links to MetaFilter on other sites, because I think it might bring lots of the wrong people and cause headaches for mods. Am I overly concerned about that?
posted by M-x shell at 12:52 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


I deleted my account at least 6 years ago when I noticed that they were engaged in search cloaking, where you’d get search results for text which wasn’t visible if you didn’t have an account. As far as I’m concerned that’s one-strike-and-you’re-out territory barring a lot of senior management being fired for cause.
posted by adamsc at 1:08 PM on December 5 [9 favorites]


Argh, this post reminded me that I accidentally ended up with a quora account due to misclick myself.
Deleting it is a pain in the neck. And there's this lovely crap in the confirmation email: " Note: If you login during the next 14 days, your account will be reactivated and deletion will be canceled."

I never meant to create an account in the first place, so I hope I don't accidentally do something that will undo this deletion.

I wonder how many account deletions they've gotten in the last n hours...
posted by nat at 1:10 PM on December 5


>> with that data dump I could nail that theory down once and for all.
>
> 2. ???
> 3. Profit!!

Causing a large number of defections from a site that basically just messes with its users? Priceless.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:22 PM on December 5


"Restricted access to answers without an account" is my red line. It is always (outside of cases where there's a legitimate product need, such as the user's own choice to restrict access to their stuff) the sign of a company that has gone off the rails. Throwing up that shady blurred out text registration wall is the thin dividing line between "we're a publisher" and "we're a bunch of growth hackers."

I get why they want to push people to register for all the usual business reasons, but it's breaking the web. Heck, the site's homepage consists solely of a big login screen, which is inexcusable when your site consists entirely of publicly available content.

If your business model is "get people to contribute public knowledge for free, promote their content to search engines, then later add a thing that forces other people to give up their personal information to read it," you're an asshole, and I'm deleting my account.
posted by zachlipton at 1:25 PM on December 5 [5 favorites]


I'm guessing your not big into Expert's Exchange, either.
posted by clawsoon at 1:39 PM on December 5


because dollars to donuts people get better advice on AskMe by a factor of ten.

I disagree; they are both as good or shit as each other, I find (I do not use quora, but end up there via google on occasion).

Quora certainly does suffer from some neckbeards who think they know the answer to everything. However, because the user base is much larger, narrow questions are far more likely to be answered by people with actual experience. I see this with questions about running for example. Ask mefi is useless when it comes to running advice beyond c25k. Quora has experienced runners (and, yes, blowhards) regularly weighing in. The way it encourages people to put their actual experience next to their name (even if said experience is sometimes hilariously exaggerated), guides question-askers towards weighting answers more appropriately, and also encourage answerers to consider if they actually are qualified to answer the question (a big problem with ask.me, imho, where people are totally happy weighing in with blissfully ignorant conjecture).

As I say, I only really see quora when I'm googling running stuff, so my perception may be skewed, but I wouldn't get too sniffy about it like mefi is a higher plane of existence or something.
posted by smoke at 2:44 PM on December 5 [11 favorites]


I am very sad for the very professional experts with well-manicured LinkedIn profiles who may now have to find some other craptacular website upon which to burnish their Personal Brands as Thought Leaders.

That is a perfect description of the top-voted comments in about 90% of the threads that I read before I gave up on the site. The gasbag/actually seemed that they knew what they were talking about ratio was at least 10-1.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:44 PM on December 5 [2 favorites]


All I know about Quora is that it is constantly thread-sat by an elderly, superstitious, repressed, and severely racist relative of mine.

She is always complaining that the rest of the family isn't respectfully interested enough in her superstitious racist diatribes about how people aren't repressed as much as they ought to be.

If she brings up something awful in front of the children and we force a subject change, she talks about how many people she's "helping" every day on Quora.

The idea that this relative of mine sometimes gives "advice" to vulnerable people is distressing.
posted by Construction Concern at 2:49 PM on December 5 [5 favorites]


I had an IT question on how to make two products work together today that had a top placed search result in Quora. One of the answers, which was roughly 2/3rds of the total page, was effectively an ad for some 3rd party app that they wedged in as a supposed answer to the problem (think if the question was that the user wanted to use a specific type of headlight onto a specific type of bike but was having problems with it slipping due to a design flaw and wanted to figure out how to get it to stay put, and the answer was, "If you buy our awesome pogo stick, you wouldn't need that silly old bike anyway!").

The answerer at least was labeled as working for the 3rd party but I was still aghast that people were able to post thinly veiled ads like that without deletion and banning, especially given that it didn't even solve the problem.
posted by Candleman at 2:56 PM on December 5 [2 favorites]


They seem to have no interest in combating linkspam either. For example, I just pulled up Quora's "How do I install WordPress?" question. The top answer is littered with links to "best WordPress web hosting companies" followed by a recommendation to use a particular host (with an affiliate link, even though those are supposed to be banned), and then instructions to setup WordPress on that host only. It's a very long answer that exists entirely to promote service providers. Many of the other answers consist of people promoting their websites and blog posts hosted elsewhere. "How do I register a domain name?" is the same deal: there's some useful information, but basically every answer exists to get a link out there. And as you scroll down, they become just blatant ads: no actual instructions on how to register a domain, but lots of "i 'll find 5 best SEO friendly domain names for you in only $5."
posted by zachlipton at 3:24 PM on December 5 [3 favorites]


It's a home for all the Yahoo Answers refugees who still need to know how babby is formed.

It's like someone purposefully took the worst parts of Yahoo Answers and the worst parts of Stack Exchange and built this Frankenstein's monster of a site. Every single time I look for information there I end up reading like ten different people blatantly advertising their apps or websites or whatever. It is almost a techy Herbalife.
posted by Literaryhero at 3:37 PM on December 5 [7 favorites]


A "real" first name/last name requirement means a real sounding fn/ln. If you have a mail server - and if you have a web site, you probably do - juan.gonzales@foo.bar (or similar name combination with uncheckable tens of thousands) works just fine.

It always restores my faith in people's baseline honesty when I see them kvetch about how real must mean, you know, real.
posted by aurelian at 4:11 PM on December 5 [5 favorites]


Quora frustrates me. The line that to me is unconscionable is that they require you log in to read answers. (At some point, it's a flexible wall of some sort and policy has changed over the years). I've argued with Adam D’Angelo about this on the Internet and I believe he really thinks in good faith this is the way to build a healthy ecosystem. In particular that it brings users into the site who will then turn around and answer things.

I also think he's dead wrong. The Stack Exchange model is a much better way to do this, as has been proven by their success. Stack has a fantastic data export system where data dumps are uploaded to archive.org with a very generous license. That's how you respect the fact that your entire product is based on free contributions from user volunteers.

It's useful too; I just noticed that the offline Wikipedia reader Kiwix has the Stack data in their format. You can now put all of Stack Overflow on your phone or computer for reading offline, assuming you've got 52GB of space. That's something you'll never be able to do with Quora because they've got $226M worth of VC financing to answer for. (Goodness, how do you spent $200M+ on what's basically a moderately large web forum?)
posted by Nelson at 5:52 PM on December 5 [12 favorites]


Long ago I tried making databases of notes using proprietary programs, only to regret that. (If the OS changed and the program wouldn't work ... or they had bugs that would never be fixed ... all that extra effort was lost.) Plain ASCII text files will never get old!

Geocities, Blogger, Usenet (sucked into Google's bowels) ... the list of voracious dead goes on and on. (Had a blog on Blogger; when I 'Exported' my stuff, each message had a hidden Google-link embedded in it. Thanks for the favor 'buddy'. )

There've been many examples of proprietary/closed-database sites that talked people into feeding them copiously, then went titsup or were sold to for-profits. (CD Database => Gracenote for one.)

Andy's right. Please don't feed these garbage-bears. They die young and leave behind smelly corpses and bad feelings. Instead shop for and support public, cooperative, completely-open institutions (Wikipedia, I.Archive) that are widely-respected, financially-stable non-profits. And DESERVING of your well-crafted contributions!
posted by Twang at 9:00 PM on December 5 [4 favorites]


I gave up on Quora after it got overrun by conservative dickbags, racists, bigots, and other terribad people (but i repeat myself) asking all sorts of horrid questions about queer folk, atheists, queer atheists...
posted by anem0ne at 9:03 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


'it got overrun by conservative dickbags, racists, bigots, and other terribad people....'
This is why we can't have nice things. ;-o
Yet somehow, MeFi has avoided that catsasstrophy.
posted by Twang at 9:06 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


What's galling is that I wrote quite a few things there, some of which were later syndicated to places like HuffPo.

I of course never saw a cent, but whatevs. It's the fact that it was clear they didn't value the experience of users or their safety, given how one of the posts led to some really creepy DMs.

And this was now five or six years ago for me.
posted by anem0ne at 9:10 PM on December 5 [2 favorites]


Have just deleted my account, except of course it is not actually ‘deleted’ just removed from view! Went through my junk-gathering email account where quora emails go and noticed the bulk were of the form ‘you answered a question about X ...’ (some years ago as it happened) ‘could you help some user with this question?’. It is mostly windbags and spammers who provide responses because that is who they seem to cultivate. And yes, ‘know all neckbeard’ is a wonderful description for a common type of contributor. The old Yorkshire saying ‘where there’s muck there’s brass’ may be appropriate here but how can you possibly monetise this particular form of muck?
posted by epo at 2:13 AM on December 6 [1 favorite]


Goodness, how do you spent $200M+ on what's basically a moderately large web forum?

Hi I time-traveled here from 1999 and can answer your questions
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:32 AM on December 6 [8 favorites]


But I try to not post links to MetaFilter on other sites, because I think it might bring lots of the wrong people and cause headaches for mods. Am I overly concerned about that?

I have close, personal friends who I keep away from Metafilter.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:24 AM on December 6 [4 favorites]


I also think he's dead wrong. The Stack Exchange model is a much better way to do this, as has been proven by their success. Stack has a fantastic data export system where data dumps are uploaded to archive.org with a very generous license. That's how you respect the fact that your entire product is based on free contributions from user volunteers.

Goodness yes, I find that their answers are wonderful, especially when I'm looking to learn a new RPG, or delve deeper into a current one. The folks there are kind, knowledgeable and really go the extra mile when answering questions.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 1:07 PM on December 10


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