How to: A pop-up tests users on how to write a Quora question correctly.
To minimize that decline, Quora will have to shift the core of its efforts from engineering to moderation, says Burbidge. “I can tell that they’re already starting to moderate more because people are starting to complain on Twitter, for example, when their content is hidden,” she says. The site’s emphasis on real identities—users can only sign up using a Facebook or Twitter ID—may also help combat a reduction in quality, she adds.
Yahoo Answers draws more page views than any other Yahoo site, says Burbidge, and despite being the butt of jokes for answers of dubious quality and poor spelling, it “does have good quality and a community for that scale of site.” However, a business model that can reliably convert the site’s popularity into cash has proved elusive, she notes. Quora’s creators have yet to discuss how it will make money from its own content.
Quora, which still has fewer than 20 employees, didn’t respond to requests for an interview. However, in a post published recently on Quora, cofounder Cheever wrote that it had already “been a big challenge to preserve the character of the site,” adding that efforts were being made to help new users fit in. Before new users can post a question, for example, they must take a quiz on what makes an “appropriate” style for a question on Quora.
Cheever also wrote that the company would encourage high-quality discussion by tweaking the system by which users rate each other’s answers to ensure that the highest-quality answers are shown, and build new moderation tools. However, he conceded that it’s impossible to control everything. “We don’t have complete control over how Quora turns out,” he wrote. “The content on Quora is, at the end of the day, a product of the people who use it and edit it.”
Kommons’s founder, Brown, also doubts that Quora can gain a lot of users and still maintain its current level of quality. His first question on the site, posted a year ago, asked how Quora would scale beyond being just a “nerd party” (edits by other users later removed this phrase). Yet Brown believes Quora could still reshape the Web without becoming a blockbuster to rival Yahoo Answers. “I think Quora is actually a competitor to TechCrunch and the other tech blogs and media that have been writing about it,” says Brown. A social Q&A site focused on a particular subject area—Silicon Valley tech or otherwise—could usurp blogs and other media by directly connecting readers with the important figures in that area, he says.