A month ago I covered a post by Robert Scoble about the question-and-answer website Quora, which has been coming in for a lot of attention lately. Scoble thought that the site had the potential to become “the future of blogging.” And while I couldn’t quite see that, I nonetheless thought that, based on Scoble’s remarks, it was worthy of investigation.
However, now Scoble himself has changed his mind. It turns out that a number of problems with the way Quora handles questions and answers make it considerably less useful for blogging—notably the way that other users can come in and change questions and answers, people have to use their real names, and brands are not allowed.
[If] you gather a group that doesn’t like you, or your writings, for some reason, you can get voted down, which effectively makes your answer disappear. See this post, for instance. As of right now my answer is voted down, even though it got 33 upvotes and lots of “great post” comments on Twitter and under the post itself. In fact, no one explained why the post got downvoted in the comments — which means that people who leave answers are left scratching their heads wondering “what did I do wrong?” Most just leave the system, not to return.
Part of this might also be a classic “tragedy of the commons” situation. Some Quora users, such as Dan Kaplan, have noted that as Quora has added more and more users, the things that originally made it special have broken down.
Under the pressure of new users, Quora’s answer voting system is also breaking down. Always vulnerable to cliquishness and groupthink but mostly held in balance by the icy standards of the early community and the Admin police, the up- and down-voting mechanism is increasingly unable to guarantee that the best answers will float to the top.
What to take from all this? Well, I’m not sure there really is any one particular “future of blogging”, or of the way we create and read content on-line in general. I think that future will be woven together out of a number of disparate threads—Quora, yes, but also Flipboard and Amazon Singles and other new experiments in new media—and we won’t really know what that future is until we’re already living it.