One of the latest entries to the social knowledge sharing arena is Quora, a site focused on allowing it’s members to ask questions and seek answers from the rest of the community. While it’s a good premise and there are some things that I do like about it, there are also some significant improvements that I hope to see coming soon.
Let’s start with the Pros
First, since I have a passion for social sharing and problem solving, any site that focuses on letting people help each other is starting on a good premise. Although some might be skeptical that bad advice could be given by the community, I often find that bad answers are filtered by the community and are replace with better information, which helps the knowledge growth process.
Second, I’m impressed with the people that are answering questions. I have seen power-players in the social space such as Pete Cashmore of Mashable and Biz Stone of Twitter answering questions in the Business category. It’s great to see some very influential people who have been through the tough times of a building a startup sharing their knowledge.
Now, the Cons
The site still feels like it’s in Beta. It’s tough to navigate and even figure out what you’re supposed to do. Upon signing in, Quora offers a few categories to follow, so you can find questions/answers, but none of them remotely interested me, so my initial instinct was one of dissatisfaction. I’m sure this will evolve as they improve the UI and add categories. Speaking of which…I haven’t found a good way to request a new category….so I asked it as a question on Quora. We’ll see if I get any answers.
Second, the search functionality is paired with the “Add Question” functionality. At first, I wanted to search for questions, but there was no search box. So, I decided to add a question to Quora asking “where is the search box?” As I typed, I realized that Quora was searching for questions that already existed, so I was getting my search, prior to asking the questions. It’s cool….but not very user friendly. I consider myself to be a pretty tech-savvy guy, so if I didn’t immediately get it…others might not either.
My other con is that when a question is asked, you have no idea whether anyone is ever going to answer it. It doesn’t show up on the home page, so if you don’t have any followers, you’re basically asking a question to an empty room. I’m not going to invest a bunch of time answering questions, if I don’t have the opportunity to have the ones I ask be visible to the community.
Quora is new, so I’m sure they’re still working on enhancements, but my gut is that the site should still be in beta mode, with a closed community helping improve the user experience. With so many social media sites hitting the Web, a bad UI can turn people off quickly. I think the idea is a great one and I hope the developers make enhancements quickly.