Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

Time has come to change how we read

Google Reader is dead. Long live reading.

If you are from the real world and happened upon posts from any-and-every tech blog, you wouldn’t be mistaken in assuming that today marks the demise of the written word, now that Google’s offed Google Reader.

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Image Source: Business Week

But as Joe Coscarelli of New York Magazine, notes, most people don’t know Google Reader from Google Currents, less so care about its disappearance:

As a blogger this might be blasphemy, but the online echo chamber when beloved products, however esoteric, change or shut down is out of control. Worse, it might convince us, through repetition, that these things matter. Regardless of what your social media circles might indicate, the universe will not mourn Reader because the amount of people whose job (or even hobby) it is to consume and process news is actually minuscule. Thankfully.

As a matter of fact, in their rush to tease out the minutiae, I fear we have missed the big picture. There is a fundamental disruption happening in how news is consumed.

Many apps (Digg, Aol, Feedly) are scrambling to jump on the RSS bandwagon by touting their next Google Reader but fact is we are already seeing attempts at more efficient ways to consume news.

And RSS is only part of that story.

What’s the New TiVo of News?

Matt Buchanan of The New Yorker, writes of the problem that ailed Google Reader:

But a feed reader still represents a fundamentally different vision of gathering information than the social model that has gripped the Web. It is largely a single-user enterprise—a digital monk diligently scanning feeds. And it is intensely focussed on the Web sites most important to the user, rather than the omnivorous grazing that characterizes scanning news on social media, as links are surfaced by the people the user follows.

Fact is most of the sites I recommend below have moved away from the RSS-only model while curating social content, in many cases with a lil help from an expert – a trait most successfully used by Gabe Rivera and his trinity of popular news aggregation insider sites Techmeme (Technology), Memeorandum (Politics), and Wesmirch (Celebrity).

As Matt says:

Everybody consumes the Web differently, so it’s hard to imagine a single reading service that works for every person. But it seems reasonable to think that one combining a person’s deep and abiding interests with the serendipity of social media could work for most.

But the future for news readers is brighter than ever and here’s not one, not two, but five different reasons why:

1. Flipboard

The one news app I cannot live without today would have to be – without doubt – my Flipboard.

Flipboard pulls together the disparate threads of news that course through our ubiquitous social media world and makes gorgeous sense of it. Everything from your LinkedIn to Facebook updates, YouTube to Instagram (even SoundCloud), and most importantly, your Twitter followings are displayed in an elegant magazine like format. It’s the kind of design one normally expects from Apple, and Flipboard’s attention-to-detail here is impressive (Follow their designer, @craigmod).

The important distinction to make here is that Flipboard is primarily a consumption device. Though it provides you options to tweet or update your status on any of your social accounts, the beauty of Flipboard is its visual clarity and the ability to on-board you with great news right away.

2. Feedly

For those hard-core Google Reader users who fret-and-fumed since the announcement-to-shutter was made, Feedly has been a god-send. Not only has Feedly invested the most in making this a smooth transition for users, they have also made the most gains among the same user base (up to 3 million users now). In addition, they now support lost RSS reader tools (like @reeder and @newsify) stay alive.

From a user perspective, what feedly has done is provide a quick replacement for Google Reader with a blazing fast cloud service, which you can find at Feedly Cloud. What’s most shocking to me in this whole scenario is why Google didn’t transition those influential Google Reader users to Google Currents – their Flipboard wannabe – the same way Flipboard did!

What Feedly does with its aggressive push into the Google Reader space remains to be seen, but I’d watch out for what they have up their sleeve next.

3. Newsify

All great news consumption apps start on mobile. Flipboard set the standard and, believe it or not, Newsify and Reeder are two similar apps with similar credentials.

RSS subscriptions, unlike the real-time ephemeral nature of social, add up pretty fast in an inbox and what you found is that you had to declare news bankruptcy pretty soon, deleting days worth of RSS content.

What you need is a pictorial, almost Pinterest-like, visualization that allows you to skim through hundreds of posts while picking out the ones that seem most interesting. If it’s 4.5 star app rating is any indication, Newsify seems to have nailed that experience for the iPhone and the iPad.

4. The Modern Op-ed: Quora and Medium

What Huffington Post successfully started, Quora and Medium have tried to emulate. The goal: to find and amplify excellent sources of authoritative analysis, with topics ranging from breaking news to expertise across varying categories.

While Quora is focused on news-via-experience, Medium seems to have perfected the art of the modern op-ed, democratized it while still maintaining its quality.

But what all these sites do is take the traditional news model and flip it on its head by finding commenters, whose comments are the starting point to creating worthwhile reading, and giving these individuals a platform to write and a community to pontificate.

5. Social News: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn

Finally, the elephant in the room. Social.

Let’s not forget that all of the above innovation rests on social.

What would Flipboard do without Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn feeds. Would their pages be as interesting or even exist?

Most of what I follow on Flipboard are Twitter lists I’ve created. Most of what most people follow on Flipboard are also built around links shared on social sites. With LinkedIn already showing how a successful social news product should be built around relevance and Facebook clearly showing its cards with what could potentially be a social news engine, we can see the direction that social news is gonna take in the coming years. And it’s gonna be a game changer.

So let me leave you with a question:

How do you get your news today? Is it on Yahoo News or Flipboard or Twitter? Do you read news primarily on your phone as you are boarding the train or on your desktop once you get to work or with a New York Times subscription while you drink coffee in the morning.

Leave me a comment.

Filed under: Curation, Facebook, Journalism, Medium, Quora, Social Media Tools, Tumblr, What's New in Social Media

Quora’s Big Problem

I haven’t been on Quora in a long time.

I used to be there every single day, so much that many Quora users’ feed was filled just with stuff I curated. But that was months ago.

Slowly but surely as Liz Gannes from AllThingsD suggests in an interview with co-founder Adam D’Angelo, “it can be easy to forget to visit Quora, with its random jumble of writings on topics that are interesting but not crucial.

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So as a friend of Quora’s (I even hosted a Quora meetup at my digs last week) and an obsessive about how startups communicate in today’s social media world, I carefully read through the article to figure out if it had clues to where Quora may be headed but was disappointed. Here’s the where and the why:

Paint a picture

I’d love to do a Kara Swisher style deconstruction of the answers but frankly it’d get repetitive here, so let’s just cut to the chase and address the big questions and what they lacked.

Where’s Quora now and where are they headed?

Adam: We’ve become more data-driven. When you’re small, you have to do everything on intuition, but now we’re at the scale where we have a lot of users, so we can run experiments. We have a data team that’s pretty big, actually.

What do you use the data for — is it personalization?

Adam: No, it’s more about to make decisions about what to build. We’re looking at whether something’s going to be a good investment of resources. When you’re small, you can say, “I use the product myself, and I’m annoyed by these things, so let’s change this.” Now we can say, “Twenty percent of our users have encountered this issue that makes them less engaged or more engaged,” so we can test it. That’s really important, because then you don’t have to centralize the decision making. So it doesn’t all go through me.

I think one of the challenges with operational details is that it detracts from the bigger picture and introduces more questions with room for confusion. Wonder how it’s done?

Mark Zuckerberg and the folks over at Facebook, have figured out a way to code every announcement (even ones as mediocre as their recent Facebook Home announcement) in broad strokes compliant to a grand vision:

Mark: At one level, [Home] is just the next mobile version of Facebook. At a deeper level, I think this can start to be a change in the relationship that we have with how we use computing devices. For more than thirty years, computers have mostly just been about tasks, and they had to be–they were too expensive and clunky and hard to use, so you wouldn’t really want to use them for anything else. But the modern computing device has a very different place in our lives. It’s not just for productivity and business, although it’s great for that too. It’s for making us more connected, more social, more aware.

Home, by putting people first, and then apps–by just flipping the order–is one of many small but meaningful changes in our relationship with technology over time.

It’s always about people first. And, Zuckerberg has truly come a long way and learned well.

Words matter. And, ideas matter even more. This is an area where Quora absolutely needs to spend some time articulating their vision, and they gotta do it now.

Now show it works

How big is Quora? What are the most important metrics to you — volume of content, how many people use it?

Adam: We look at people who use it. We don’t share the particular numbers, but it’s pretty big, and it’s growing.

Nah. Not good enough. From a communications perspective, this is the worst answer one can probably give but some startups do it and think they can get away with it. Guess what? No one’s buying it.

You’ve got to come up with metrics that are understandable to the public and it needs to be framed the right way. When I joined LinkedIn, we were close to 5 or 6 million members on the site  and from my first day there, our vision was always clearly framed around the world that we operated within (5 million professionals on LinkedIn vs. 25 million folks on Facebook). Likewise, with Quora, there’s a plethora of factors they can make a great case with to show growth in relevant areas, the most obvious being the number of questions answered each day the world over by knowledge workers in specific topics and categories. Instead, it falls flat when you say: “we’re pretty big and growing.”

Always, show, don’t tell.

Let me give you another example, this time, more relevant to Quora’s size. Take Flipboard for example, which has done a good job of framing their metrics around Flips. How many articles are being flipped, read and therefore shared in their magazines. I’ve created three magazines on Flipboard and psychologically it’s a great feeling when I have 100s of thousands of flips even when my readers number in the thousands. Either way, it’s good for the user and the reader to know where things started, and how it’s doing right now relevant to that start.

Even when Apple was floundering, Steve Jobs always painted a clear picture of the future. This needs to be done; without which everyone’s lost. Moving on…

The elephant in the room: Purpose

You’ve introduced a bunch of new content types in addition to Q&A. What’s working?

Adam: So we have answers, blogs and now we have reviews. The area we define as what Quora’s good at is long-form text that’s useful over time, and where you care about who wrote the text. Not that you need to be friends with them, just that they’re someone trustworthy.

Their introduction of boards was the first time I stepped outside the fan circle and re-evaluated my enthusiasm for the product. And since then I’ve noticed a deterioration in the quality of the Quora feed. Things never been the same since.

But this question leads to clarity in the mission which also should answer why I should use Quora. But instead it led me to thinking of the reason why I’ve dropped out of Quora oddly similar to the reason Liz gave in the early paragraphs: “it can be easy to forget to visit Quora, with its random jumble of writings on topics that are interesting but not crucial.

Every product mission should have a purpose in the lives of their users that makes the product irreplaceable. Take LinkedIn, whose mission to transform the lives of all global professionals led to – jobs. Helping users find a better job, a dream job.

It may not be what LinkedIn talks about all the time, but as a user, it’s this promise that keeps bringing you back for more. It’s this tacit understanding that leads you to update your profile, build your connections and maybe share articles you hope your future boss will “like.” But it all starts and ends with that purpose for a user: what’s in it for me?

Once that reason exists in the users mind, is articulated and is based on reality – it creates a compelling reason to return over and over again. A compelling reason to contribute. Frankly, I think Quora’s unique strengths may lie not just in gathering, sharing and building that knowledge graph (since there are so many others building that graph) but rather in the application of said knowledge towards intelligence and skills that will give it a purpose it so sorely lacks.

But, what do you think is Quora’s purpose? 

Thoughts? Leave a comment.

Filed under: Public Relations, Quora

Quora’s Vision, Competition

Quora’s Adam D’Angelo penned an interesting year-end post where he articulates Quora’s mission better than they’ve ever done before. As a huge fan of the site and a disappointee with some of their recent work (Quora boards anyone?) I’m glad to see Quora returning to its roots.

Quora’s mission is to share and grow the world’s knowledge.

LIBRARY-OF-ALEXANDRIA

Much of Adam’s thoughts reminded me of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s The American Scholar, which predicts the beauty of Quora and it’s goals many years ago.

I read with joy some of the auspicious signs of the coming days, as they glimmer already through poetry and art, through philosophy and science, through church and state.

Instead of the sublime and beautiful; the near, the low, the common, was explored and poetized.

Give me insight into to-day, and you may have the antique and future worlds. What would we really know the meaning of? The meal in the firkin; the milk in the pan; the ballad in the street; the news of the boat; the glance of the eye; the form and the gait of the body; let me see every trifle bristling with the polarity that ranges it instantly on an eternal law; and the shop, the plough, and the leger, referred to the like cause by which light undulates and poets sing; — and the world lies no longer a dull miscellany and lumber-room, but has form and order; there is no trifle; there is no puzzle; but one design unites and animates the farthest pinnacle and the lowest trench.

That to me, was and is, Quora’s highest ambition: to educate, organize and share the world’s knowledge  from the sublime to the mundane (which is very different from Google’s “organize the world’s information.”) And, it was refreshing to read echoes of that in Adam’s recent post:

We hope to become an internet-scale Library of Alexandria, a place where hundreds of millions of people go to learn about anything and share everything they know.

Or as Emerson said from the users point-of-view:

The scholar is that man who must take up into himself all the ability of the time, all the contributions of the past, all the hopes of the future. He must be an university of knowledges.

Matthew Ingram over at GigaOm suggests this pits Quora with Wikipedia, while Owen Thomas is more like Google v. Quora. Frankly, it’s neither of them.

The battle lines are drawn. Its knowledge platforms that Quora will find itself facing off.

1. Knowledge Platforms: The Old Guard

WordPress, Typepad, etc.

Frankly, any site or service that dabbles in knowledge dissemination is competition to Quora, the only difference here being Quora could be both the platform (like WordPress) and the connector (like Google). I’d have counted Answers sites in this mix but they’re either too niche (Stack Overflow) or dead (Yahoo! Answers and LinkedIn Answers).

So, blogs. There are close to 150 million blogs in the world with Google doing a pretty decent job of corralling that information, sometimes connecting the highest bidder with the rest of us with questions. But that’s not the market Quora is going after. It’s knowledge; a higher quality of information. And where do people share the knowledge they have – mostly on blogs and niche social networks. Think about this: the biggest drawback of most blogs is the ability to build an audience (the more influential, the better) but Quora is great at helping you find that audience and helps you connect with those who seek that knowledge (like Quora credits?)

But before they get there they need to scale their knowledge platform; hence, I’d guess, the push away from Q&A to everything that constitutes knowledge.

2. Knowledge Platforms: The New Wave

Svbtle, Medium & Branch.

Increasingly I’m seeing sites that aim to one-up the WordPresses of the world with “a curated collection of great people who have things to say, “a new way to talk to each other,” or “the sharing of ideas and experiences.”

Oddly enough, two of the above come from the House of Obvious Corp. (the brainchild of Twitter co-founders, Ev and Biz), both of whom “would rather build the next Wikipedia, than Zynga.” Guess who’s building the next Wikipedia – Quora.

While Branch forces us to take a second look at commenting systems, cryptic Medium seems to be aimed at publishers and media companies or something like that. Either way, all of the above are aimed at scaling the quality of knowledge that’s distributed on the internet. And by doing so they aim to become the Google at connecting knowledge with those who seek it.

You may notice I didn’t mention Tumblr because I feel they’ve carved out a unique niche for themselves far from either “quality” or “knowledge” by becoming a social entertainment platform with a specific audience (teenagers and time-wasters?), much like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post both of whom feed off of Tumblr.

3. Social Platforms: News and Blog Niche

LinkedIn Blogs, Facebook News

Much like Tumblr and Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn too have a distinct purpose that immunizes them against Quora. But increasingly, both of these social networking giants, especially LinkedIn seem to making subtle inroads into knowledge sharing. Heck, LinkedIn even recently launched a curated blogging platform. As LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner, says in his recent post “It’s Not Just Who You Know, It’s What They Know.”

I’m also personally looking forward to posting on a number of subjects I’ve grown passionate about during the course of my career: how to scale a company; the most valuable management lessons I’ve learned; thoughts about the future of work; how to close the skills gap; and many others.

Topics that you can find answers to on Quora along with the more mundane questions that professionals across various spectrum have asked questions on, but LinkedIn’s scale makes this an interesting one to follow.

Granted, this is but a hobby for LinkedIn; their very own “Apple TV” but as I see it, 2013 is shaping up to be the year of knowledge networks.

Filed under: Branch, Knowledge Networks, Linkedin, Medium, Quora, , , , , , , , ,

Why Google will always remain Spock. Never Kirk.

The past few days have witnessed a barrage of non-stop Google Plus nonsense, with marketers vying with one another to carve out their territory on Google+ with the fond hope that it’ll be the next Twitter. In the meanwhile, I’ve not had one meaningful conversation on the platform with nearly 721 followers and I don’t know of any who have.

So, what gives?

Google+ 0 Friends

To get sticky with it: You always start with the community.

Let me share with you a tale of two other social sites that have increasingly become my daily go-to sites: Quora and Tumblr. Those who follow me have probably seen my tweets from either of these sites and the reason is, when I’m there I feel like home. In much the same way as I do on Facebook, which has my real friends and family.

Facebook started with the college community, built that flawlessly across the country, and then finally expanded outside of that circle that they had so masterfully cornered. This was probably what helped them break the monopoly of MySpace, whose ignominious ending we all witnessed this past week.

A tale of two useful social sites: Quora and Tumblr

Likewise, the kinship with my peers on Quora and Tumblr took months to form. On Quora we share a common interest in learning and several common topics that the site is carefully curating over time (like a good librarian who can direct you towards a book that you should read). Tumblr, likewise has a group of artful types who share quotes, pictures and videos (yet again, on topics I dig).

And, on both sites I find good search functionality that lets me pull in updates on these topics I love. Note: I wish both would automatically pull in my Facebook interests since they’re providing a high-quality stream of content on those topics that even Facebook cannot generate. Take that Google+ Sparks.

Now, I probably wouldn’t have published this if I’d not seen this morning’s top post on Techmeme from Paul Allen on Google+ that proclaims:

 Google+ is Growing Like Crazy. Report Coming Monday. Probably More than 4.5 Million Users Already

To which I say: So what? Actually, hang on, Business Insider says it better:

In fact, two days after Buzz went live, Google posted a blog entry bragging that “tens of millions” of people had checked it out, and created more than 9 million posts and comments.

At some point, interest died.

So far Google+ is filled with Googlers, reporters, and tech enthusiasts. They’re posting a lot, enjoying the Hangouts feature, and driving traffic to tech news sites.

But it’s still way too early to know whether Google+ will get any traction with mainstream users — the 750 million people who are on Facebook today.

Personally, despite having hundreds of followers on Google+ nothing of interest has happened on the site in my purview. Yes, I see my good old blogger friends asking questions they used to ask on Twitter, I’ve seen some cool hangouts with random people that Ben and others started, and the curiosity factor over which “interesting stranger” (as BI called it) is on G+ today. 

Summary

Google just doesn’t seem to get social. While the screenshot above (Googlers with 0 Friends) may be a great metaphor, as I’ve argued from the beginning, the Friendfeed cult model (that G+ mimics) just doesn’t work at building sustainable social communities, since it confuses the personal and public spheres. Granted it may scale faster as you’re gonna see soon (millions of users real fast), but will it stick?

Here’s a blog post from George Siemens that suggests why the friend forming algorithm of G+ is messed up:

While power laws (Pareto’s Principle) may exist in many areas of our lives – banking, TV watching habits, book purchases – they are surprisingly absent at a personal level. Yes, I likely respond to a small cluster of blogs and tweets that I encounter. But my personal networks – family and friends – don’t seem to have the power law structure of my public identity. For example, I move fairly fluidly between my personal networks. Facebook gets this. I’ve had very few “way out there” friend suggestions on Facebook.

G+, on the other hand, has been busy trying to make kings of a few: Robert Scoble, Mike Arrington, Loic Le Muer, Mark Zuckerberg, and so on. (Techcrunch addresses this issue as well.) I have precisely zero interest in those people. Nothing in my email history indicates that I would like to connect with them. Google’s algorithm is whacked on how it recommends friends: it is recommending them based on power laws (who is most popular) not on my personal interests. This is a fundamental and significant misunderstanding of social networks. Network properties are different at a personal and social level than they are in public spaces.

Welcome to the Friendfeed conundrum that conflates public and personal spaces. Even, the Pavlovian model of notifications is broken (and frankly useless) in this world, since now the red notification isn’t bringing in the reward that a Facebook notification does and is diminishing its effectiveness.

It’ll be interesting to see how Google+ evolves over time (cos they’ve really invested a ton of resources and are betting their future on it), but in its current avatar I don’t see how it can draw people away from Facebook.

Come back tomorrow for my post on Zuckerberg’s presentation style. This one’s a doozy. Bookmark my blog or subscribe to it.

Related posts you may find useful to form your own opinion:

  1. Follow the Quora topic on Google+
  2. Yishan Wong’s Quora answers (most of the recent ones are on Google+ and social)
  3. Ross Mayfield building on my original post re: different social networking models
  4. George Siemens post on Google+’s fundamental misunderstanding of networks
  5. Rocky Agrawal’s Solving the Scoble problem in Social Networks on TechCrunch (I’d say this is more of a G+ problem)

Sorry, Google+. For similar thoughts, follow me on Twitter.

Filed under: Google+, Quora, Tumblr

Rumors of Quora’s death are greatly exaggerated

I’ve already blogged about Quora and would recommend you try out the service to help you come to your own conclusion.

Also, I’ve responded to a similar thread on Quora. Please up-vote if you dig the answer.

In the meanwhile, thought I’d help debunk some of the assumptions that Vivek Wadhwa makes about Quora without having tried the service. While, on the one hand Vivek Vadhwa’s TechCrunch post raises a few pertinent issues (I’ll address a couple of them below), on the other hand, he hasn’t tried Quora yet which completely robs his post of all credibility.

Here goes…

All quotes below are Vivek’s from his TechCrunch post : Why I don’t buy the Quora hype

Quora’s not the next big thing

But I just don’t believe that Quora will “rule” or become anything like Facebook or Twitter.  It has been a very nice private club; but it’s not for the general public.

Now, Twitter and Facebook in my opinion are two completely different services. I look at Twitter as primarily an information network, while Facebook is a social network. Quora has the trappings of a bigger information network than Twitter (key is that Quora’s set up to structured content on a slew of scalable topics, something Twitter cannot do today). I just think, conflating the two is erroneous and misleading.

Quora’s silly

Some of the discussions have been very informative; some, completely misinformed.  Some questions are of general interest, such as: Will there be a tech sector crash in the near future?; some are obscure: Who are the most successful entrepreneurs with Iranian roots?; some are just plain silly: How much does Netflix spend on postage each year?

I recall similar conversations when Twitter “hype” was doing the rounds (maybe we’re still hyping Twitter). While anyone who tried Twitter at events or conferences would rave about it, others took time to understand it. And, frankly Twitter was not something you could understand by listening to your friends ramble on. At the end of the day, there was a learning curve and you had to use the service a few times to get it.

Even TechCrunch commented on Twitter’s adoption cycle, Curiosity, Abandonment, Addiction, 1.5 years ago. Now, replace Twitter with Quora and assume a steeper learning curve.

I’m still befuddled Vivek chose to write an entire rant without ever trying the product. And, I’d like to add that the inherent silliness he finds in Quora (something Twitter was also accused of) is what adds to its interestingness (and is basically how Quora’s members socialize). Frankly, that’s one of the ways Quora can cross the chasm into becoming a more mainstream knowledge site vs. catering just to professors, technologists, and VCs.

Quora’s growing because of bloggers

Quora’s membership is growing largely because of the attention that TechCrunch has given it (including the Best Startup award).

Not sure if that’s rooted in facts. Earlier this year, many people noticed a spike in Quora activity. I suspect it has more to do with Quora tweaking their “Trending Topics and Followers” widget than any attention from one individual blog.

Now, of all the things that Vivek threw at Quora, there were two nuggets that deserve further attention. Frankly, Quora is fighting one of these two and I’d urge them to give some thought to the other problem.

Issue #1: Fighting Noise and maintaining quality of answers

But I believe that the excess hype is destined to make Quora a victim of its own press.  The quality of answers will decline.  The people whose opinion I value, such as Quora’s #1 respondent, Robert Scoble, will simply stop posting on the site when they get drowned out by the noise from the masses.

Frankly, Robert in my opinion is not your prototypical Quora user, but it’s rather folks like Yishan Wong and Marc Bodnik, non-bloggers who continue adding their $0.02 on topics they have direct experience in that makes Quora fascinating. It’s this long tail of knowledge that Quora is hoping to tap into. These folks are the ones who could make Quora a success, not bloggers.

That said, there’s a problem of noise and quality loss that Quora will inevitably face and that’s something they are gearing up to face. Here’s Charlie Cheever who just wrote a blog post a couple of days back on that topic. Interestingly enough, Quora is taking a Wikipedia approach to fighting noise, enlisting the support of their biggest users.

To start, we’re focusing on question and answer content quality, and after we get those under control, we’ll turn our attention to topics.  We expect that some of these efforts will be pretty successful and some will be dead ends.  After this round of things, we’ll come up with new ideas and try those until the system works in a scalable way.

Issue #2: Fighting Anonymity

It claims that the site does not allow anonymity.  But you can easily sign up for a Quora account with any of your Twitter accounts (you can create as many of these as you want—with fictitious names).  You can then vote down answers from people you don’t like, edit questions asked by others, and post your own views.  You can talk about your own products and services, and disparage others’; in other words, it is a spammers’ paradise.  How is Quora going to manage hundreds of thousands—or millions—of unruly users, when even the mighty Google seems to be losing the battle for spam?

My experience on Quora has been good thus far, but since Quora only allows Twitter or Facebook connect for their users, it makes it a tad more difficult for me to verify the authenticity of the person behind the comment. Yes, Facebook or Twitter are a good start but frankly, a short LinkedIn summary using LinkedIn’s API will authenticate my experience on Quora much more effectively (Disclosure: I work at LinkedIn and these are purely my personal ramblings).

The Next Twitter?

Quora isn’t going to be a Facebook or a Twitter. It is not likely to even catch up with the current market leaders in the Q&A space—Answers.com and Yahoo! Answers (which both get more than 40 million unique visitors a month, compared with Quora’s meager 150,000).

Heck, Twitter wasn’t going to be the next Twitter. Predicting Quora’s future is futile and though I’ve tried and know how well the service works, I won’t make a random guess as to its trajectory. There are so many things that Quora needs to get right in order to scale their platform but predicting its demise before giving it a chance is a tad cruel.

p.s. Yes, I’m a sucker for link-bait.

Got thoughts on Quora, leave a comment. Here’s some rebuttal from other bloggers to Vivek’s post. I told you, I dig these smackdowns.

  1. Dare Obasanjo on Quora crossing the chasm
  2. Semil Shah (who originally blogged about Quora on TechCrunch) responds
  3. Robert Scoble started a Quora thread on this topic (of course!)

Filed under: Quora

In the News: Why Quora? Why Now?

Another month passes, and here are a couple more leading publications – Mashable and Ragan – who quoted some of my thoughts on social media, both of which came about through my participation on Quora.

So, if you’re serious about building your expertise online and sharing that with the rest of the world. Start sharing on Quora or start a blog. But I digress…

1. Ragan Communications / Matt Wilson: The Big Quora Question – What’s it good for?

Matt Wilson from Ragan, reached out to me after reading my answer on five stages of Quora adoption for professionals.

Most of my quotes revolve around my usage of Quora and my thoughts on it being a disruptive force. I truly think Quora is the alpha-information network and frankly, I have an upcoming post on how it poses a competitive threat to a whole slew of information based companies. In the meanwhile, dig this…

Still, a growing group of social media experts and communicators say Quora is and will be as useful as Twitter.

“I think those who ignore it as a flash in the pan are rather short-sighted and unfortunately don’t see the big picture,” says Mario Sundar, senior social media manager for LinkedIn, who blogged about how to get into using Quora. “They’re also probably the same folks who doubted Twitter when it came out first.”

Check out the entire article here.

2. Mashable / Erica Swallow: The Future of the Social Media Strategist

Interestingly, this was quite an amalgam of a post that Erica Swallow mined from Twitter, Quora and Mashable’s own social media community to posit three possible avenues for the social media strategist. Interestingly, this jumped off a paper written by Jeremiah a while ago for his agency, Altimeter.

Erica quoted from my Quora answer, on one of three potential career trajectories for social media strategists:

In large organizations, the need for an executive-level social media strategist who defines the role across different functional areas will become the norm… Kind of like what my good friends Frank Eliason (formerly at Comcast and currently SVP of Social for Citigroup) and Scott Monty (head of social media at Ford) do at their respective large organizations. Their cross-functional role helps define social media across the organization as it’s integrated more closely with all functional areas, projects, etc.

“This will become the career trajectory for social media expertise in much the same way a marketing manager evolves into a VP of marketing.

That and other awesomeness can be found in the post here.

Filed under: In the News, Quora

5 Stages of Quora adoption for Professionals

Update: Aliza Sherman (Web Worker Daily) has a similar post on using Quora at work. Must-read.

Quora seems to be blowing up since the beginning of 2011, but it’s still early-stage enough to benefit you as a professional since you now have the attention of a small group of professionals with expertise in your area of interest.

Here are my recommendations on Quora adoption for professionals (based on my usage). If you’ve used it any differently, feel free to comment:

  • Stage 1: Follow topics of professional interest:

Much like the first step in social media adoption, stage 1 is always to “Listen”. Quora helps you find and follow your topics of interest through connections you already follow (hence the Facebook connect integration; asking you to suggest topics of interest to your friends on Quora is yet another hat tip to a Facebook innovation – making introductions to friends).

To this end, Quora has a well tuned “Trending Topics” module that does a great job of surfacing content and people you may know. I suspect this may be responsible for the sudden spike in people following you on Quora these days.

As a professional, the easiest way for you to benefit from Quora would be to start following your current area of expertise (your job), whatever it may be. The easiest approximation would be to find on Quora, specialties you’ve listed on your LinkedIn profile (Disclosure: I work at LinkedIn)

http://www.linkedin.com/profile/…

As, my colleague, Russell Jurney suggested:

I’d really like it if Quora extracted my expertise from on any topic from my LinkedIn profile. Short of that, OAuth me in from LinkedIn. #in.

  • Stage 2: Follow your colleagues on Quora:

You may find your future mentor on Quora, but to get there you’d want to first follow people you work with.

Since it currently lacks a LinkedIn integration, I’d recommend you finding your peers through the “Invite Contacts” icon that you find on the right side of the Quora homepage.

http://www.quora.com/invite/invi…

  • Stage 3: Follow breaking news in your field of expertise:

While stumbling upon threads of interest, don’t forget to check out the tags highlighted on top of the thread. It’s a great way to stumble upon and follow breaking news topics in your field of interest.

For e.g. I stumbled upon this thread on the Goldman Sachs Facebook investment via Dave McClure and then with a simple mouseover gesture was able to follow that breaking news topic: Goldman Sachs Investment in Facebook (2011).

Goldman Sachs Investment in Facebook (2011): What will Facebook do with their $500m financing from Goldman?

  • Stage 4: Break news in your field of expertise:

Quora also makes bloggers out of professionals – any professional – who’d like to document their expertise on the web, but in a light-weight way. In that respect, it’s kind of like an extension to your LinkedIn profile / resume.

While, answering questions on quora don’t forget to tag individuals you’ve worked with or link to similar questions or topics . All you’ve to do is hit @ and it gives you an auto-fill drop down of topics, questions, people you can select from.

Also, Quora is good at surfacing your unique exploits at work that don’t necessarily translate well into a resume. These are tips and tricks that’ll be helfpul to your peers when they’re working on similar projects. Think of it as building professional capital / karma. Take these questions for e.g.

What Is It like Working At X?

  • Stage 5: Ask a question:

This is probably the most advanced stage of Quora adoption – one that I haven’t gotten to yet. But, the good news is you can get a ton from quora without ever asking a question. See stages 1 through 4.

This is how I’m using Quora professionally and am now at a point where I feel compelled to check it every day. Do you use Quora as a news source or do you use it professionally?

Filed under: Best-of, Quora

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