I’m always reluctant to use a new tool just because it’s being hyped all over the internet and some celebrities are using it. That is until about four days later, then I get all twitchy about missing out.
And so, I’ve been having a play with Quora, a q&a site. You can sign in using your Twitter account – this does not spam anybody by email as people have been complaining (I don’t think so, anyway – apologies if I’m wrong).
What strikes me immediately is that it has a very powerful search engine to help you find questions and add to them. While you can search for instant results on Google, Quora makes it incredibly easy to edit everything (including the question itself), add tags and your own answers. Twitter was not something new, but made it easier to communicate across social circles instantly; similarly Quora is just a forum really, but makes it very easy indeed to tap into other people’s knowledge. In addition, while a conversation thread in Twitter or on forums will become stale, it could easily be revived and updated on Quora.
Another useful feature is how easy it is to find people who are using the service, whether or not they’re in your contact list already. Quora instantly pulls up people, topics and questions as you type.
At the moment, as you might expect, most of the content is American. My first search had nothing related to my city so here are some things I did to add some local content to Quora:
- ask a local question
- then add local places as topics to that question
- then follow the topic
- then invite people you know on Quora (if you signed in through Twitter, it should have already connected you to people you follow) from my local area to that topic
- add some information and photos in the topic’s new FAQ page
Lo! It looks like a group! As you start adding and following people you can ask them questions or send them private messages, much as you can on your other favourite social networking sites. And as new people come on and search for the city it will now come up. In the case of Stoke-on-Trent, I note that Quora finds Stoke whether or not hyphens are included.
And if you’re a special kind of nerd, you can organise the taxonomy of your place, as I started to do here. To me, this is a very smart way of instantly visualising places like British cities, which can be confusing arrays of towns and villages lumped within contested borders.
If you want to grow a community for your place within Quora, you can add the link to other websites and you can quickly share topics, questions and answers on Twitter and Facebook. As it stands, there is no way of embedding a question into your blog, but this may come. In the meantime, you can create an RSS feed for questions in your topic by adding /rss to the URL of you topic, eg http://www.quora.com/Stoke-on-Trent/rss. This can then be added to your website as described here.
Rather as Twitter streams are great for showing the immediacy of a live event, Quora’s instant feedback, with everything turning yellow as people hold live edit wars, would make it a fun platform for a live Q&A. I could also see it being useful for collaborative development of FAQ pages on local topics.
All other ideas, as ever, are welcome…
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