Is it time to queue up for Quora?
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Time to queue up for Quora?

Quora logoQuora is somewhat new (heck, it barely left beta 6 months ago), but already has gained major traction.  Wikipedia describes Quora as an “online knowledge market.  ”  If you’re familiar with Yahoo! Answers or Ask MetaFilter, those are also examples of such a market, making Quora a direct competitor to these popular services.  So, what makes Quora so different, and why has it taken off so quickly?

There are some key differences that make Quora unique and more interesting than some of its other Q&A counterparts.  Firstly, is the social component.  As soon as you create an account (or login with your Facebook account, a now-common practice), Quora offers you the ability to find your friends immediately from other social networks.  This meant that as soon as I started on Quora, I had a ready-made community ready and waiting of people I already knew.  This is very appealing, as you can begin using Quora simply by checking out what your friends are  doing.  I found several interesting topics this way, that I scanned right away, and even a couple that I answered.

Secondly, Quora uses your known interests to help immerse you in the service.  I logged in using my Facebook account and  Quora  analyzed my Facebook “likes,” providing  me with related, potential questions I might want to answer,.  Since “Key West” is one of the things that I have indicated I “like” on Facebook, Quora showed me questions people had posted about Key West right away. I immediately posted the absolute-must-visit restaurants someone should try, in answer to someone who was asking.  Quora helped me to be a productive community member right from the get-go.

What does this mean to me, Laura?

  • At least one of the reasons Quora has picked up so much momentum, so quickly, is that people are not anonymous.  It’s usually easy to tell that a real person is the one doing the asking/answering.  This lends the site signficantly more credibility than, say, Yahoo! Answers.
  • Because people are generally not anonymous on Quora, many big names also answer questions.  Silicon Valley notables are frequent here.  If you know the names Steve Case, Robert Scoble or Kevin Rose, I can probably color you at least a little bit impressed.
  • The design is professional and the huge amount of content is information-heavy.  “For a Q&A site, it didn’t turn into a Yahoo Answers with spammy answers. There’s a lot of really rich, high-quality content there. It’s one of my favourite sites to visit on a daily basis now,” says Irene Au, who is Google’s head designer.
  • What about libraries?  Sure, libraries are credible information sources.  Could your library start answering questions here?  Almost certainly, if it had the staff time to spare.  Follow this question to see what other people think about Quora and libraries.
  • There is an entire “libraries and librarianship” category for you to peruse and add to.

So, if you’re a Quora user, what do you like most about it?  Least?  Share in the comments.