Mods, Bots and a Site Run Amok; a Swift Slide Down at Quoraland

A cautionary tale….

(Many Quora refugees may have similar tales, but this is mine.)

Quora used to be considered “the Writer’s Forum”. It is an international platform whose basis is a Question and Answer format. Boasting thru the years that it’s writers were “The Best” culled from Doctors, Scientists, PhD’s, Lawyers, at least one past President (Obama) and more. Quora frequently promotes and provides articles to Huffington Post.

Though on the web for over seven years, it’s presence isn’t that large. In fact, a Top Quora writer and I found a graph of all the websites on the net and their rank. Quora ranks at a paltry number 40 after seven years.

My exposure to Quora came in the form of subscribing to its weekly digests; a compilation of the Best of Quora in areas of your interests. The more I read it, the more I noticed errors on certain topics or frankly just sub-par writing.

So I ventured hesitantly on to Quora last Spring. I tested the waters tentatively, after reading their Terms and Conditions. At first, I only wrote about my dogs. There are a lot of dog lovers on Quora. I had a unique breed and unique breeds come with a slew of genetic problems, typically. I wrote about some of my experiences with my Kuvaszok (plural of the breed Kuvasz) or as we call them “Kuvs”.

A Kuvasz

A mid-life career change from Corp PR led me back to my first love, and I went to the Gemological Institute of America where I honed my knowledge in all things gemstone and started a successful Jewelry line. So, I answered a lot of questions about gems and Jewelry.

My first viral (over a thousand upvotes) came from a survey question on Trump. It also got me my first BNBR, despite having deleted a comment an hour after writing. A BNBR, means (well used to mean) Be Nice Be Respectful. I appealed, no response.

Uncharted Waters……

After being on Quora for two and a half months, I ventured into an area no one had before on Quora; Ghosts, Angels and Demons. I call myself a haunted house survivor, my horror went on a decade. It was well documented by a paranormal group, 2 priests, 2 Doctors and a well known (Television) dog whisperer.

Suddenly my upvotes and followers shot up. I was then warned by a Top writer that this wasn’t an “acceptable topic on Quora”.

Maybe not, but people were reading; by my fourth month there I had four top topic writer badges; Ghosts, Angels, Jewelry & New Mexico. I only had about 400 followers so I was pretty surprised. I continued to write about the paranormal and ultimately added badges in Haunted Houses and Demons.

By then, I was getting bored I ventured into more serious articles; “Was Princess Diana Murdered?” * and “What Is Really going On in North Dakota at Standing Rock?”.*
Only A Drunk Driver???

The Diana piece was researched for three months; although it only got 87 upvotes it did get 2.3k views ( I still only had around 600 followers.) The article on Standing Rock included a letter I received from Barack Obama and interviews with Sioux Intertribal leaders. My stats with only 600 followers, were hovering at 1 million views with a daily average of 200 thousand.

Quora was sending me notifications that more and more articles were appearing in the digests, first only the 1,000 circulation but some 40k, 100k, 20k, but none until three weeks ago were paranormal responses.

I felt comfortable on Quora. Of course, I saw friends leave, heard stories of collapsed answers but I thought like anyone would; they must have done something wrong perhaps violated some policy.

Policies abound on Quora; no porn, no slurs against groups or religions, no fake names, names cannot appear in all Caps, good grammar, punctuation, credentials that coincide with topics you respond to, etc.

Cracks in Quora slowly Surface…..

I began to see more and more good writers leave. Accusations of fake names from those with very real names were being forced to provide birth certificates?! Usually after a fake name accusation, you would hear so-and-so was accused of plagiarism. It became normal course to see accounts frozen, deactivated, reactivated, then ultimately gone. Writers were collapsed for no reason, deactivated and suddenly policies we had all understood were thrown out the window. It seemed really sudden to me, the influx of new people, fake account names, absolutely no credentials except High School students, the increase in obviously pornographic material ran rampant. Then I found this on the web:

Interestingly enough, the link for that answer is now gone but basically it discussed Quora’s tight relationship with Google and how they would be increasing ad space. Plus, Quora planned to go into video responses on site. Videos don’t have much to do with serious writing. Further, on a platform severely understaffed that crashes weekly, how were they going to achieve this?

I sent in the standard report asking about my material appearing on Google ( when I had the privacy button on) and received no acceptable reply. Instead, while trying to change the type on my name profile utilizing their app, my last name fell off. Within two hours, I was shut down for a fake name. Two whole days later, they reactivated the account. From then on things unraveled fast.

A week after that, the mods or moderators decided to test a new app, rather than just upvotes they put in a button “was this response helpful; yes or no?” If you responded “no” it asked for a comment This therefore encouraged haters and trolls. No comments were asked if it was helpful. Thus only gaining only negative responses and criticisms. So if you offended anyone who voted for Trump by being too vocal, you can bet they remembered you. None of understood it, we thought upvotes handled that.

Rumors abound on Quora about who really runs things, we are told there are human moderators but they don’t work on weekends and they all look about 20 and are grossly understaffed. Pictures of Quora offices rarely show more than 10 employees. There are also Bots that tell you what your stats are, who wrote what, and often a Bot will respond to a concern you have sent in.

Intelligent human contact is hard to come by on Quora. In fact that may be an Oxymoron.
A Quora Bot? Who knows? It is like the man behind the Green curtain In Oz at Quora
Targeted by Quora?

I continued to write on Quora, I was awarded three more top topic badges and every day; I received more notifications of bigger and more frequent digest uses. But all of us who had been there more than five months were feeling the strain of irregular procedural infractions. Account names appeared such as Tom Cruise, Jack Daniels, Demonwhisper.

Despite our having filled out an extensive credential profile; Where you want to College, Year Graduated, former jobs, where you lived, etc., newbies just used Name and nothing else. I had long since deleted Year I graduated, city of Residence. As a woman on the internet, it just seemed too invasive. It wasn’t like I was being paid, why did I have to basically give a complete resume? It wasn’t lost on many of us that newer writers just put in their name, and High School student.

Without realizing it, this was the response that put a target on my back:

It was collapsed two hours after being written, I asked why. Twenty four hours later they said bad spelling and grammar. There are writers now on their site responding in Spanish, texting, absolutely the most rudimentary knowledge of English and they used “spelling and grammar”. I was floored and asked where the errors were. I received an automated response that stated: “overuse of Italics”.

They froze my account for two days with no notice. After repeated requests they reactivated it, but all my stats had changed.

This response has 24 upvotes, was viewed by 2.3k but on my stat chart for this question it now shows this:

If you systematically do that to fifty questions, you can affect someone’s mathematical popularity easily. As you can see the checked response matches the question but not the numbers displayed.

Overnight, my responses went from 1,050 (in a little over six months) dropped to 1,007 to anyone viewing my profile. And my stats dropped from 200k a day to 150k.Am surprised they did not lower the overall view which is at over a million.

Followers told me they couldn’t see my feed, I couldn’t upvote; it was like being a ghost. Many said they received no notification that I had even written a response.

I questioned Quora about my stats. I got back an automated response saying 50, FIFTY, answers had been collapsed and I had received notifications for all. Not true. When I questioned the lack of notification I was told “they were not helpful”. Meanwhile they were continuing to use my “unhelpful” responses on larger and larger digests,

A friend and I following through her feed realized they hadn’t been collapsed at all, but upvotes were deleted, as were views.

In the course of three weeks , I received over 30 emails from Quora moderators or robots. No answers, just policy statements. It was the most obvious form of cyber bullying and there is no other term for it. Had the site maintained its standard of excellence, I would have stayed, but I realized even top writers weren’t writing any more. Leaving Quora seemed more of an honor. My views were not restored, and despite looking at notifications that would list as many as 55 upvotes, Quora would only show 1.

No one is paid to write on Quora, we write because we used to enjoy it. The stats, upvotes are an algorithm which no one understood were our sole reward. The aggravation wasn’t worth it. The constant barrage of emails with no concrete explanation was exhausting.

My account is still up, but I will deactivate it. Since I wasn’t subtle about leaving I was surprised to get this notification last night; they put a response in the one million digest?! More proof that the Mods and Bots don’t communicate.

Meanwhile questions abound now such as “My boyfriend is sleeping with my best friend”, “Is Mohammed like Hitler?”, “Can we Throw Pakistan Off Quora they are Mean to India?”. It has become a minefield of idiocy.

One of my last responses to a question was this and I couldn’t resist:

It was the response with the highest upvotes. The response includes a screen shot of upvotes totaling over 29, but they are only displaying 20. So if upvotes and views can be summarily reduced, it begs the question how accurate are reported upvotes and views on Quora? If you tow the “party line” do they add views? Surely, what can disappear can be added, it would seem. No one there understands the algorithm Quora uses to define popularity.

Towards the end of my six months, I kept reporting fake names, trying to edit non-sensical responses to help writers and I came to realize I cared more about Quora and its original vision than Quora did. What was funny and this where the Bots and the Mods obviously don’t communicate because they were increasing my digest exposure, it was bizarre.

There was nothing wrong with my Mandalay Bay response, no italics rule that ANYONE had ever heard of. Nope, it was censorship but Quora wasn’t going to say that. My response said “the incident in Vegas would never have happened if the Mob, still ran Vegas.” So on a site rife with app problems, not enough employees, I can’t help them nor do I feel it’s my responsibility. When a web site becomes a stressor in your life its time to go.

Their “out of the blue accusations” such as fake names and/or plagiarism just to get people to leave may ultimately land Quora in a class action defamation suit according to an intellectual property lawyer I asked. You cannot randomly accuse people of plagiarism or using fake names as a weapon of control. Of course all websites, (and I own one the size of Quora, still in Beta) has the right to control content. What I think is making older Quorans crazy, is it’s inconsistencies and treating its writers that are the grease that pays the bills like children by penalizing them for the most minor infractions. And certainly 30 emails with no resolution because each person responding is different would send anyone running for sanity.

Between those former Quorans on YouTube telling Quora horror stories and the ones on Google, I would only add, “Go gently into that dark night” that is Quora.

Response referenced in this article:

Image credits:
Kuvasz image; Google
Princess Diana on the Jonquil; Google
Broken heart; Google
Robot; Google

Music link for this article:Walk Idiot Walk

“Opinions expressed in this article are those of the Author and not those of Medium Services.”

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