Why Quora sucks [Review/Rant]

A lot of people love Quora and some are even obsessed with the website to the point where they literally waste every free second that they have on it. I can somewhat relate to that sentiment, I used to belong to that particular group of people. But after a while I realized why Quora is simply put not worth my time (and yours if you’re objective enough to reevaluate your stay on that website).

Pretentiousness

The majority of core users are pretentious and generally speaking those types of people who genuinely like to hear themselves talk (and think that they know everything that there is to know). Given that this website seems to attract this particular breed of people Quora is literally an echo chamber of opinions. Which leads right into the second point:

Unbalanced distribution of opinions

No matter what the topic is there are always those “certain types of answers” which the herd prefers. Having a preference is alright with me but the problem is that the herd-mentality on the website goes way beyond anything that could be described as normal. Whenever someone posts an answer that the herd doesn’t agree with it gets down-voted into oblivion (quite literally, since the website hides/collapses answers with down-votes). I had plenty of opportunities to study these irrational group dynamics first hand. Seeing how the majority downright abuses the down-vote functionality it’s safe to assume that Quora is the epitome of an echo chamber and a prime example of why tribalism is bad.

Censorship

This is easily the biggest issue on the platform and it became quite apparent to me and many others. One of Quora’s main policies is the so called “BNBR” policy which is just an acronym for “Be Nice Be Respectful”. Sounds quite harmless and self-explanatory but what it actually is or represents is the exact opposite. It’s the reason why you can’t openly voice criticism. As soon as you say anything that could be perceived as “not nice”(which for the record is an extremely elusive criterion that is clearly open to interpretation) you will get a warning from the Quora moderation (been there, done that) and once you accumulate multiple warnings you’ll get banned. And that’s not even the best part. Controversial questions and answers get deleted by the moderation on a constant basis. It’s the only thing that the moderation takes really seriously. I should know, some of my answers and questions were deleted because of their “controversial nature” (some of them pertained to Quora and had a slightly negative subtext that the moderators didn’t seem to like). Some of my friends had similar experiences on the platform. A couple of their questions and answers were deleted because they criticized the US government. Verdict: “too controversial”. No, actually it’s not. Some people just can’t handle the truth. Now that I think about it the whole censorship ordeal is even worse than I initially thought because it happens on two consecutive layers (First layer: Quora Moderation for everything pertaining to criticism about Quora or certain political views, Second layer: Herd mentality fueled down-vote orgies to eradicate everything that could potentially cause a cognitive dissonance). So if you ever thought that China’s internet censorship is bad you haven’t seen anything yet. Try Quora and then we can talk.

Unfair trophy distribution

The website has implemented trophies to label their most devout sheep. I’m not being salty here I’m just saying that the way in which many trophies are being awarded is very unfair. Bear with me, I’ll list a couple of examples just to make my point more clear. Becoming a “Top Writer” e.g. has much less to do with actually being a top writer than one might assume. I have conducted some research and found very interesting “correlations” in this regard. There are certain biased criteria by which “Top Writers” are chosen (and I’m not going to divulge all of them in this post, sorry). I will however list one extreme case which highlights the obvious “bias” of the Quora staff members who get to chose the “Top Writers”. Tim Bergling (you may know him under his stage name AVICII) e.g. was awarded with the “Top Writer 2016” title even though he only wrote 54 answers (most active Quora users have written well over thousand answers, and yes that includes me). And that’s not even all of it. He hasn’t logged in to Quora since November last year (2015) so awarding him with this title was wrong on various levels. Also, as of late they’ve even introduced a new title to award the most inquisitive minds (or so they claim): Top Question Writer. Sounds like a good idea, right? In theory it would be but in reality this is what happens: some users go totally overboard and literally spam thousands of questions which are all structured in a similar manner just to get this elusive title. I’m not going to point fingers but a certain individual has spammed so many questions, which for the record were totally dumb, that I had to block him.

Exhibit A

No one can ask that many questions within a time span of 4 years (at least not naturally: one would have to ask 33 questions each day in order to do so). I quite fairly suspect that there are indeed ulterior motives at play. Over half of his questions follow these three basic structures: “What is it like being X at Y” , “How common is it for X to Y?” , and “What is the difference between X and Y?”. Since he claims to be autistic I won’t go any further with this because I don’t want to hurt his feelings but it suffices to say that his spam questions do really bug me out (and not just me, I heard other people complain about it as well). Apart from the fact that literally 98% of his questions go unanswered I highly doubt that he even reads the answers to those very few questions which do receive answers. I should know, I have answered some of his questions in the past and he never interacted with anyone who was kind enough to answer his somewhat stupid questions. I rest my case. Just for the record; he isn’t the only person who’s doing this. He is however the most prolific question spammer on the platform and the main reason why so many other users have followed his example.

Too many Questions, no answers

Too many people ask dumb questions. There, I said it. Most people don’t really seem to grasp how big of a problem this is but let me tell you this: While Yahoo answers is commonly known for its bogus answers Quora is (at least in my book) known for its bogus questions. It takes only a couple of seconds to post a question and about an hour to compose a good and reasonably informative answer. With that being said it should come to no surprise that the majority of people primarily use Quora to ask questions. And this is indeed what irks me the most since the few people who actually provide any valuable answers are completely outnumbered by all of the stupid questions. This is exactly what David Shenk meant when he first coined the term Data Smog. It’s in full effect on Quora. I have seen many good questions which have either been completely neglected or never found to begin with. A phenomenon which is by the way seemingly unheard of on other established Q&A sites. Of course Quora doesn’t publish any metrics whatsoever in this regard and I definitely know why. They maintain a cool facade when they know that secretly there is a hole in the ship. And unless they address each and every one of those aforementioned points it’s only going to get worse. The website as a whole isn’t going anywhere anytime soon but that doesn’t mean that they should just shrug it off as a”minor” problem. Sooner or later the populous will catch up on it. That much I can guarantee.

Off Topic (for entertainment purposes)

If you want to get a lot of up-votes and views on your Quora answers just search the internet for a headshot (or selfie) of the most attractive woman you can find and use it as your profile picture. Don’t worry, you won’t get banned for basically impersonating another person by proxy. Quora doesn’t give a hoot about those things. I should know, I have reported people who did just that but the Quora moderation has never taken any action. So I guess that imbues basically everybody with the license to catfish the many gullible Quora users. “Happy faking everybody.” [And yes, a privately conducted research study has shown that female users get on average twice as many followers and up-votes, even if both accounts are virtually the same (with the sole exception of the profile picture and name, that is).]

I have used many Q&A websites over the last couple of years and it is true that Quora is among the better ones. But that doesn’t mean that I like it any more than Yahoo Answers. As a matter of fact I like Yahoo answers more (yes, most of the answers are bogus on that website but that’s exactly what I like about it. At least the website manages to make me laugh. One more thing that Quora doesn’t do). At the end of the day it’s nothing “revolutionary” and doesn’t really live up to the claims (that “professionals” or celebrities will answer your questions — keep dreaming, most celebrities have only created an account for PR reasons and those few professionals who actually use the website will most likely ignore you).

On a personal side note: As a person with a solid education, above average memory retention, and a fascination for the fringe I can truthfully say that I’ve rarely come across an answer on Quora which I deemed to be actually informative in the greater scheme of things (interesting they were, no doubt but not exactly relatable or of practical use. Reading about other people’s lives is everybody’s favorite past-time activity but at the same time people have a tendency to indulge themselves in the lives of people from completely different walks of life. But to what avail?). Granted, this may sound very hypocritical, especially if you consider that my first point was headlined pretentiousness but it’s the truth. Whenever I checked my feed I was greeted with a long list of answers which either:

A ) were cheap play on emotions (there is always some person who has to share their sob story in order to garner sympathy and upvotes — because we all know, it’s all about the upvotes), or

B ) completely irrelevant to me (life coaching hogwash e.g.— which is literally just opium for people who lack common sense), or

C ) altogether redundant since I was already familiar with the facts or concepts which the answers in question provided.

Addendum

Quora also has integrated blogging functionality which is for the lack of a better word a total failure. Almost no one uses the feature and those few people who do utilize it have only a very small audience that they can reach with it since following these blogs is only possible if you have a Quora account. They basically shot themselves in the foot with this decision. Making those blogs exclusive in nature is not a smart move and definitely a detriment to the users.

Q.E.D.