It has been exactly six years since the article Why Quora Won’t Scale has been unleashed on the internet by Social Times, causing a behemoth of viral acclaim and controversy. The article was not without its critics, with various members of the Quora Community splurged from the seams, offended in its defence.
(Tynamite’s today note: Web page cashing technology did not exist six years ago, so it would be pointless for me to publish the article then, as the liberal blue pill SJW’s would have edited and deleted everything to rewrite history like 1984. Also I wrote this article 5 years ago but waited until now to publish it.)
We will now take a moment of silence for the community of Quora, from the most vocal and resourceful, to the most overlooked and mutest; to pay our respects to the dear Quorans (avid Quora users), who we have treaded on so strongly.
It was only natural that the Quorans were going to be outraged, so in my constant attempt to be impartial and show you both sides of the story, I have taken it upon myself to show you the various reactions that the article had inspired in the community. You could click all the hyperlinks in this article in order to confirm the legitimacy of the responses against the concensus of the questions, for the answers here within, but you may need to sign up first to view all the answers of a question, so I have tried my best to include the most important and representative views of the backlash, in its entirety.
How the rage began
It all started on Friday the 14th, when the Why Quora Won’t Scale article had been posted to Quora’s very own Rage Against Quora. In the creator of the board’s own words, it is for “Questions, answers, policies and design issues that really annoy you. This is just for fun venting and raging, not for haters.” The article appeared there in order to make the Quora community aware of the dissent coming from elsewhere on the interwebz.
For anyone willing to read the heated arguments themselves, they’ll find that the camps were in two groups.
- People who thought there was no problem whatsoever with what was summed up by Startup Junkies to be a deeply corrupted voting system, heavy users with high school cliques to drive off good contributors, , heavy handed censorship from admins, and harrassment and bullying by reviewers and admins – anything totalitarian.
- People who suspected that Quora may be an echo chamber, who suggested that Quora and its community should take it upon themselves to be more welcoming and accepting of newer members – regardless of whether they thought that they were in high school or not.
The people in the first camp can be quoted as saying “Re-read this and am even more appalled. It’s the proverbial axe being ground.” and “Community members have no inalienable right to know. It’s Quora’s right to make personnel changes, it’s Charlie’s right to leave and not have to “clarify” why. Quora the product not scaling has nothing at all to do with Charlie leaving and Quora the community” before that.
The people in the second camp provided two twitter links that showed that Quora was not as unsuccessfully at being an echo chamber as people thought. The smallest camp replied with the following “Not a trainsmash, but it does tell us that there is a real problem. I think Fernando Montenegro has a point and it’s been brought up plenty before. And ignored just as much.”
How “The Elite” encouragably incite new members
So what is Quora doing in order to encourage these members to stay on the Quora website? Let’s find out, shall we. These techniques haven’t been done before on the internet. They are quite innovative. Larry Page might want to try them himself, to get people leaving Orkut, and onto Google+.
There is a question that got made in reaction to the article called “What can the established Quora Community do to make Quora more welcoming to new users?” so it was thought it would be a good idea to share the knowledge that that question existed, with you. I won’t bore you with all the kerfuffle, so I’ll just summarise the top voted answer with you, the one that got upvoted to the very top.
An enthusiastic member of the site has come up with three plentiful suggestions. Here they are.
- Set up a topic called ‘Quora for beginners’ – I know we already have Quora User Tips, but I think a specific topic with excellent questions and answers could prove to be very useful for new users._
- Demonstrate the benefits of actively participating in the community – During my initial period of Quora use, I was more of a passive user. I would ask questions sporadically and write a few answers, but never felt ‘committed’ to the site. It wasn’t until Samarth Mohan got in touch with me, encouraged me and gave me some credits through the Co-Op, that my entire outlook on what Quora was changed.
- Set up a board called something like ‘awesome new users’ and post some of their excellent content their as well
It’s too good that such a board already exists. Now we’ve saved him a considerable amount of time on his hands.
Someone get this Mr Anand person a job in politics. He surely knows how to keep the same people elected, year after year. For when Anand speaks to all, “all” sucks it up.
That is how members help Quora. My heart would beat stronger if I’d seen the answers that hadn’t been upvoted. I imagine with my trust in the Quora Community and dispose of my instincts, that the lesser voted answers would not be as good.
The Quorans have spoken
The Quorans – a word that means avid user of Quora, have spoken up on their thoughts of how they perceive the Why Can’t Quora Scale article. Remember that this was the highest voted answer.
For what it’s worth, I thought it was a strong piece with a lot moderation and staff should learn from when setting policy and coding product.
She was a total edge-case for the site and tripped many failure mode
Someone hasn’t had their Weetabix for breakfast. I do admit that I was eating Belvita Breakfast Biscuits when I wrote it. They contain dried milk.
Take anonymous downvoting as one example. By the time I joined in Jan ’10, that was already locked in as a core social design choice. Quora had tried named downvotes early on, and they were full of friction.
I neither have or have no problem with anonymous downvoting. What I have a problem is with downvotes that are used to constitute censorship, and then admins turning a blind eye to it. If Quora was run by the Wikimedia Foundation concensus, instead of a nepotistic panel, you would have your edits reverted for synthesis. Here’s an obligatory wikipedia link to explain to all the learners, exactly what that is.
One only has to look at these 2 answers for “Why do some people on Quora think it is valid to block holders of opposing viewpoints?” to find out what Quora’s true attitude for upvoting and downvoting. People have no qualms in blocking anyone who is not in line with their views, purely for that reason, with blocks made on an arbritary basis.
Here is an appropiate image for you to read.
If you dare to read the answer, you can do so whilst you boil a kettle for a coffee, here.
The top rated answer trivialises the issue raised by the question, condoning the precedent cast over the Quora community.
You seem to think your answer is the only right one, and that is perfectly okay. You may very well be right. But in my experience with Quora’s culture, the combativeness of why I’m right and you’re dead wrong doesn’t get a lot of support here.
You have your say. I’ll have mine. Let the community decide. That is the spirit in which Quora was designed.
Could that person of been a serial blocker too? I am doubtless, but I hope not.
I think the biggest thing Christie misunderstood about Quora was the ratchet effect of moderation. Once she started getting into fights in the comments, it attracted the attention of moderation. Once she started getting into fights with a moderator, it attracted the moderation team’s attention.
“Getting into” is a very nice usage of a pejorative. Accordingly to Quora, the phrase “fallen into” wouldn’t be a better word, because I am a troll who enjoys and gets her kicks off being denigrative and condescending to various admins on the site. This article right here that you’re reading, would therefore going by that logic, constitute as a form of neglect.
I should have done better to make friends with the admins, by doing as Jesus Christ would say: “When someone slaps you on your right cheek, give them your left. Turning a new leaf when getting bullied, is something that Quora admins appreciate, because they’d rather this article never go to print, as what is stated by the infamously ambiguous Be Nice rule. The rule protects its people as much as it punishes the people. Such a logic would also suggest, that the people who complain about their firstname.lastname@example.org emails not being responded to, are also trolls themselves, who got into, rather than fell into, too many arguments.
Quora definitely has a self-enforcing community culture. No sharp elbows. Tell your story. Be Fonzie.
That has to be the most truthful thing I’ve read on Quora all day. I’ll be telling my class to “be Fonzie”, the when it’s time they write their dissertations. I admit I wasn’t quite the charismatic type in high school. Belle Époch!
The most important thing that Quora enforces through Be Nice is that users need to accept that they can’t convince everybody of their rightness. Far better to block than flame.
You got that right!
How leopards attempt to change their spots
It wouldn’t be fair to blog about the negatives of Quora, without letting it be known how exactly Quora hopes to resolve the problems that it’s facing. In second place, it’s suggested that having a higher tolerance for spelling and other errors would help things, especially with kind comments to let the Quorans know that they’re not being vindicated here. These kind comments would be great for their users. For the question “What can Quora do about deliberate behavior by organized groups of users on Quora“, the top answer suggests that posting it onto Quora’s official “Quora Moderation Should Look At This” is the best solution to do. For anyone who has been following the previous two articles on Social Times about Quora, it’ll be perfectly clear why posting on the redphone board is always and never not always, a good decision for every circumstance of not nice behaviour, even by admins. The redphone board on Quora, is the perfect place to post about such dramas.
Speaking of leopards, there is a question that was posted on Quora recently about a hypothetical circus that involved lion tamers. Those Quorans are jolly chaps! They’re so resourceful as there’s nothing on that question and answer site that they can’t do, if they put their mind to it. It’s these noise makers, that put the site’s slogan, “connecting with everything you want to know about”, into practise.
Generally speaking, can a leopard change its spots? If the idiom is wrong, my faith in humanity will be restored.
Continuing from earlier on, the 3rd rated suggestion of how Quorans can welcome new members to the site, would be to remember how new they were to the site at one point, and to be gentle. As Jesus Christ said, which was paraphrased in the answer, to treat people how they’d like to be treated. How sweet! Quora must not be underachieving, according to the people who are actually using the site and enjoying it with their friends. There’s no need for Quora to be doing anything else.
Remorsing the ones they loved
When popular user Christopher Rubin was harbouring 5000 Views in August for his content, his popularity was spiralling, overshadowing the other admins, to their disgust that he was getting lots of attention and they were doing thankless work. That soon got sorted out the minute he was edit blocked for a month without prior notice of what he had done wrong of which of his content caused an infraction. The top answer for “Is the decision to edit block Christopher Rubin for a month a step too far?” has classic lines like this.
It is human nature as he was lead to believe, as with the rest of us, as he was singled out as a scapegoat, for answering questions with fancy imagery that dazzled us all.
So, now you have this gadfly and other gadflies think he’s a laff riot. In the meantime, he is not Adding Value. Other people are opting out of conversations he’s in, he’s always in some kind of disagreement and when you try to reign him in, he’s aggressively clueless about his behavior.
Sometimes, the problem is one of culture. People here on Quora do not hesitate to use strong language and get into some verbal bouts. I think a person would have to be particularly obstinately clueless to get warned over and over again. Recently I had to let someone go from one of my communities. She just didn’t “get” what I was looking for. Every one of her posts made me cringe. They didn’t violate any specific rule, they just lowered the IQ of the conversation by several 10s. And – here’s where it gets sticky – I couldn’t teach her to shut the hell up. When a person has been warned, the very smartest thing to do is shut the hell up for a bit. But that’s not what people do. they jump all over the board, either to prove that they “get it” or to give the community managers the finger. Neither endears them to The Powers That Be.
A clear conscience
The only comments that admins have made in response to the article on Rage Against Quora, was this pithy quote.
I am raging against the author of that article. The amount of libel contained therein is unprecedented.
I’m sorry. I would love to know exactly where the libel is located.
And for the easily refuted post with Charlie Cheever being burnt at the stake, an admin could only say the following words in response.
And that is all that the current 43 admins have to say on the matter. The 127 current site Reviewers were also silent. I respect their decision on this matter, because it means so much to me that they are standing up for what they believe in and are not exhibiting a guilty conscience. Their silence is showing so much maturity, among the media blackout. I wonder whose idea it was for the silence to be beckoning among them all.
Meanwhile the question of “What do quora admins think of this rather scathing attack?” remains censored, ahem, redirected to “What do Quora users think of this article: “Why Quora Won’t Scale”?” Their careful consideration of how they organise and label questions is what makes me trust this company. Now I only have to look at the admin’s upvotes, so it’s saved them lots of times talking themselves. Quora saves me lots of time from hearing things that I don’t need to know about. I can find out everything that I need to know about there.
These techniques read like a classified book leaked by Wikileaks, of how to get Guantanamo Bay inmates saying that 1 + 1 = 3. If George Orwell were alive, he would be able to have a live model of the Ministry of Truth. Joseph Stalin would be proud. You can read the whole response to Christie’s article from the Quorans here.
Don’t worry. There are still plenty of reasons to love Quora. As Quorans agree, here’s Quora’s strongest point.
There’s peer pressure to improve both your thinking and your writing.
In real life, challenging others on their sloppy thinking can come across as unpleasant and unnecessarily confrontational. (Some of us do it anyway, but that’s another matter…)
On Quora, there’s an assumption that refining our thinking is part of what we’re doing here, so people are happy to dive right in and request clarification, or point out logical fallacies. I love that about Quora.
Because I can’t send chocolates and flowers
In the interest of fair journalism, it wouldn’t be fair if only I, took up the spaces of Social Times which what Quorans are calling a negatively biased article. Now I am taking it upon myself to offer my condolences to Erica Friedman, an uncensored, uncut and unadulerated spot in my next article. Given as she’d like to write a rebuttal to “Why Quora Won’t Scale”, out of the kindness of my heart, I am offering her that chance to have her words printed on the same prolific platform that my words had been posted.
If she wishes to have her words posted without my retorts above or underneath her words in the article, she is free to contact me in any way that she pleases. The easiest way would be for her to inbox me on Quora with the whole message she would like printed, or send a link to a Word document that she would like printed on the site. This is just one way of me seeking a resolution and and fair fight, in the best way I can. It would be mind awakeing to hear the words of someone who had got the top scored answer for a moderation question.
Also if any Quora admin would like to take Erica’s space in the chance that she doesn’t offer me her words for print, they are free to take that place in reserve, for in case Erica does not.
Pay your respects
In the interest of a fair and balanced press we need an opposing view to print their words here, or even better, the words of an admin to share their thoughts on the matter. Because right now, all the admins are staying tight lipped. If you want to do your bit to break the media blackout and Nixonian stonewalling, the best you can do is to make sure this article gets out there to encourage anyone else able to speak, to speak up about the things that I have overlooked.
Right now the admins are being silent, and you can do your bit to break that silence by sharing that article to encourage that someone else takes the space of my next article. This is a fine end to the Quora Trilogy, and we can pay our respects to all the nice things they are doing to help improve the situation, by making sure this information gets out there, so that people can see exactly what Quora is doing about it.
My thoughts are with Quora, in their wake and in their silence, and highlighting the positives in this article is me paying my respect. This isn’t a personal criticism, it’s documentation.
Let’s give three cheers for the opinionated admins of Quora in the wake of these articles, the ones who never spoke out, and the ones who never spoke up.
Someone get that magnificence of an article upon Social Times. It gleams a unique desolate truth. More sorrow for me, as it proclaims me as a flounce. Or if you prefer the history behind the article, that can be arranged.
The article ends here.
You can tell which edit is mine because I edited every line!
I came up with the idea of writing both a conversational (informal) and a formal version.
Once the article got published, they changed the “Be Nice” rule to “Be Nice Be Respectful”, which was just lip service.
Confessions of a Quora Newbie
Why Quora Won’t Scale
- 227 Retweets
- Read by Robert Scroble, and TechCrunch contributors Jason Calacanis and Semil.
- Retweeted by the European editor of TheNextWeb, Viadeo, BounceRocket James Medd and Johnathon Rick
- Reblogged byBetaBeat, Pandawhale, Startup Junkies and reaching #3 on Hacker News.
- Later impact The article was referenced in TechCrunch months later for “Q: What’s Wrong With Quora?”  The irony is that TechCrunch rejected the article when we pitched it to them first. Responses from Quora on this 
The Quora Crisis: How Long Can the Center Hold?
- 323 Retweets
- Read by Alexis Tsosis, Nancy Scola and all the previous readers
- Retweeted by Glen Gilmore, Ismael Briasco, Lizard Bill, Social Smashing and Sarah Arrow
- Pirated by Forbes
Quora’s Misogyny Problem
Published at Social Times (quora refused to comment)
Reblogged on ZDNet (quora did comment LOL)
Reddit’s ‘Doxtober’: A Tragedy in Five Acts
I helped to collect sources, proof read and edit the article, along with Brian that lawyer
She writes articles about lots of different topics, just that the Quora articles went viral because it exposed the admins being pricks, and people love to hear dark or controversial stories, don’t they? 😉
Since then she did promotional writing for a startup to make them money, and whatever else she did next, I dunno, she ain’t got a website. Also she teaches at a university.