Quora didn’t invent the long-form smart a*se

Posted on: February 8, 2011

James Hritz’s take on ‘Why Quora & Social Media Experts Don’t Mix‘ is all very funny, and interesting – and not without irony on a site boasting ‘Be ready to make this blog the primary focus of your life.’

But to address this:

“Regardless of how you feel about Quora, its content, or its community, the trend of deeper, longer format conversations in social media and how users adapt to it is going to be something of interest.”

Questions of long-form versus low transaction cost snippets of conversation online are not new … openDemocracy, to name one of many, has been long form for years.

As for short-form, Twitter has just made it very easy to do very little very effectively.

I once spent 6+ hours a day in long-drawn out online debates. I became an expert in my chosen subject… even compiling my own personal encyclopedia I could draw upon in the midst of heated discussions. I was an undergraduate student then… and have never since had so much spare time to chew the online fat.

Quora may be “snobby, clubby, and intellectually elitist” – and Twitter may be full of “social media experts” building undeserved reputations by agressively following, unfollowing and sharing the work of others.

But what the different social norms and behaviour on these two platforms really should remind us is that, for whatever reason, some people have more or less knowledge, or more or less time, than others.

On the one hand, this might give Quora dons a chance to feel rather supercillious and proud of themselves.

On the other, it also indicates to those designing participatory sites, that it is prudent to cater for those who can give different amounts of commitment … which might mean chunking information and enabling different levels of participation, on the basis that not everyone, however much they may want to, is able to spend the equivalent of a full-time job asking and answering questions.

By: James Hritz As the Quora user base has grown, along with much praise, has come some criticism. Specifically, many critics view Quora as a snobby, clubby, and intellectually elitist place. It seems much of the loudest criticism about Quora and it’s community and moderation policies come from a Twitter ecosystem creature known as the “social media expert/maven.” If you are even a casual user of Twitter, I am sure you have seen the social media … Read More

via The Quora Review


3 Responses to "Quora didn’t invent the long-form smart a*se"

Important point.
While it wasn’t chronologically the first thing to puzzle me about people’s reactions to Quora, the notion that it’d be something “completely new and different” has deepened my puzzlement, especially since it partly comes from people who were online before the WWW. Did we just forget what else was out there, before 2005? Are we so obsessed with social media experts that we would jump on whichever bandwagon leading us away from them? Are we forgetting that LinkedIn has a Q&A system and that is full of people with thoughtful approaches to broad subjects?
Your points about time are well-taken, especially since they’re not dismissive of those of us who do spend a lot of time answering long-form questions (say, teachers). It’s not that we “don’t have anything better to do.” It’s that these long-form Q&A ar pat of the way we roll.
And, sure, there are many smart-A*s in academia as in other spheres. Quora sure isn’t the only elitist place, online or off. But there are also ways to avoid the snobbery and engage in meaningful interactions, regardless of the medium. Quora just makes it harder in part because, as you say, it wasn’t designed to accommodate for different “rhythms.”

Thanks for a thoughtful and useful post.

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mariam Cook, Alexandre Enkerli. Alexandre Enkerli said: RT @MariamCook: Quora didn't invent the long-form smart a*se […]

Hi enkerli, thanks for your comment. I believe the meme going around about ‘social media experts’ has been driven in the main by older media pushback. It’s amusing enough…

(Ultimately for each new communications advance we will have people who jump on board – whether skimming the surface and blagging consultancy positions or spending time deeply considering what it might mean for our markets and societies)

…as long as it doesn’t mean missing the point when it comes to sites like Quora… The question, the answer, who can and does ask, who can and does answer – is fundamental to human knowledge. If we build systems that exclude many from participation – that has implications for their intrinsic value – to who they are valuable for. Perhaps that’s fine in this case and many others – after all you can’t host all of the people all of the time – but it is worth pause for thought, at least.

It worries me when people start talking about ‘the type of conversation we want to have’ – because it’s usually shorthand for their blinkered attitude toward online crowds.

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