What is Quora and why do I find it so intriguing?

In Web/Tech by John Marcom

Is Quora really a threat to Wikipedia? Everyone loves a dogfight, especially the folks at Business Insider. But Quora isn’t really a reference source in the traditional sense – you aren’t going to go there to look up “King George III” or “George Washington” for your next term paper. It isn’t news. It isn’t, usually, narrative.

But it is surfacing things that don’t show up any other way. When I have time to poke around, I’m amazed by what’s there, and by the machine that is surfacing these things in the well-produced weekly e-mail:

Like this post about what cops learn about life. Or this one, about what foreigners find strange in Japan. Or many others.

It’s hard to say this product is really filling some unmet need. It isn’t a particulary efficient way to get particular information. So far, it’s really hard for me to imagine any monetization beyond paid search, although building authority and reputation via Quora will probably create value for contributors as its audience grows. That’s a question they don’t really have to answer yet. But meanwhile it’s clearly adding something that wasn’t there before.

When I was a kid I used to pick up random volumes of the World Book and read entries. (Sad, I know; we lived on a hill in some woods, I was underchallenged in Arkansas public schools, and there wasn’t much of a neighborhood to hang out in.) If only there had been Quora.