Q&A

Stack Exchange Spends Its Millions Educating Its Own Users

pay students e1300474476873 Stack Exchange Spends Its Millions Educating Its Own UsersOne of the core tenets at Stack Exchange is that it doesn’t make sense to start a Q&A site unless you’ve got a critical mass of experts ready to answer queries. Now the company is using some of the $12 million it just raised to send its users to out into the real world for some continuing education.

“This is really what distinguishes us from our horizontal competitors whose names begin with Q,” says founder Joel Spolsky. “They are trying to do everything all at once. There is no possible way to get all the cartographers, or auto mechanics or any group on Quora to feel like they own a certain topic area, and to be committed to making it great.”

Critical mass on a certain domain might just mean ten or fifteen people who are particularly dedicated to the topic. As Quora has opened its doors beyond the initial user base of start-up employees and venture capitalists, it has run into problems getting users oriented and keeping the quality of its responses high.

The difference shows in the answer rate. Take these broad topic areas with a ton of activity on both sites:

Unanswered Cooking Questions
Quora – 103
SE – 3
Unanswered Photography Questions
Quora 116
SE – 3
Unanswered Health and Fitness
Quora – 74
SE – 3
Unanswered Motor Vehicles
Quora – 251
SE – 4
These numbers actually undercount the questions on Quora without answers, because that site is divided into topic tags, not verticals. Asking a question on Quora is like shouting into a big crowded room and hoping someone knows or cares enough to get back to you. The site’s growth was driven in large part by clever use of the social graph, especially giving users the ability to follow one another. Quora’s founders come from Facebook, after all. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into a effective Q&A service.  “We fundamentally and unapologetically favor the information graph over the social graph,” says co-founder Jeff Atwood. “In other words, we care a lot more about what you know — and whether you’re willing to share that with us in a form we can use — than, say, who you are.”
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