Taylor Tees Off

Here’s a Question: Why Does Quora Exist?

quora Heres a Question: Why Does Quora Exist?If there’s one thing I hate more than Alex Trebek acting like he knows the answers to the questions on Jeopardy, it’s Quora, the place where narcissistic technology hangers-on go to dress up dumb ideas in big words and start-up jargon.

To show you how easy it is to be Quora–or Ask Jeeves, or Facebook Questions, or Google Questions, or Allexperts.com–I’m starting my own question and answer site right here in this very column. If I’m half as lucky as Quora, I should get $150 million.

Why is anyone even paying attention to Quora, at all?

Excellent question. As part of the slavering press frenzy that accompanied Quora’s debut, co-founder Adam D’Angelo told some reporter that he quit Facebook to start Quora because “Q & A is one of those areas on the internet where there are a lot of sites, but no one had come along and built something that was really good yet.” And they still haven’t.

He also said, “We think there’s a lot of knowledge that is still in people’s heads that hasn’t really been written down on the internet in a useful format yet.” Totally.

People think it’s a good idea to care about Quora because question and answer sites are as fashionable right now as rompers were last summer. See, just like the romper,  Q & A sites inexplicably makes a comeback every few years. With Google flooded with spam and SEO nonsense, technophiles are thinking it’d actually be better if we farmed out our question-answering needs to “social networks” of humans. Much in the same way grown women periodically think it’s a good idea to dress themselves in one-piece outfits for two-year-olds, Q & A sites like Quora and Stack Exchange rear their ugly heads now and then.

Plus, just like Hashable, Quora capitalizes on the narcissism and incestuousness of tech start-up culture, generating outsize enthusiasm from a group of people who love nothing more than to hear their opinions and mutual adulations echo around whatever virtual forum happens to be popular at the moment.

That’s it?

Self-promoter Robert Scoble at one point was the site’s No. 1 user, but Quora got upset that he was using it as a personal branding vehicle (an odd objection, considering personal branding is one of the only reasons anyone has any incentive to answer dumb questions on Quora to begin with). Scoble got in a fight with Quora and eventually wrote a passive-aggressive fake mea culpa, and some people who read tech blogs paid attention to that.

Who runs Quora?

Charlie Cheever (my boss’s friend) and Adam D’Angelo, two ex-Facebook guys who decided to jump ship in hopes of making a buck off investors who are going crazy over tech companies. Sound familiar? It should.

How is Quora different from Yahoo! Answers?

Quora is not different from Yahoo! Answers.

How is Quora different from Stack Exchange?

Unlike Stack Exchange, Quora does not make a habit of weeding out poorly formed and illogical questions. (Stack Exchange’s Pokemon questions, for example, are very well thought out and pragmatic, whereas on Quora you get threads like “Who is the sexiest Pokemon?”)

Is Jeeves on Quora?

No, Quora has even less going for it than the ill-fated question and answer engine, because Quora does not even have a cartoon butler for a mascot.

How much is Quora worth?

Somewere between $86 million and $300 million, if you believe the deep-pocketed, glorified lottery players at Benchmark Capital. My valuation is closer to the $0 range, but my opinion doesn’t matter as much as that of venture investors making scattershot investments in hope of cashing in a winning start-up lottery ticket.

Why is this happening?

Mainly because what drives any American bull market is a group of wealthy and self-congratulatory — but also ignorant — people wasting their money on fashionable but ultimately worthless investments.

Should we grow up now?

Yes, grow up, you babies.

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Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    See, it’s less funny (still a little funny! but far less funny) when the startup you’re mocking is actually pretty useful and well-done, and you have to fudge it to make your jokes work. You seriously can’t find another Hashable to mock?

    1. Anonymous says:

      Agreed, Quora’s not Hashable. For that exact reason, I think this one goes deeper. Yes, Quora has some decent qualities and appealing users, but it doesn’t get past the problem that these things catch on among power users (who generate all the buzz) who have a hard time imagining people not like themselves, i.e., people without a heavy appetite for maintaining a big social media presence. So these things snowball among the South By set and get overvalued.

      1. Anonymous says:

        It does sound overvalued (to my amateur eyes). But Mike doesn’t really address that. Again, I get he’s just making jokes, but that’s a shame given the chance to do more pieces like the insightful Hashable takedown.

  2. Ben says:

    Your Jumo link is broken….but other than that a great amusing article…

  3. Alex says:

    Yo Mike- what are some companies you like?

    1. Mike Taylor says:

      Goldman Sachs.

  4. fjpoblam says:

    A significant amount of Quora’s content involves arguments over whether other content is valid content (valid questions, validly-formatted questions, duplicate questions, valid answers, answers which should be comments, duplicate answers, answers which should be answers to different questions, and on, and on…not to mention, who is authorized to decide what is valid and who is not, and why, and what are the rules…). Why does Quora exist? I think back to Danny Glover’s words in Silverado: “Because they enjoy it.”

  5. ROI M LOL says:

    Too funny. LMAO. Mike, I own the domain ROIMeetsLOL.com, how about you and I do a startup making fun of funny business. Hit me up at roimeetslol@gmail.com

  6. That’s what you get for trashing V. Young, Cam