Will Quora, Social Media's New Shiny Thing Exist On A Quorum Of Users?


Well, we're already a few days into the new year, and the tech-savvy early adopters are already hailing the new shiny thing. While Quora's user base had only scaled to 55,000+ this past Fall, in late December it took a noticeable bump in followers with the help - some say - as the result of testimonials from uberblogger Robert Scoble and others. But is the new, slick social network for everyone?

"I've now been blogging for 10 years. Looking back we haven’t seen all that much innovation for bloggers. YouRobert ScobleRobert Scoble have a box. You type in it. Put an image into it. And hit publish. That’s much the same as the tools I had 10 years ago," says Scoble.

"I find that there’s something addictive about participating over (at Quora) instead of here on my blog. Why? Because when you see people voting up your answers or adding their own replies in real time it makes you realize there’s a good group of people reading your stuff," he adds.

For those that haven't tried Quora, in it simplest form, it probably can be described as Yahoo Answers "on steroids", with a helping hand from Wikipedia, a dash of Twitter, voting rights from Digg, a dose of FriendFeed and some remnants of Google Wave - hold the spam. please!

Irene AuIrene AuIrene Au, Google's head of user interaction said she became a big fan of Quora at ZURB, an interactive design and strategy firm in San Francisco.

After that endorsement, one might think Quora could be in Google's acquisition sights for 2011. Oliver ChiangOliver ChiangOliver Chiang from Forbes thinks otherwise. "Possible, though not highly likely, especially since Google already bought a Q&A service, Aardvark, for $50 million in February," says Chiang. However Chiang thinks that Quora is the superior product. "Though it started out strong, Aardvark, however, doesn’t seem to have the momentum or cachet that Quora has now," he adds.

MG SieglerMG SieglerFor bloggers like Scoble, MG Siegler from TechCrunch agrees that while it will not replace the blogging model, it is a great resource for bloggers. "As many of you have noticed, we (and by “we”, I mainly mean “me”) have been using Quora a lot as a source of inspiration for story ideas," he muses.

Siegler points to Quora as a means to an end. "That is, there needs to be a nugget of information that sparks a story. For the past 10+ years, many people have relied on other blog posts for this. For the past three years or so, many people have used Twitter for this. And now people are starting to use Quora for this purpose," he says.

Looking back at Twitter two and three years ago, it was hard to ascertain what it was about its "new shiny-ness" that appealed to so many of us. Like all new innovation, it takes a while to get your head around it. However as Twitter emerged, we all benefitted from real-time news and a medium ideal for branding one's self or their company. Quora on the other hand is not about newsworthy hyperlinks or self-aggrandizement. Quora takes effort on the part of those that are willing to contribute.

But what is the pay-back to the individual user, aside from showing others that you may be knowledgeable about a few things pertaining to a few topics? Scoble notes that he's seen Quora's answers surface in Google results - which indicates the value that Google's SERPs have placed on Quora's content results. But will that limit involvement on the site to 'expert' contributions solely, where those less knowledgeable will tend to sit on the sidelines and not participate? If social networks scale because they offer a common denominator of inclusiveness, will Quora eventually have mass appeal - based on the premise that everyone is an expert on something?

Differing from the 'copy and paste' crowd, it will be interesting to see if Quora has "the legs" to sustain itself over the course of the year ahead. Will it become the new shiny thing that offers true value for folks, above and beyond just bloggers? Your thoughts, readers? Have you tried Quora and if so - at this moment in time - what is the greatest take-away that this new social media experience has provided you?