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. Some people seem to think this is a great idea. Others seem to think it’s the end of TechCrunch, blogging, and the world — perhaps not in that exact order. But here’s what it really is: business as usual.
One reader, Elias Bizannes, tweeted the following yesterday, “Blogging 3.0 according to @parislemon 1) Follow the founders of Quora 2) Spend all day on Quora 3) Rehash voted-up Quora posts on TechCrunch“. My response to this was as follows, “@EliasBiz so was blogging 2.0 doing the same thing on twitter? and blogging 1.0 doing the same thing on blogs?“
My point, again, is that Quora is simply a new medium for what’s been going on since the beginning of blogging. And, to an extent, you could argue since the beginning of writing in general. 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.
This process usually starts with blogs (like TechCrunch) and then eventually moves to the mainstream media. The same thing will happen here. In a year, CNN will be reporting information coming from Quora. Why? Because it’s a great source of information.
On it, you’ll find people like high-profile executives Steve Case and Reed Hastings candidly answering questions about the companies they are (or were) involved with. You’ll also find former employees of companies giving insightful nuggets of information about those companies. It’s really no different than if they each blogged about these things. But they aren’t doing that, likely because it’s the question itself that sparks them to answer. And the fact that all of these answers are connected in a centralized, filtered location makes it much more powerful.
That Quora answers can be lengthy (unlike tweets, which are limited to 140 characters) has brought up some unease as well. Aggregators, like Techmeme, have started linking directly to threads there. Other sites, such as Silicon Alley Insider, have started republishing entire Quora answers. But again, that’s no different from the norm. That site also regularly republishes full blog posts found elsewhere.
We don’t do that type of full republishing, not because we think it’s bad, it’s just not what we do. Instead, when an interesting Quora thread pops onto my radar, I like to think it over and write it up in a way that I would any other story. That is to say, I like to inject my own words and opinions and expand on the thought.
The other day, Robert Scoble wrote a post wondering if Quora was the biggest blogging innovation in 10 years? I still would definitely give the edge to tools like WordPress and Blogger, and then to Twitter (which serves as both a source of information and a means to distribute content), but Quora, at least as it stands right now, is the next step in the evolution.
It’s not just that it’s Yahoo Answers reborn, it’s that it’s Yahoo Answer done right. It utilizes several things that other social services have implemented over the years and ties them all together in a way the surfaces excellent information.
There’s always been a concern that as Quora expands its user base, it will get less useful, but all indications are that it has been expanding rapidly in recent weeks — and guess what? It’s actually getting better.
In other words, expect more posts based on information found on Quora, not less. And expect that trend to spread across the web. Just like it did with Twitter. Just like it did with blogs. It’s all about the information, not the medium.