Quora Is Really About A Better Wikipedia, Not Robert Scoble's Hopes & Dreams

Robert Scobleized Quora today.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that I mentioned super-blogger Robert Scoble’s penchant for taking very strong positions on technology and startups and then reversing those decisions completely on a whim.

I love him for his quick retreats.

And I certainly admire a man who’s willing to rethink his opinion after weighing new evidence.

But that’s not what Scoble did when he trashed Quora earlier today. He decided that Quora was a blogging service, or some kind of Friendfeed or Twitter-like place for conversations. And when he realized that it doesn’t do those things very well, he lashed out. Basically, he got mad that people downvoted his stuff.

“It’s a horrid service for blogging,” says Scoble.

Yup. I agree. Quora isn’t a very good place for blogging. Because other people can edit or remove your stuff. It’s the sort of place where you have to behave yourself if you want to be heard. That’s exactly not blogging.

The thing is, most of us have always known that.

Quora is ostensibly a Q&A site. But that’s like saying a car is a device for burning gasoline.

Or, in Robert’s case, he’s mad that his car won’t cook him dinner.

When you think of Quora, think about Wikipedia, not Twitter or FriendFeed or a blog. It is a knowledge base. It says so right on the about page.

Quora is a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it. The most important thing is to have each question page become the best possible resource for someone who wants to know about the question.

One way you can think of it is as a cache for the research that people do looking things up on the web and asking other people. Eventually, when you see a link to a question page on Quora, your feeling should be: “Oh, great! That’s going to have all the information I want about that.” It’s also a place where new stuff–that no one has written about yet–can get pulled onto the web.

Accumulating Knowledge
People use Quora to document the world around them. Over time, the database of knowledge should grow and grow until almost everything that anyone wants to know is available in the system. When knowledge is put into Quora, it is there forever to be shared with anyone in the future who is interested.

When I read “Over time, the database of knowledge should grow and grow until almost everything that anyone wants to know is available in the system.” I definitely think of Wikipedia. And I definitely don’t think of a clean, well lighted place for Robert Scoble to have conversations with his followers.

Like Wikipedia, Quora can be a horrid place to voice an opinion. The community (led by Quora’s moderators) want a certain type of content. Stuff that isn’t about wit and rhetoric, but about getting experts to talk about things that they deeply understand. And since Quora bought the domain name and put up the site, they get to do that.

Even if Scoble gets pissy about it.