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Rex Sorgatz

Screenplay idea: Man gets amnesia and reconstructs his life from blog comments he wrote. Short film -- he kills himself after 11 minutes.

jan 5
2011

Quora is Exploding

Doesn't it seem like you're hearing about Quora just as much as you were hearing about Twitter right before it exploded? There's a reason for that: interest in Quora is exploding, at least according to Dustin Curtis's inbox. He says in his post that the tipping point seems to have been December 26, when "something strange happened." He doesn't say what, but I think it may have been this widely linked-to TechCrunch post about why Flickr didn't build Instagram, which was sourced from a Quora thread. Related: Why did Yahoo/Google Answers and related efforts crash, but Formspring and Quora (and VYou?) start taking off? The "social" feel of them?

Update: A Quora engineer provides the explanation and describes the impact on its servers, which were not prepared for the 10x load. The TechCrunch post(s) mentioned above contributed.

12 comments

I have considered deleted my ID as a result of all the emails
But I find it flattering
So I endure it for now.

My problem is I haven't figured out what to do on Quora
So there's that...

posted by ZuDfunck at 5:27 PM on January 5, 2011

I think 20 people in New York are using it. These people account for 90% of the non Justin Bieber-related tweets out there, so that explains the impression that Quora is suddenly omnipresent.

These were the same people who used Formspring addictively for three weeks until, well, they got bored of it and moved on. Doesn't really seem like Formspring is on the rise at the moment. The smart bet is that Quora will have the same sort of trend cycle. It's still possible that it might maintain momentum beyond next week, but receding interest is the more likely outcome.

posted by Brian Van at 5:27 PM on January 5, 2011

Shouldn't you be asking this on Quora? Why here?

posted by CRZ at 5:31 PM on January 5, 2011

"I think 20 people in New York are using it."

BV, of all the things you have EVER said, this is probably the best example of you talking without looking. EVERYONE is on (i.e., using) Quora and Formspring is HUGE.

posted by Rex at 5:32 PM on January 5, 2011

@Rex: I've been looking, alright.

Formspring has big numbers but they're the type of numbers that mask high churn. I don't know a single person who's used it lately; I know many people who stopped using it after picking it up for two weeks. It's not spreading outside of a niche group of people who spend tons of time online engaging in cutting edge interactive products.

As for Quora, in the last month I've seen a substantial rise in mentions and links into the site. Again, this interest comes almost entirely from people belonging to the same work/social circles as the Formspring users. I could be underestimating interest by two orders of magnitude here (after all, I do know they have more than 20 active users) and we're still not talking about numbers that suggest more than a transient appeal to a niche audience - yet. (It does not help that the niche audience tends to use new toys transiently.)

I'm not insistent on pessimism/cynicism; I'm just playing the role of the oddsmaker. The odds are that we won't be talking about Quora as the next Twitter in six months. It needs to evolve past its current status as a social media / Silicon Valley circle jerk before it can be viewed as something with wider cultural acceptance.

BTW, plenty of great business models out there that only serve Silicon Valley circle jerking! They could be profitable with a small audience. That would be better than having no business model and growing faster than your servers can handle, like some outfits we know.

posted by Brian Van at 5:56 PM on January 5, 2011


"I don't know a single person who's used it [Formspring] lately; I know many people who stopped using it after picking it up for two weeks. It's not spreading outside of a niche group of people who spend tons of time online engaging in cutting edge interactive products."

Everything about that is wrong. YOU are the NICHE person. NO cutting edge people use Formspring. You know who uses Formspring? Every 16-year-old in America. It's huge because it's NOT used by New York media!

"This interest comes almost entirely from people belonging to the same work/social circles as the Formspring users."

Wrong. Zero cross-over.

"The odds are that we won't be talking about Quora as the next Twitter in six months."

WHO SAID THAT? You just did a complete straw man out of nowhere.

I forgot how irritating it is to argue with you.

posted by Rex at 6:00 PM on January 5, 2011

I agree with pretty much everything Rex says here.

And I think Quora is getting a lot of attention/usage at least because prominent people are using it and being candid in a way that is very similar to the way prominent people began being very candid on Twitter a couple years ago. (And having crossed that barrier with Twitter already, it's happening sooner with Quora this time around.) There's just something really compelling about asking a question about those AOL CDs and having Steve Case himself respond, at length. Or asking how to launch a startup at SXSW and hearing back from Ev. That kind of thing can certainly last, if they don't blow the execution. (The whiteboard pictured in Dustin's post illustrates this risk perfectly.)

posted by adm at 6:40 PM on January 5, 2011

I heard a *lot* about Twitter in the year or two before it exploded, and this is honest to god the first time I ever heard of Quora. I don't feel any less connected now than I did 4-5 years ago, with the disclaimer that I've never considered myself particularly well connected (above average, but that's it).

If I'm the only one, my post means nothing. If 10 people clamor in with "yeah me too!" then maybe it's worth almost nothing. But I'm a little confused.

posted by Dave at 6:42 PM on January 5, 2011

@Dave -- I see what you mean, but I think the parallel drawn here is between Quora now and Twitter during/right after SXSW (9 mos after it launched), when it seemed to take hold among the same population that is getting into Quora right now.

posted by adm at 7:13 PM on January 5, 2011

Caroline McCarthy's story at CNet.

posted by Rex at 7:24 PM on January 5, 2011

Ahem

posted by 6h057 at 7:45 PM on January 5, 2011

Dave, yeah me too! This is my first time hearing about Formspring, VYou and Quora. Of the 3, I kinda like Vyou but have trouble signing up. And Quora is by invitation only. These websites are still very much unknown to a lot of people, or maybe it's just me. Let's see if it's really gonna take off this year.

posted by jloretta at 2:01 AM on January 8, 2011




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