Quora - October 12, 2011

My Quora friend Luke Bornheimer kindly asked me to answer this question, as I am a huge fan of Quora and have written a lot about Pinterest, too. Worth noting, apparently it cost too much to "Ask" me to answer, so he messaged me to evade Quora credits ;) Also, as a disclaimer, when I first played around with Pinterest, one of the things that immediately drew me to the site was how similar some of the components and interactions were to Quora.


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Quora - October 12, 2011

My Quora friend Luke Bornheimer kindly asked me to answer this question, as I am a huge fan of Quora and have written a lot about Pinterest, too. Worth noting, apparently it cost too much to "Ask" me to answer, so he messaged me to evade Quora credits ;) Also, as a disclaimer, when I first played around with Pinterest, one of the things that immediately drew me to the site was how similar some of the components and interactions were to Quora.

While there are some similarities between Pinterest and Quora, such as the fact the follow model is asymmetric, or that data/text is clustered around topics/boards, I am not sure there is much that Quora can learn from Pinterest, even in the mass adoption realm of things.

In a nutshell, in terms of "going mainstream," there could be a few things Quora "could" learn from Pinterest, but I say this with caution:

  1. Make it easier to for Quora users to ask questions, especially in the mobile app. On Pinterest, the main actions are creating/editing boards and filling them with original or re-pinned images. While it's hard to compare both sites as one is text-heavy vs. image-focused, I do believe it feels difficult or confusing for a new or casual user to enter in a question, tag it, add context, and so forth. Comparatively, pinning and repinning is quite easy.
  2. Pinterest is growing because it simply taps into a user's desire to scrapbook digital images and/or collect visual bookmarks. And because the items are usually of physical objects (not as abstract), the social signal of following someone's pinboards is potentially stronger than the friend/interest-based signal of following someone on Quora and having their actions appear in your Quora newsfeed. While I like Pinterest a lot, I add lots of questions to Quora daily, more than I "pin" any images. Anytime I have a question, I search on Quora and/or add my answer. Think of how many questions are asked implicitly on Twitter, for instance - why can't those simultaneously appear on Quora, too, much like adding the #in hashtag to a tweet will post that tweet to your LinkedIn feed?
  3. Culturally, Quora can sometimes feel uninviting to the new/casual user.Even as a power user, I have encountered some not-so-nice rebuffs from a few fringe cases using this site (not a big deal), and even a few times in real life. That kind of interaction doesn't really happen on Pinterest, though it's less about text and ideas and more harmless with images. (However, I have read in places that photographers are concerned about Pinterest's ability to accelerate photo-theft.)
  4. Pinterest's "pin it" bookmarklet is very easy to drag and drop into a bookmark bar and therefore easy to pin images to pinboards as you surf the web. What if, hypothetically, you could easily add questions or answers by simply clicking on relevant content through a bookmarklet rather than copying, pasting, and/or writing questions from scratch? That would eliminate some friction.
  5. On Pinterest, you can follow feeds that are quite granular, rather than being forced into one giant newsfeed. While a Quora user can silo their experience by watching certain "groups," the ability on Pinterest to filter the feed by a following list, or by specific categories (which are, of course, much lower in number compared to Quora's topic ontology). Right now on Quora, it's hard to segment an experience, but I'm sure that will change.

Finally, while I'm certainly a fan of Pinterest, it's worth noting a few things:

  • There's a lot Pinterest could learn from Quora, such as how to cluster data around topics, or people, etc. in a searchable way.
  • I think Pinterest is going after a billion-dollar opportunity that, if it continues to succeed and drive some commerce, could be snatched up by a big tech giant like Amazon, though it faces a threat from Tumblr, which many believe to be competitive. Quora, on the other hand, is creating a huge, multi-billion dollar opportunity that is one of the few early-stage consumer web plays that has a real chance to become its own, independent, public company, has no real (web) competitors (right now), and, oddly enough, doesn't have to be mainstream in the classic way for it to be a success. More on this in another post.
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