I was having a great conversation with Jason Schwartz the other night about Quora--how the current Quora community feels a lot like Twitter did in the early days. Conversation is of high quality and it's really easy to find thoughtful contributors. We both agreed that the overall quality of what we find on Twitter is down from where it was. Don't get me wrong, Twitter is still a big part of my communication infrastructure and a valuable resourse, but I now have to use a myriad of tools to use to extract the same kind of quality out of the noise of the Twittersphere. No one attempts to consume every tweet, and it lost a lot of the people discovery it had when conversations were public.
What individuals have lost in value, though, Twitter as a company has gained--needs of the few versus the good of the many I suppose. Being a small community of insiders just isn't that valuable a proposition to a company that has raised hundreds of millions of dollars.
So what will become of Quora now that it is getting an API? The service is dying for an iPad app and I imagine it will only be a matter of time before it gets on other platforms as well. What I personally really want to see build into it is some kind of Quora digest--a tool to help me monitor the important conversations without having to sit in it all day. I'd love to see a Quora column in Tweetdeck and a Feedera e-mail for Quora. It's a great tool for insiders to get lost in at the moment, but if it's going to go mainstream, and to other industries, it needs to be more easily consumed by newbies.
The problem when you lower this bar is that you lower the overall quality as well. Sure, you can attempt to design around it, but you're always going to be one step behind the spammers and n00bs, figuring out what they do to game the system before you can fix it. To some extent that begs the question of whether or not the value of Quora is the design of the tool or just the community of people it has been able to attract. Will Quora be as valuable to the finance community as it is to the tech community? What about elementary school teachers? When that happens, do the tech nerds desert it for something else?
One suggestion that Jason brought up was maybe just capping it right now--that if you're in tech and not on it now, you're just out of luck and it's closed. I think that would be an interesting approach, especially if they did that industry by industry--too ensure quality. They could launch it privately with top finance people, keep it up for six months, and then shut the doors. I think a lot of people wish Twitter would have done the same thing.