What is Quora?

By Kimberly Reyes (@CommDuCoeur) Around an hour ago (that’s 8:40am EST), I read a post that could very well have changed my activity on the social web.

By Kimberly Reyes (@CommDuCoeur)

Around an hour ago (that’s 8:40am EST), I read a post that could very well have changed my activity on the social web.

It wasn’t a long post, and took about a minute to read.  It was by Phil Baumann, an influential thought leader and a friend of Pixels & Pills.  And it was all about Quora.

In his analysis of Silicon Valley’s newest sweetheart, Phil pointed out the different ways we use our social networks.  We stay in touch with people through Facebook.  We publish content on our blogs.  We broadcast thoughts and ideas through Twitter.  We do some professional networking on LinkedIn.  We keep video channels on YouTube, photo galleries on Flickr – There are hundreds of different ways we can connect and share on the Web.  so what’s Quora, and why should we care?

As its name suggests, Quora is about questions.  Phil’s post suggests that it’s more intellectual, and even more conversational, than any of our other social networks.  Here’s the official description of Quora, taken from its website:

“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.”

My initial reaction to this was that it would be a prettier, more efficient Yahoo! Answers – and I’m not alone.  It places more emphasis on quality information and integration with social networks.  It anticipates wider adoption from a more qualified pool of sources.  It delivers the promise of deeper dialogue, inspiration, and enlightenment.  And as far as I can tell, there is no word or character limit on posts.

So there’s the hype…now should we believe it?  Back in August 2010, someone took all the Q&A services similar to Quora for a test drive.  This included a little-known website called Aardvark, which actually came out on top (Yahoo! Answers placed last).  I signed up for Aardvark as well, and will report my findings.

Like everything else in life, Quora does leave room for improvement.  Only time (and adoption) will tell if this will be the next big thing for social media mavens with an…ehem…above-average IQ.

In the mean time, some clever people have been trying to get Quora to solve its problems by thinking existentially.  And in the same vein, someone was bold enough to ask Yahoo! Answers what all the commotion around Quora is about 🙂