Quora, A Valuable Resource for Photographers

Quora, A Valuable Resource for Photographers

Katherine Boehret over at The Wall Street Journal is out with a review of the hot new early adopter Q&A site this morning, Quora.

Although the Journal calls the site “uninviting, geeky and poorly explained,” after spending a fair amount of time on the site over the past few weeks, I think the site really is the real deal. What makes Quora work, I think, is largely that they have been able to pull in a large number of intelligent insightful experts on a wide range of topics. Some of the questions are fun, like “Which is better; The Wire or The Sopranos?” (I’ve got the top answer there now and of course we all know that The Wire was better — Omar Little is arguably the best character ever to appear on television) — other questions are more serious.

As far as the more serious questions go, I’m very impressed with both the quality of questions and answers that I’m seeing around photography related topics especially. You can find the photography category on Quora here and check out some of the questions and answers for yourself. Here you can find questions like “What are the must-have lenses for a Canon DSLR?” (my favorite Canon lens the 135 f/2.0 L gets some love there). Another question is “What’s a good bag for amateur photographers?” Another user asks “Who are the best concert photographers?”

Users can read submitted answers and if they like an answer they can vote it up (with the little triangles next to the answer). If they don’t like an answer they can vote it down.

I was particularly impressed with Quora’s insight into the photosharing world. There is a whole category devoted to photosharing as well as a category devoted to Flickr itself. Several former Flickr employees (including co-founder Stewart Butterfield and former Flickr Engineering Chief Cal Henderson) as well as some current Flickr staffers have participated on the site.

Former Flickr engineer Kellan Elliott-McCrea is the top ranked Flickr answerer so far, largely based on all the upvotes he got on his revealing answer to the question “Why did Flickr miss the mobile photo opportunity that Instagram and picplz are pursuing?” As a former insider, Elliott-McCrea paints a picture of Flickr mobile innovation being held back by Yahoo Corporate politics. Writes Elliott-McCrea:

“Lastly, Marco Boerries was the without a doubt one of the most viciously political, and disliked Yahoo! execs and he reigned for 4 years over the Yahoo “Connected Life” team which had universal control over all native mobile experiences within Yahoo. Several Flickr internal attempts to build and ship native mobile experiences (going back to 2006) were squashed relentlessly. The Flickr iPhone app that eventually shipped was built by CL.”

On a personal level I really enjoy interacting with other users in the Flickr section about Flickr. I’ve been banned by Flickr for over a year now from the Flickr Help Forum where similar questions are answered on Flickr. It’s nice being able to participate in less censored forums about Flickr where Flickr can’t censor what users have to say as it’s off of their service.

I think it’s largely the quality of the answers and the early adopters on Quora that are responsible for it’s success in the Q&A world where other companies haven’t seen as much growth or traction recently. Ask.com, Facebook Questions, Yahoo Answers, Hunch, and several other services have tried various approaches to the Q&A structure, but I have not found any of these to be as compelling an experience or as personally useful as Quora.

In addition to reading questions and answers (and voting them up or down) any registered user can also try their hand at answering a question or asking an entirely new question. Users can also choose to follow other users like most other social networks and a recent activity stream shows the most recent actions on the questions that you are following.

All in all I’m super impressed with what I’ve seen from this young new company. I suspect we are only seeing the beginning with Quora and that the number of questions and quality of answers will only improve over time. Hopefully they are not quickly acquired by some bigger fish. The site was started by two former Facebook employees and this is just the type of company that I can see Facebook trying scoop up.

If you want to follow me on Quora you can find me here.

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11 Comments

  1. Aaron says:

    I’m not entirely sure why, but I am typically a pretty early adopter of new services but I totally don’t get the attraction of Quora.

    On the other hand, I spend a fair amount of time on http://photo.stackexchange.com which seems to provide me some value.

  2. D. Lambert says:

    +1 photo.stackexchange.com – there are some really bright people there, and some pretty helpful people, too. The activity level is decent, too — hopefully, that’ll continue.

  3. Eric in SF says:

    I enjoy reading the threads on Quora I’ve found via you and others but the complete lack of any info about what the service is, what it does, etc., without creating a login was a big turn-off for me. I reached website login overload years ago and generally will not use something that requires me to create a login.

  4. Gary Denness says:

    Much as I’d like to follow you on Quora, I can’t. Getting an invite has proven really toughh, and I have been trying!

    If you have one to spare, do feel free to send it my way!

  5. Thomas Hawk says:

    Gary, I don’t think you need an invite. I think anyone can sign up for it right now.

  6. Thomas Hawk says:

    Actually I just looked into this. I believe that anyone in the U.S. can sign up without an invite, but most of the rest of the world requires an invite. Not sure why.

  7. Raoul says:

    Quora’s been a waste of time for me. I tried to ask a simple question: when will Canon update the 7D firmware to enable turning off AGC. The site syntax rules never let me post the question, kept telling me it’s not valid. So a site built to allow people to ask questions never let me post a question… That’s self-defeating behavior, isn’t it?

  8. Thomas Hawk says:

    It looks like I can invite people if you can’t get in and want to check it out. If anyone wants an invite send me an email at tom(at)thomashawk.com with your email address and I’ll send one out.

  9. Duluk says:

    +1 for Omar Little 🙂

    now to check out this Quora thing….

  10. Eric in SF says:

    @iquanyin moon – wow, that was the most me-me-me-me self-centered rant I’ve read in weeks.

    Here’s a tip: those rules you are dispensing with are there for a reason. Your lack of apostrophes makes your communication hard to read. Yes, it’s easier for you to type, but it shows profound disrespect for anyone trying to read what you write.

    I’m not on quora but I really like using services that impose order on the current generation’s borderline sociopathic love of themselves.

  11. John Kim says:

    I love how being a former facebook employee automatically boost the persons reputation. Well, the quara site does sound interesting.