Lately I’ve been playing around with Quora. As the site describes itself:
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.
The idea is that Quora becomes “the best possible resource” on any given topic by allowing anyone to contribute their insight on that topic, and then having users rank these contributions and suggest edits. It’s similar to Wikipedia inasmuch as it relies on the “wisdom of the crowds” to generate a base of high quality, peer-reviewed knowledge, but what makes it special is that it’s organized according to questions and answers, as opposed to mimicking the traditional “heading and subheadings” model that you find in encylopedias and textbooks. You can sign up to receive updates when certain questions get a new answer, or when a question is added on a particular topic of interest to you. Similarly, you can follow specific users to read the answers they contribute.
The ease with which information is collected, organized, and retrieved on Quora makes it a potentially useful tool for large organizations struggling to deal with the challenges of information management and usability that accompany many social knowledge depositories, such as wikis, for example. For those outside organizations, it provides a very easy means of keeping up to date on issues you care about, and sharing what you know with others.
Having spent some time lurking, I finally decided to try my hand at answering one of the questions posed on the site. Here is my answer to the question:
Will the expression of 'liking' or 'tweeting' by the population of democratic society ever be used as a means for influencing public policy?
Quora only went public in June of 2010. It will be interesting to see if it catches on.