Quora answer: How has Quora affected your life?

May 22 2014

Quora has not greatly impacted my life.

Mainly due to the superficiality of it all. I really only answer questions I am asked these days. Once I realized that the substantive answers I attempted to give were going to end up voted down and collapsed, I realized that either Quora was not ready for me or I was not ready for Quora. Which I am not sure. But it is good advertising of my internet published works among folks that might be interested. So I persevere, in spite of my doubts about the whole thing. Saddened by the fact that it is a poor design, for a question and answer site, and the whole problem of the lowest common denominator ruling. Not that it matters much. There are just more important things in the world than Quora.

I believe that Quora will fade away, once someone figures out how to design a Q&A site so that knowledge can be generated communally online, instead of mere opinion, running rampant with no limits, especially those of empiricism or reason, in sight, nor dialectical interaction which would mean that conversations actually go somewhere. Quora it seems is a sign of the alienation we all feel toward so called “social media” which is actually “anti-social”, in the sense that we do not know who we are talking to, and will probably never meet them, and really do not care who we are talking at. Quora solves the problem of engagement. With Quora you do not have to engage anyone, but merely answer the questions and watch the stock price of your answers go up or down, based on voting, which has nothing to do with the veracity of your answer, or whether it contains any knowledge or not. Rather it is whether it pleases the many, whoever they are, that counts on Quora.

Quora taught me that there are stupid questions. I always believed the maxim that there are no stupid questions that you often hear, until I saw the abysmal quality of the questions on Quora. What is amazing is that despite the awful questions that abound on Quora there are still some very good answers even to these bad questions.

This tells me that people either don’t really want to know anything, because when they get a chance to ask questions of a willing group of answerers they don’t have any good questions. Or people just don’t know enough to ask good questions. So there is either a lack of curiosity, or a lack of education, or both that is a dominant theme on Quora. Despite this long suffering answerers of questions toil away answering questions night and day and doing a pretty good job of it, given what they have to work with. Here is the scary part. I tried to seed some of the philosophy topics with actual questions that meant something. But I try not to answer my own questions, because I want to see what others have to say. But every once in a while I find a great question, and get excited, but then likely as not I realize later that this is one of my own questions, that I forgot I asked. That is what I find weird about Quora. People don’t seem to know that you must know something in order to ask decent questions. And they don’t seem to have the curiosity to get that background knowledge, but rather they are pleased to ask meaningless questions, as if they want to be fed pabulum, in predigested forms rather than struggling to know something themselves. It makes me think that all those horror stories about our educational system are actually true, and we are the result.

If you do not prepare for the answer, then you will not understand the answer when it comes. Preparation is study of the topic for which you seek to get an answer. Knowing what question to ask is half the battle in learning. I want us to learn together, but learning together means that the questioner needs to be just as engaged as the one answering the question. And we seldom see this on Quora. I figure that if people send me reasonable questions, they must really want answers, and so my measure of questions is whether I am asked them. Questions posed without context or problematic, free-floating and isolated from each other are in fact more or less meaningless.

It is this nihilism of the isolated and free floating questions of little intrinsic value or significance on Quora that make me think that Quora is a blip on the radar, while we wait for a more sophisticated system that actually allows the group generation of knowledge online. When that appears we will wonder what Quora was just as we have difficulty today remembering what MySpace was . . .

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