Is Quora useful or just an overhyped waste of time?

It’s the first week of January and all the world’s tech geeks appear to have made a new year’s resolution to talk about nothing else this year other than social answers site Quora. I’d not used Quora before today but as far as I can see it is a cross between Yahoo Questions, LinkedIn Answers and Wikipedia. So far so useful sounding? Well at least that was what I thought until I tried using it for the first time this morning.

After a whole 30 minutes spent on Quora there are two things I already dislike intensely about it

The Hype

There seems to be a well-worn process if you want your site to get some traction; you pay, bribe or cajole a Silicon Valley “influencer” to tweet about it. As far as I can tell all some of these professional layabouts do is get paid to tweet about things but their effect on Twitter can be quite amazing.

Since a couple of "influencer" tweets recently my stream has been rammed with bandwagon jumping “me to” idiots who seem to have lost all capacity for independent thought. Typical tweets I’ve seen have included “Quora will replace all the tech help forums on the Internet!”, “Not being on Quora is so 2010!” and even The Telegraph has decided to join in by declaring that Quora is going to bigger than Twitter.

My questions to all of them would be firstly, how do you know and secondly have you actually used it? I bet I wouldn’t get many well thought through answers to either of those two, even if I put the questions up on Quora!

I love Twitter most of the time but this kind of thing really does my head in.  The fact is most people will have never heard of Quora at this stage let alone used it and that isn’t going to make it bigger than anything at the moment

The User Experience

Talk about the emperor’s new clothes, I think this site would be easier to use if the world's worst ATS provider had designed it! Being the stubborn early adopter type that I am though I soldiered onwards and managed to find some questions about recruitment and decided to answer one someone had asked about social recruiting. This is where my Quora world completely fell apart. Literally two minutes later one of Quora’s editors marked my answer as “not useful” and it disappeared from view.

Apparently this was because my answer was more of a “comment on the question” than an actually answer. Well I’m sorry Quora I disagree and so did some of the other people answering the same question. It appears though there is no come back or possibility for discussion and my answer remains more or less invisible. It’s only Jan 5th but if I experience a bigger crowdsourcing FAIL than this in 2011 I’ll be amazed.  Let me explain why.

According to the Forrester Social Technographics survey only 23% of users of the social web are content creators. This does somewhat limit Quora’s potential universe of contributors and you would of thought they would be nice to them! I can understand the need for some moderation to stop the site becoming unusable like the spamfest that is Yahoo Questions but  p*ssing “Creators” off with stupid rules, a ridiculously overbearing style guide and subjective police state style editing doesn’t seem to be a good plan when dealing with what should a valuable audience to them!

In conclusion then it would actually be as stupid for me to write Quora off at this stage as it is for the mindless lemmings to overhype it. In fact if it does become even moderately successful then I can see the sourcing community getting very excited about the chance to source and headhunt subject matter experts as they gather round their particularly niches.

What I will say though is that first impressions are important and my initial experience of Quora has been absolutely awful