The mistakes I made in Quora

So, I woke up early in Davos, Switzerland, excited to go skiing, and look at Techmeme and see that the Quora Review has published a post which could be titled “Scoble stay off the Quora lawn.”

Ouch.

Then I look at email. In my email I’ve been sent evidence by some of the 53 reviewers that a small group of reviewers has been marking posts of mine as “not helpful” in retribution to some things they don’t like about my behavior there.

Ouch 2.

Then I see Mike Arrington has posted that Quora is not about my hopes and dreams.

Ouch 3.

I should have just gone skiing without looking at my computer, but now I thought I’d recount some of the mistakes that pissed off these people.

Why?

So you can avoid making the same mistakes and getting the ire (and collapsing button) of them aimed at you.

1. At first I tweeted just my answers to questions. This ensured that my answers would be seen by a pretty sizeable group of people and would gain at least some upvotes, which would ensure that my answers would appear at the top of comment threads. Later, after getting this pointed out to me as a negative bias, I would link to other people’s questions, without my answers, and also to the entire question, so you’d see all answers. On Quora you do this by using the Twitter link on the right side of the page, not the one on the bottom.

2. I broke convention by using photographs in many of my answers. More than anything this seems to have gathered the ire of the reviewers and others. I did it partly because I know that posts with photos and images get more audience and more consideration than posts without, but partly for fun, and partly to, well, get more upvotes. But Quora is already being seen as a place that’s free of photos and videos so this gathered a great deal of hate.

3. I participated too much. In a little more than a month I wrote 400 answers. These made it seem like I was attempting to dominate the service. In reality I was just addicted and liked participating, but when most of the other people answered only a few thoughtful times (Mike Arrington, for instance, has only answered 15 questions) it was behavior out of place and got people to wonder about my participation there and the reasons behind it.

4. Some of my answers were controversial and caused flamewars. Quora is a place that’s free of flamewars and controversy. Why? Because when it happens reviewers pull those answers out of the stream and mark them as “not helpful.” I’ve seen this happen many times, not just to my own posts, but where I’ve answered in a way that got a flamewar going I’ve seen my answers pulled out too.

5. I answered questions too quickly, Part I. Why did I do this? Because, well, I was living on the service. At one point a week ago I was the number one user according to OneTrueFan and most other users, even reviewers, didn’t have the commitment to stay online all times of day and night just to answer the question first. First answers tend to get more visibility and upvotes. Why? Well, let’s say an answer gets five upvotes in first two minutes, because it shows up on the home feed, then it is very hard for a following answer to get the six upvotes it needs to beat the first answer (especially since the first answer keeps getting upvotes after that).

6. I answered posts too quickly, Part II. By answering posts too quickly, and because I knew that first answers were treated better than following answers, especially if the quality of the answer is the same, I would answer first with a poor quality answer and then come back and improve the answer over time. Again, this behavior pissed off people who couldn’t type as fast, or live on the system. Not to mention they saw the first, poor quality answer, and made up their minds that I was a poor quality answerer.

7. I was narcissistic and self promotional. It just leaks out of me. Why? Because I have 4,600 photos I’ve done on Flickr, 694 videos I’ve posted on YouTube, and the hundreds I’ve done on Building43, etc etc. and I pull upon that body of work to answer questions. Yes, many of these things augmented answers, but they pissed off people who don’t have a large body of photos, videos, and blog posts to call upon.

8. I didn’t understand soon enough how my participation in the system, which was mostly due to my own addiction and excitement, pissed people off. IE, I didn’t have my ear to the ground quick enough.

9. I really did think it was potentially a blogging service, not just a QA one. It looked different to me, and based on the answers I was reading (and the feed it generated for each user, here’s mine) that it was closer to a blogging service than to Wikipedia. I was wrong, but funny enough, no one at the company refuted my posts about it.

So, what can we do now? Well, I’m not addicted to the system anymore (partly because I was at Davos and DLD conferences for past two weeks — Louis Gray even noticed I’m not the top user anymore, but also partly because I have learned that if I want to participate I’ve gotta change the way I participate here, which means learning from these eight things myself).

That said, Quora had a huge impact on me the past month. It got me through writers’ block, and I learned some techniques to get me to post more here on my blog. For that I’m very grateful and you’ll see a different kind of blogging here thanks to it.