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EVP Sales of MindTouch. Mark has advised many start ups including a social networking site that was sold to Barry Diller's IAC.  Before joining MindTouch, Mark led global sales efforts as an Executive Vice President for a publicly traded company, headed sales efforts for a technology division of AT Kearney and EDS, and served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for a Singapore based corporation. Mark blogs at Seek Omega

25 responses to “Why is Quora Censoring our Questions and Answers?”

  1. Evan Solomon

    I think this is really making a big deal out of nothing, but I’m willing to cede the idea that this is an important discussion.

    Given that, in Quora’s system I think that what you wrote should clearly be a comment and not a standalone answer. If the only status Quora mods have to deal w/ that is marking as unhelpful, then the crime here is really one of language and not action.

    I think it’s pretty clear that what you wrote was not an answer to the question, but rather a conversation with Mark Cuban, which is never going to be “the best answer” to the question even if the person making that judgement has no idea what the best answer is.

  2. Mark Fidelman

    Evan,

    Let’s agree for the sake of argument that the response is a better comment than a direct response. Still, a Quora admin marked it as “not helpful” which A: hid the comment thread and made it difficult to find. B: It was helpful since Cuban responded with additional input. C: The Quora Admin doesn’t have a background in the subject, so why take any action?

    You can go to this page which is a discussion on Quora censorship http://www.quora.com/Can-someone-please-explain-the-monitoring-and-editing-of-questions-and-answers-on-Quora-and-how-this-is-not-censorship

    An Excerpt: (no repressive censorship?)
    Is this censorship?
    ….Reasonable people can disagree about specific decisions that the admins make, but I think that there’s definitely no repressive censoring spirit on the site. Moreover, I think that it wouldn’t be possible to run the site with less “censorship”; keeping quality high requires constant vigilance. If anything, as Quora’s grown, I think the ratio of moderation (both community and from on high) to content-generation has shrunk, and we’re seeing the effects now.

  3. Evan Solomon

    My point was that the admin doesn’t need domain expertise to recognize a post that is a comment rather than an answer. If Quora’s vision is to create pages composed of questions and answers only, or at least hide everything else, then this makes sense. I agree that “not helpful” is not an accurate description, but it’s important to make a distinction between censorship and limited admin functionality, in my opinion.

  4. Mark Fidelman

    I understand Evan and it’s a fair point. But why are Quora Admin deciding whether it’s a comment, answer or even unhelpful? They have communities tools for that.

    Why not rename the service “Moderated Q&A”.

    As for the Quora Vision (from their about page):
    “Accumulating Knowledge –
    People use Quora to document the world around them. Over time, the database of knowledge should grow and grow until almost everything that anyone wants to know is available in the system. When knowledge is put into Quora, it is there forever to be shared with anyone in the future who is interested.”

    Apparently unless a Quora Admin decides it’s not helpful.

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  6. Joao

    Becuase you didnt answer the question, which was very clear. You didnt mention any games or any developers that got funded by Cuban.
    I also find your remark unhelpful for this specific question.

  7. esteban kolsky

    you guys (Joao, Evan) are completely in the wrong place with this discussion. You need to spend more time in open communities where knowledge sharing is the core, not for the purpose of growing a company’s knowledge-base. knowledge exchange cannot operate in censorship — and Quora is a collaborative community to exchange knowledge.

    Sure, Quora might have started as a place to create pages with questions and answers, but facebook started as a way to link college students. members of the community decide the direction it takes and how it works. once you create the community, takes a life of its own — not what you wanted to be? either enjoy what it became, or move on to the next one (even if you “own” the community).

    mark is right, it is not upto the admins to decide what is helpful – it is upto the community. policing and burying content because they think is wrong is just going to kill the participation (ask Mark F what his participation is going to be like now, and what if it happens again).

    bottom line: communities are self-policing or have short lives. if an admin decides it is not helpful and buries it – the latter happens.

    1. Evan Solomon

      Esteban, there is no need to ask him what his participation will be like. Mark has voted up two answers on Quora and asked a question of his own since this post was written. http://www.quora.com/Mark-Fidelman

  8. Joao

    So you think that admins should allow any content instead? Admins are there exactely to monitor content, and when the answer given to a question does not actually answer a question (this particular case) it is marked as not helpful.

    I totally agree with the admin decision here and it seems to me that you are simply not able to accept that Marks answer is totally irrelevant for a person searching for ” Which social games or developers have received funding from Mark Cuban? ”

    If someone wants to add a remarks / insight / comments related to the question, then use the comment option instead of the answer.

    1. esteban kolsky

      Joao,

      That statement is so against what a community is, I won’t even try to answer. You may want to read some more on how communities generate value, lack of ownership, openness, etc.

      admins don’t have a place in a real community, only in those pseudo-communities with owners, so old-style that no one with a decent amount of knowledge would even try to share it there.

      seriously, consider revising the model – administrated and company-branded, company-owned communities have very limited value for users and are on the way out.

      that is so not the way i see Quora progressing… although some of the questions that Sameer and Ray posed below are quite interesting to consider as to the fate and destiny of Quora.

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  10. Mark Fidelman

    Thanks Estaban my sentiments exactly.

    Joao, if that’s your real name, (these Internet responders can be so anonymous) the larger point is that Quora admin shouldn’t stifle community content. They don’t own the question or the answer so their attempt to control it is intrusive. It’s not as if we were discussing a subject about Quora.

    I’m certainly not the only one upset about it.

    I also have a follow up post where I’ll show how Quora admin have changed my questions and have altogether deleted a few. I never saw this happen on LinkedIn or Yahoo Answers.

  11. R "Ray" Wang

    What’s more interesting to me is what the long term Quora business model is. If they intend to make money off of everyone’s knowledge than we will probably work differently here than for example wikipedia.

    I think users should receive the full intent of Quora and be provided transparency in the the business model in light of this editing issue.

  12. Sameer

    Its a mistake to believe that standard rules apply to any and all social metaphors and certainly, community rules are not one size fits all. Purpose driven, social swarming around questions can have their own play book based on the intended outcome of the community or destination site.. Want to say what you want – go to Facebook or write a POV in a blog post. Want to contribute to building a knowledge base of the best answers possible for a given question? There will be rules.
    The reward doesn’t have to be a sense of belonging that you get from a community – it could well be notoriety around expertise on a topic. And that is what happens time and time again on Quora.

    Doesn’t mean that I’m going to like, for a second, when Quora marks my answer as “not helpful” if and when it does. But I do take solace in the fact that when I ask questions or browse interesting topics, everything that floats to the top is NOT POV but the most pointed answers.

    Functionally, there could well be a place for editorial and engagement as a side feature here thats separate from answers and I’m all for that.

  13. Mark Fidelman

    Sameer,

    Let’s say for the sake of argument that you’re right. Shouldn’t there be proper disclosure about their editing or deleting of questions? Also, in my experience this Orwellian user experience turns people off. Perhaps Quora is different.

    Also, it seems like a strange practice to have a Quora admin change a user’s question or answer (without proper disclosure) and have it reflect on the user. Currently, there’s not an easy way to discern whether Quora edited the question or answer or not. I see a lot of issues here.

    And for the record. I like Quora. I want it to succeed. I don’t agree with some of the decisions they’ve made and think I’m being fair in sharing it.

  14. esteban kolsky

    I see Quora as a perfect example of the transition between world and for that I am grateful is there.

    Issues raised in these comments are what they need to address, open and publicly, to take the space as the in-between community that crosses the chasm.

    of course, that is my opinion and Mark can delete it as the admin for this post (or any other admin for Cloud Ave can do so as well).

    will they? the answer to that is what drives the model that the community it built upon — new model of transparency and self-policing, or old-model of control.

    We shall see where both go.

  15. Joao

    Mark, im sorry but I really think you just took it personal that someone marked your answer as not helpful and I that this whole discussion about the Admins role in a community is making a big deal out of nothing.

    Look at the question asked in quora and the answer you gave and tell me if you honestely think that you answered the question that was being asked. Im not saying you didnt contribute something valuable, you certainly did, but you didn’t answer the question, hence the not helpful from the admin.

    PS: my real name is in fact Joao, although it doesnt reallly affect this discussion, does it?

  16. Sam Swenson

    I found this article helpful.
    Suck on that, Quora admins! Try to hide this response!

  17. Irene Koehler

    Fascinating discussion. I’m quickly becoming addicted to Quora. That said, this does raise concerns.

    I’m may not be as sophisticated as you all, but it seems pretty simple to me. As a new Quora user, I want to get a sense of how things work up front. Either tell me or make it really obvious. It takes a few clicks to get to basic FAQs and how to get started, so, like most people, I just jumped in.

    For better or for worse, I got the community vibe right away. People vote things up or down, add topic tags, suggest changes, whatever. Even when I saw really lame, totally sarcastic and useless answers, I knew it was up to the community to respond as it sees fit.

    What I didn’t see anywhere was any hint that someone from Quora would be hiding or deleting content (short of it being outright offensive). I don’t like getting that community vibe, only to find out that it’s not really how it works.

    I don’t think this is (or should be) about whether something is a comment or an answer. That would mean that the really useless lame stuff I saw, but which was submitted in the “proper” format, would be deemed helpful over other relevant content. If the difference between the two is all that important, then it should be more obvious.

    I’m hopeful this is a symptom of a new business trying to find its footing and scale quickly. There are bound to be missteps along the way. I think Quora has great potential if they can work out the kinks and make it clear how they intend to move forward.

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  19. Chintan Tyagi

    Well I belong to the rest of world which heard of Quora today and suddenly it seems to be everywhere. I dont have an account and frankly at this stage don’t care.. seems to me that an average user has so much to keep up with.. If its of value it will emerge on its own.

    On the main point of the post – I guess there has to be a mechanism to rank / prioritize and if the community is doing it then Quora folks should be happy and let it be..

    Regards

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  22. Justin Zhou

    Mark,

    I agree with this article. Quora should be an excellent service, but a small clique of early adopters, including the Quora staff have created an exclusionary club that precludes useful discussion on a number of topics.

    One extreme example is the China topic on Quora where there is clearly an agenda to water down questions and answers about human rights abuses by Beijing. One guy actually got banned from Quora for asking questions about China. The blog about the events is interesting:
    http://chinacensorshipwatch.org/tag/quora

    A certain level of curation and moderation is necessary for any successful social endeavor, but the heavy handedness of Quora is overwhelming, unfortunately. Quora is an alright place to find answers to questions about Silicon Valley gossip, but not much else.