Cleaning up Quora

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A few years ago, Quora made an interesting design decision.

Before then, Quora was the question/answer platform that made it incredibly easy for folks to ask a question and receive intelligent, thoughtful replies.

The problem was that it was too easy.

Off to the right, there was a form where users could enter a title for their question, add question details, and immediately post it. As you scrolled through your homepage feed, the position of this form would remain fixed so you could ask a question whenever curiosity struck.

Naturally, over time, the frequency of racist, sexist, misinformed, and otherwise troll-ish questions increased. Furthermore, duplicate questions emerged where people would ask the same thing over and over again, further reducing the quality of the Q&A site that Quora had become known for.

What was Quora to do?

The first thing they did was remove the question form. They made it tougher to ask a question. The next thing they did (which I think was brilliant) was to couple the question form and the search bar together. This way, those who wanted to ask a question were forced to type it into the bar and look at the search results first. Question asking became searching and searching became question asking. This cut down on duplicate questions.

In addition, Quora instituted a character limit when entering question details. This way people could no longer post pages of stuff detailing their life story but forced them to be succinct, clear, and concise. This was Quora’s solution to cleaning up the quality of questions on their site.

As for how to prevent troll questions, Quora had a strict policy where users would be warned and subsequently have question-answering or anonymity privileges revoked if their questions were deemed inappropriate.

I don’t have the data for how Quora’s web traffic was affected by their changes.  As a guess, I would say it was reduced but I’m sure they were okay with that. They would rather have higher quality user-ship and content than being another Reddit and for that, I applaud them.

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