On December 26th, 2010 the Golden Age of Quora officially kicked off with a blog post by Robert Scoble titled: “Is Quora the biggest blogging innovation in 10 years?” followed by a related TechCrunch article. For a glorious few weeks, Quora was the toast of the social media community. It’s been downhill ever since.
If you’ve paid much attention to the evolution of social media – or really, all things tech over the past decade or so – you’re probably familiar with Shiny Object Syndrome. It’s a term that refers to the remarkable amount of hype the tech set can build up around whatever the latest hot site, service, or company of the moment is. It also refers to how insanely fast the same community can and will dump said site, service, or company for the Next New Thing or when they simply tire of it.
Which is a moment that might come within weeks, or even days.
For Quora.com, that window of Shiny Newness seems to have lasted perhaps 6-8 weeks, kicking off with the furious level of attention brought by the debate surrounding Scoble’s post, gaining steam thanks to a rash of positive press and blog posts, and then beginning a fairly quick decline (Compete / Google Trends).
I’m bringing this up now not to bash on Quora – at its core, it’s a handy service and it truly managed – and still does – to elicit extremely interesting and candid comments from some seriously interesting people. Unfortunately for Quora, it does appear to be a solid and all too typical example of the tech set’s tendency towards rampant hype and herd mentality.
The big allure of Quora was found in the remarkable candor of some of its more famous users, with fantastic and lengthy replies to questions by people like Steve Case and Reed Hastings, and insights about how iconic startups missed certain technology waves. Quora attracted people like that because it was home to a relatively small, tightly connected community that valued candor. Once however the floodgates opened and the masses arrived, new users coming to the site expecting to find that unique community were instead greeted with all sorts of random questions and blatant self-promotion from people they’d never heard of and could care less about.
The hype cranked up, the wave of visitors hit, didn’t find what they were looking for, and the wave moved on.
Ironically, assuming the site can survive on the smaller user base, the lack of hype today might be what Quora needs to get back to hosting the small, open community where it seems to provide a truly unique service. In any case, it’s just the latest example of Shiny Newness in action. I can’t wait to see the next.