Friday, March 25, 2011

Kicking Quora

I am now one of the top answerers on Quora in both online advertising and Zen Buddhism. This is a problem.

I read once that Tetris' addictiveness is an unfortunate side-effect of the human brain's built-in desire to learn.  Learning something results in positive stimulus.  This is usually offset by the actual need to work hard to learn something. Tetris short-circuits this by mimicking learning without the work. Gamification is a double-edged sword: it can convince people to do things they should do but don't, but it can also convince people to spend their time in ways that aren't productive for them. It clouds decision making.

I need to create. At times in my life I've done this by writing, at times by coding, at times by designing (hardware, that is, I have no eye.) When I'm not regularly doing one of these I have a nagging feeling of dissatisfaction. When I hit 'publish' I feel a mental weight lifted. Sometimes I write something so close to the edge of my analytical envelope that I feel smarter than I actually am.

That doesn't happen often. But like that freak perfect fairway shot, it keeps me coming back.

I don't write to amuse. I don't write to educate. I don't want to be an entertainer or a teacher. I want to learn, to create. My favorite posts are the ones where I start with a question I don't know the answer to and write an answer. I am forced to think.

Quora, unfortunately, is like Tetris. It feels like thinking, but it's not. By pushing answerers to create a 'definitive' answer Quora discourages conversation and encourages writing things you already know. It's easy to write there, you answer questions you have answers to. And that's good: sharing knowledge is valuable. But it's not creative.

It's harder to blog. It takes me time to think through a problem, and I often run into a dead end. It's a rare occurrence when I think one of my posts is actually insightful, and I don't really know what I'll end up with until I'm done writing. But when it works, it works, and that's what I'm looking for.

I'm kicking the Quora habit and trying to start blogging more regularly again.