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.

4 comments:

Kevin Marshall said...

+1 to this...I've dabbled in Quora like everyone else, but I never actually got hooked myself (couldn't really figure out why I wasn't as hooked as everyone else, but your underlying thoughts sit very well with me here).

Anyway - I would MUCH prefer to experience your educational journey via your blog than a lecture series via following you on Quora (though there is still quality in doing that as well - I just prefer the former).

Andy Weissman said...

Fascinating. I once "answered" a question on Quora about an obscure blues DJ in Washington, DC. Because my answer was more in the form of a conversation (I couldnt believe anyone else out there was writing about this guy, who we happened to hire at my wedding), my answer got hidden by a moderator. That's when I realized that such a place wasnt for me.

Mark said...

Quora is useful, but only as a means of consuming data. I would rather post my original thoughts on my blog where I am assured they will not get edited as Andy points out.

HASHers said...

Absolutely hit the nail on the head with this post. I suspect that's the real reason behind my mental resistance to quorate. I don't blog as often as I want, but when I do I feel attached to those words in an intrinsically different way. The quality of the ensuing satisfaction from "outing" the thought, albeit endlessly procrastinated, is fundamentally different for me.

I guess if I'd never set up a blog in the first place and feared the overhead of setting one up, I'd be quorating as a stop-gap solution, perhaps indefinitely, but possibly more frequently.

There may be a way to get the best of both worlds - Maybe my quorations could be "short" versions linking to longer expositions on my blog...hmmm

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