All Grown Up

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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Why Quora (Really) Is The Next Big Thing

Last July I wrote a post covering Quora titled “Quora: A Social Wikipedia” in which I expressed my belief that Quora had a lot of potential, but was still rough around the edges and was suspect to the apparent randomness in which success is awarded in the online and social worlds. A little more than half a year later and Quora exploded into the mainstream since the end of December. Need more proof? Reports are now showing the existence of a Quora button right up alongside the familiar Facebook and Twitter buttons.

With all of this news about Quora becoming much bigger than the small Q&A site it was less than a year ago (nobody really knows how big it is now, since the usage statistics are kept private), it seems that Quora is making a push to be the next Twitter.

I’m not really sure how I feel about everyone saying Quora is becoming the next big thing. Yes, it has a needed service. Yes, it has the hype. But that’s my problem with it. I believe it’s becoming something bigger simply because of the hype, not because it’s providing a service that people actually want; rather, people will force themselves to want it in order to jump on the hype-train. Do I realize that this is how many things become big on the internet? Yes. Do I have a problem with it? Of course. While this may seem petty, at least let me explain myself.

Over-hyped websites, services, videos, songs, etc. that become mainstream so quickly have one fatal flaw: being super successful after so little time creates an atmosphere that says “keep doing this, and you’ll be awesome! Improvement is optional!” I tend to relate a lot of this to the Youtube generation (yes, my generation). Back in the day videos like Numa Numa and Star Wars Kid were making their initial splashes into viral video. In fact, they really helped make viral video what it is today. However, these two ‘celebrities’ failed to create much success for themselves after the initial ‘fifteen minutes of fame’. If you look at their other videos, they are really just the same thing over and over again, with small things changed. Even Numa Numa guy was in a Geico commercial that used the exact same formula as his original hit, he even wore the exact same headphones and shirt.

Where am I going with this? I’m saying that hype that occurs because people not involved with providing the service, or video, or whatever is hype that doesn’t encourage adaptation and development. I’m sure the Quora founders are smart (fyi, they are…they, along with many employees are former employees of Facebook) and won’t just level off without improving their product, but I am allowed to worry. Quora hasn’t changed at all since I first joined six months ago, and while that doesn’t seem that far in the past, six months in the social world is an incredibly long time to not have a significant update to a new-ish website. With all of the media and attention they’ve been receiving the past few weeks, isn’t it safe to say that a huge influx of users and traffic, coupled with a website that hasn’t had to deal with traffic of that magnitude, might cause problems?

I wish all the best for Quora, because they definitely have the right idea…I am just hoping that they deserve the hype and media attention, as well as the influx of curious users who are joining just because they are told it’s cool. That’s what media does, tells the masses they should join something…but then what? It doesn’t tell them what to do, or how to optimize the service. My hat’s off to Quora and their recent success, I just hope it is able to continue.

I will never use Google again

This summer was when I first started really getting into all things social, beyond Facebook that is. I joined Twitter just this past June (sent my 1,000th Tweet today, btw), and signed up for LinkedIn, a host of Twitter clients, Quora (within the first few weeks of it’s beta release I believe), and many other sites that were, or still are, startups trying to get into the game even more recently than that. However, the best online discovery I made was no social tool, it was a search engine…called DuckDuckGo.

Now before you laugh at the somewhat childish nickname, go check it out. Give it one full day of trying it out and I guarantee you never go back to your previous search engine. This little engine that could emphasizes user privacy (“Google tracks you. We don’t” it claims on it’s About page), this privacy mission is explained in detail here (pictures included!), at the aptly named donttrack.us website. While promoting user privacy, it also makes searching almost too easy. How so you ask? Read on:

First, it has this little feature called Zero-click Info that gives you a snippet of information about what you’re searching for without you having to click through to a result. For example, this is what comes up when you search for James Cameron’s Avatar:

Keep playing with it and it also allows you to search things like the distance from Atlanta, GA to Columbus, OH (any cities, states, or countries will do…that’d just the route I travel most often). Why go to some website when you get this:

Next, the “Goodies” (c’mon, how can you argue against a search engine that advertises it’s ‘goodies’ on their homepage and not mean something explicit?) the site offers are incredible, and got me to switch over from Google. The !bang syntax, something I’ve never seen done on any website before, is it’s most useful feature. It allows you to search hundreds of websites directly, without wasting time going to the actual website and typing into the search bar. So, for example, imagine you want to search for…Youtube’s #1 total views leader, Lady Gaga. All you have to do is type in “!youtube lady gaga” in the search bar and you will immediately be brought to this page. Simple right?

**Helpful tip** If you’re using Google Chrome, set your default search engine to DuckDuckGo and now whenever you want to search popular sites like Youtube or Facebook, all you need to do is use the !bang syntax in your URL bar at the top of the browser and Bang! (yes, yes I did) you’re at the results in less than a second. If you ever thought that it doesn’t take much time to go to a site, find the search bar, then search the site….welcome to the world of DuckDuckGo.

The last great feature of the site is that it allows you to type in something like “Simpsons characters” and will return something actually helpful, unlike what Google will give you:

An alphabetical list of Simpson's Characters = helpful

VS.

The one true con of the site (impressive, compared to the many pros) is that it is not 100% independent yet. The image search still uses Google Images as it’s resource, and links you to the Google Images results page whenever you search for a picture. Once this site becomes fully independent and provides this service on its own (if this does ever happen, I don’t see a need right now to change anything), this site will be complete.

Give DuckDuckGo a try, I bet you’ll end up sticking with it. Let me know what you think in the comments.