Sunday, 18 October 2015

An Interview with Chief Quotard

I recently had the great honour of meeting Quora CEO, Kushan Sen. We were very interested in talking about Quora's business model and how it impacts our daily lives. 

Here is the complete interview.

Me: Hi Kushan! Your company has been valued at around 200 million dollars, with investments from venture capitalists and a sea of people ready to buy Quora shares. What are the key elements to Quora's success?

Kushan: Quora's what? Success? That is an oxymoron. 

Me: Well...yes. But I thought we will start with some bullshit question on how Quora has changed the landsc-

Kushan: No. It isn't bullshit. Its downright hurtful. I will sue you with our BNBR policy soon.

Me: BNBR? What does it stand for?

Kushan: "Suck my dick".

Me: (nervous laugh) That was almost racist. In any case, let us talk more about Quora.

Kushan: Lets.

Me: There have been some complaints on Quora's methods for handling strong views. Tejas from Canada writes: "Quora operates with zero feedback and accountability. There is tremendous defensiveness from their response team. Opinions not conforming to their definition of 'nice' are strangled. The appeal structure is a joke. None of the appeals are upheld, and there is zero transparency in the process. Any-"

Kushan: Okay! I get the gist! 

(Five seconds silence)

Kushan: This Tejas, the taxi driver. Does he have data to base his whims on?

Me: Sir, he is talking from personal-

Kushan: Personal experience! Yes! Does he have people backing him up? No! I am sorry Gaurav, but you can't just ask me questions from people who don't matter.   

Me: But sir, why would we look up to quora for statistically relevant answers? I mean, we have google for that. Isn't quora a platform where I can answer questions relevant to my experiences-?

Kushan: (sharp) Do you have 5k followers?

Me: I, well, no...

Kushan: Well, then quora is not a platform for - whatever your just said. Not for you, at least.

Me: (angry) Sir, why does quora take it's appeal process so lightly?

Kushan: 5k followers?

Me: Sorry?

Kushan: (snorting) 5k followers? Yes or no?

Me: Mr. Sen, the elite in quora (your precious people with 5k followers) pretend as if there is nothing wrong with the site. They are popularly referred to as Quotards. They justify the shitty CSS, the ridiculous quality of questions, everything. But whenever your engineers take it on themselves to change something, usually for the worse, Quotards argue that the change just made the site even more perfect.

Kushan: First of all, there isn't anything such as Quotard.

Me: Sir-

Kushan: They are simply faggots.

Me: Oh.

Kushan: And there is no such thing as changes in quora.

(10 second silence)

Me: That ends the interview.


If you are a big fan of quora, from their content management to grievance redressal, please stop reading now. 

No? Okay then, let us discuss what is wrong with this site.

1) Ridiculous Behaviour Management

I have been banned from chess.com three times. Twice, for using a computer to suggest moves. Once, for calling a WGM(Women Grand Master) a whore. On the main chat room.

I can understand why there is no appeal process. Chess.com cannot afford to have computers take over the site, and any appeal is expensive to investigate. Small chance that an appeal will be valid anyway. Humans don't make the same moves as computers with identical response times.

Quora, on the other hand, depends heavily on the experiences and views of it's users. This sets it apart from Wikipedia. Answers derived from user opinions need to be handled with an open mind. Instead, Quora weeds out uncomfortable views by running an algorithm. It is quite complicated. Here is how it essentially works:

if (content.reported) {
    content.user.warn();
    content.delete();
    if (user.warnings > 5) {
         user.kick();
    }
}

It is in accordance to the ancient sanskrit saying:

"Na rahega baas, na bajegi basuri". 

Another site, codechef, handles plagiarism by running all submissions through a checker. What happens to those which test positive? Codechef runs a manual check for all solutions to figure out if they were indeed plagiarised. Quora uses a far more efficient algorithm: it randomly generates a number from 0 to 100 and deletes the user content if this number was less than 99.

2) Poor Content Management 

I logged on to quora right now. The first thing I see is: "Was Lily Potter wrong to refuse Snape oral sex? Would she have reacted differently to anal?"

Something similar anyway. And here come all the eager answers as to why oral was so difficult for Lily, blah blah.

I had once made the mistake of telling Quora that I like Harry Potter. I didn't sign up for the bullshit fan theories though. 'Potterheads' put up the number of times they have read the books in their bio and proceed to give their retarded opinions to even more retarded questions. I honestly don't care what Voldemort's penis looked like....okay, maybe I do...but the content needs to be filtered better.

Similar to the above scenario is that of answering a question. When you have actually answered something, Quora expects that you know quite a bit about the topic. For example, let us say you wrote an answer on "Environment Protection". After a week, you will probably find yourself stuck in the community of global warming/carbon emissions/green house gases. The content is not only stale, it gets sickeningly specific. I prefer filling out my tax forms.

3) Poor User Engagement

The site is infested with Indian enthusiasm. Don't get me wrong, I love my country. But I can't stand all the: 

"What can Indians do very easily that others can't?"
Write shitty questions, perhaps.

"Is the Indian Army the best in the world?"
I respect the Vatican city guards too. Both consist of trained professionals defending their country. 

"Why did Lily Potter suck-?"
SHUT THE FUCK UP.

The only time Quora has objective use to me is when I google search: a good Quora answer in the results can really save time. Like asking a question on how to study for a masters in the US, etc... 

Dig deeper though, and you will find the Lily Potters of these topics.

Below is an excerpt from a (real) interview with Quora CEO, Adam D'Angelo.

We release code 40 times per day. And we have this thing where code, eight minutes after someone finishes writing it, is live on the site.

Take a minute to absorb what he just said............Wow.

For those who don't have a computer science background, D'Angelo's confession is nothing less than shocking. 40 code releases in a day is heroically stupid. No wonder your site has no consistency. Engineers need some time to test, deploy and verify that published code actually works. That takes both time and effort. 40 times a day? Suck my dick.