Can Quora boards replace internet forums?
Patrick O'Keefe, Author, "Managing Online Forums" - Fo... (more)
Thank you for the invitation to answer this question, Anonymous.

To me, this question and questions like it are similar to asking "can forums replace forums?" To answer it, I am going to borrow from my answers to Could Quora become the next evolution of a forum? and Why haven't web forums evolved over the past 10 years?

Some people see forums as this archaic beast that is lingering and (in their mind, if not in reality) declining. They see Facebook, Twitter and, yes, Quora, as something completely new and fresh. But, that's not really the case.

In the latter question linked above, the person who asked it suggested that forums were "partying like it was 1999."

But, forum, or community software, has greatly evolved since 1999. Install a version of UBB that was released in 1999. Now, install the latest versions of vBulletin, phpBB, bbPress, Vanilla and Invision Power Board. You should see a startling difference and a wealth of evolution. Is every one of these new features a "replacement" of forums? Or are they just additional features?

That is where forums have, can and will innovate – in their software, in their options and features. What will not change – and what should not change – is what forums are and that is threaded, text-based conversation. Forums are everywhere in the social web.

Forums are like bread. Why hasn’t bread evolved? Well, it has. We have more flavors, we have better ingredients and we know more about the construction of bread than ever before. However, bread will always be bread.

That said, bread is a flexible medium. People eat bread plain, they make an open face sandwich, a closed sandwich, they toast it, they chop it up, they put it in bread pudding and they add any number of ingredients to it.

Similarly, if you look at Facebook, you’ll see forums or forum-like functionality. If you look at your favorite “social network,” you’ll see forums or forum-like functionality. If you look at YouTube, Flickr and many blogs, you’ll see the same.

Quora is a forum, more or less, so it can't replace what it already is. Questions are threads, answers are replies. It’s very much the same. There may be some nuances to it, but is that replacing anything? Or is it new features? The vast majority of what you see on Quora are features, or related to features, that forums have had previously.

In my view, to say that Quora is an evolution of forums as a whole or a replacement for them only serves to take away from what people have already been accomplishing with forums for a long time, which is what Quora has built upon or taken away from.

There may be some new things - or some things that are laid out in a new way. Just as Quora has features it learned from other forums, other forums can learn from how Quora has integrated features, laid them out, etc. They learn and evolve together, more than anything else.

Forums are bread. They are flexible. That is why there are such rich hack and customization communities that arise around popular pieces of software, especially open source software. Because there are a thousand different ways to do a forum. Or a social network. Or whatever you want to call it. That's a great thing.

It’s not a huge deal, but I just find that people sometimes want to see something new in something that is not inherently new (from a technical perspective). Quora isn’t great because it’s something new technology wise or because they took forums to a new level or because it’s some new form of social media.

It’s great because they took all of these features and put them together in a really cool, crisp way and added their own spice to it. It's great because the site was well developed and slickly designed. And, last but not least, it's great because they have built a great community (presumably backed by great management and vision by their people) around a great idea. In other words, smart people. That's the story here.

Beyond that, Quora is a platform that competes with other Q&A platforms, whether they be forums or something. If you want to host your own Q&A site, Quora is not an option because it is not a platform you can download and install and run as your own service. If you, as a member, find Quora to be more useful than other Q&A platforms and forums, then it is more valuable for you personally, but won't be for many (most?) others. So, it isn't a replacement, but an option and a good one, at that.

1 comment:

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