Could Quora become the next evolution of a forum?

Seems like a strong possibility
Patrick O'Keefe, Author, "Managing Online Forums" - Fo... (more)
It really depends on how you define evolution. In my view, Quora is more or less a forum, not an evolution of the space as a whole. This ties in, directly, with my answer to Why haven't web forums evolved over the past 10 years? and I am going to borrow a lot of my answer below from that one, since it fits so well.

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 is that really so?

In that other question, 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 an evolution 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. Questions are threads, answers are replies. It’s very much the same. There may be some nuances to it, but is that evolution? Or is it new features? Again, I guess that is how you define it.

But, the vast majority of what you see on Quora are features, or related to features, that forums have had previously.

For example, the ability to up and down vote answers. Some forums have employed the opportunity to vote posts up and/or down (in one way or another) for a very long time.

Another example would be the one answer per question limitation. On one of my communities, you are not allowed to reply to a thread if you were the last one to reply and that reply was posted within the last 48 hours.

If I recall (could be mistaken), I came up with the feature either in full or in part with a friend of mine, who wrote it. At least for the given software that we use, which is phpBB. I don’t recall it being available as a feature before he released it.

That’s not an evolution of forums, it’s just a means of preventing people from cheaply bumping their threads and to make them use the posts that they have more completely and to focus on the quality of those posts (much like Quora’s one answer per question policy). Quora’s one answer per question deal isn’t an evolution, it’s just a feature (or a hack, if you will) aimed at increasing quality and lessening noise.

Again, it really depends on your evolution of forums. For me, evolution implies something different. In my view, to say that Quora is an evolution of forums as a whole is really quite strong and serves to take away from what people have already been accomplishing with forums for a long time.

Functionality wise, the vast majority of what Quora does has been done by other forums. 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.
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Comment    Embed  Thank  16 Jan, 2011
Patrick O'Keefe
Baldev Solanki, Social Media Support Planning - @Blac... (more)
I'd almost like to see Quora aggregate from offcial sites where the answers have been provided by official employees of the company.
Comment    Embed  Thank  4 Jan, 2011
Baldev Solanki
Andrew Begin, Biz Dev at ZingChart
I've been extremely impressed with the user experience of Quora so far, which makes me agree with the possibility. 

Specifically speaking, all of the notifications, "suggested follows" and navigation through questions and comments so far have been really spot-on.

I've noticed that specialists across industries have already become engaged in conversation both within and outside of their domain expertise which is another powerful aspect of Quora. 

While many social channels and forums come and go everyday, Quora is definitely going to hold my attention for a while. 

The only thing that worries me is how the site will adjust/evolve to a much wider audience as adoption increases. i.e. how will it adjust to saturation/spamming of posts as it (if it) becomes more mainstream.
Comment    Embed  Thank  4 Jan, 2011
Andrew Begin
Brendan Cosgrove, Social Media and Community Director; ... (more)
Seems likely, but again the problem, a la FriendFeed and even twitter, is stream management.  Being able to manage the data and make it useful will be one of the hurdles to clear.

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