Quora’s Not A Competition (But I’m Winning)

// // January 03rd 2011 // Life + Social Media

It’s a new year and like millions of others I’ve taken stock and made some resolutions.

The Dark Passenger

Perhaps it was in this state of mind that I caught myself turning Quora into a competition. It’s not (or shouldn’t be) and my initial motivations for answering were more altruistic than self-serving. But like some dark passenger (hat tip to Dexter), my competitive nature has emerged. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with being competitive.

I’ve been criticized for being too self-assured, cocky or condescending. “You seem to think your opinion is always right.” I’ve heard that a number of times. My response is another question. Why would I give an opinion that I didn’t believe in?

While true, I doubt that response helps my case. That’s not to say that I’m never wrong or that I don’t change my mind. I can be persuaded to see another point of view. I enjoy intelligent debate.

That brings me to Adam Lasnik, who started off the new year with two great blog posts. I wholeheartedly agree with his publish first, think later criticism. His musings on why and whether we should contribute to sites like Quora got me thinking.

Why are we contributing to Quora? It’s a funny business in a way. Quora’s business is our contributions. It’s the same knock I have against article directories. They make a business on your content, leasing back a small fraction of their trust and authority in the form of backlinks. It’s not a particularly healthy relationship.

Is Quora different?

I still see value in contributing to a community like Quora and Stack Overflow. I don’t think a policy of isolation is the right course of action. Sharing your expertise is good business. But it makes me think about the motivations for contributing. On the face, you want to share your knowledge with someone. They have a question. You have an answer.

But it’s not like someone asking you in person, or via email or any other number of mediums. They’re not just asking you. Instead of getting one answer, they’ll get a number of answers. That can often be good, but it’s then up to the person or community to determine which of those answers is … best. Dress it up as most useful or interesting – people assign judgment to your content.

Keeping Score

Should we be surprised when we get caught up in wanting to have that best answer? It reminded me of a lyric from Love’s Not A Competition (But I’m Winning) by the Kaiser Chiefs.

I’m not sure what’s truly altruistic anymore,
When every good thing that I do is listed and you’re keeping score,

Whoa.

So I’m guarding against this ego based, game mentality. I don’t want to want to be first to answer a question, nor do I want that dark passenger to push me to contribute more. I’d like to be far more collegiate in nature, because this isn’t a zero sum game.

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