In recent years, the question-answer platform Quora has grown quite a bit. I use it quite often, it distinguishes itself from other platforms like Yahoo Answers, through high-quality answers. Also, when you ask, What’s it like to play Basketball with President Obama, you might get an answer from Obama himself. 

As always, such a growth has sparked problems in the older user base. The problem was quick to be found: Indians. Apparently, it has spread as a nice site around Indian Internet users. And the problems started. 

A bit of warning: please read the next paragraph after this one before you start your shitstorm.

  • One of the biggest problems were India-centric answers. You were asking a question about the greatest movie stars and you were getting 15 answer about Bollywood. 
  • The next problem were India-centric topics. Your feed was cluttered with “do you think it’s possible for Ranveer Singh to become the next SRK?”. See, I didn’t check who Ranveer Singh or what an SRK is. But it sounds Indian and there were suddenly questions like that on your feed. 
  • The answers you got were spelled weird or used conversations in Hindi. 

Now, let me tell you something. This is not the Indians’ fault, but Quora’s. Or the whole Internet’s.

As a West-European, I’m used to seeing western media and views. And if you believe in the old idea of splitting the world into industrialized,  developed and developing countries, you thought that the Internet was also full of Westerners. 

Hello 2016! The whole world has got Internet access in some ways. I think what we’re currently seeing (this has started a long time ago) is a bigger version of Eternal September, a term used to describe the arrival of unknowing Internet users to the clannish Usenet users. And this is not a bad way, but technology needs to adapt. You can’t monopolize the Internet for the western world. 

I think what Quora did wrong, was to not let people filter topics in the first place. Also, the algorithms for your feed were simply not ready for this. And this is a problem where I know no solution to. You can’t just separate your user base into cultures. Maybe you wanna hear a Chinese view to a world issue or learn about popular music in Mexico. But when there’s no common interest, you’re gonna irritate users. 

There were just too many people at one time to counter this. Now let’s get sorted on what you can do. With a grain of salt, based on the problem stated above. 

  • Show answers based on your cultural background 
  • Show questions based on your cultural background 
  • Moderate badly spelled answers

Now the problem is, that Quora’s algorithm still needs a lot of fine tuning. I remember a time when my feed was full of Adrian Lamo’s answers. Apparently, he’s written a lot in the last days and Quora saw that I was interested in computer topics. A match made in heaven right? Well, not if your feed consists entirely of Adrian Lamo. But it’s gotten better since then. 

One thing I do want to say, please don’t include stuff in other languages if it doesn’t help the story. This really irritates me too, when someone answers a question about what you and your friends did back in school and you include the conversation in your local language only to provide a translation. Unless it’s a clever pun or there’s no translation, don’t include it. It’s just useless. 

For now, what I want you to take from this post, there is no Indian problem on Quora. It’s a westerner’s problem on the Internet. 

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