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  1. Stowe, very thoughtful comments. I should expect nothing less from a social webthropologist. But don’t you think there’s a certain amount of serendipity – not to say coincidence – in at least one of the experiences Quora delivers (trawling topics)? And it also enables the more traditional idea of social search: pose a question to your friends.

    I’m pretty convinced that the results and efficiency of Google-style direct search will be around for a long time, complemented by social and Q&A style querying. Now you’ve labeled another technique: social findings.

  2. I think an anthropological or user experience viewpoint would lead to different questions being asked about Quora.

    For example, how do the features of Quora line up with our need for authoritative voices shaping a line of inquiry on critical topics? The nature of Quora’s inline profiles at the top of each answer, users’ follower counts, and the in place voting up or down of answers, lead to a very dynamic and community-based vetting of opinions. As a result, a participant can be alerted to a new thread in an area of interest, and upon visiting the question page, can quickly read the 10 most likely answers.

    As David points out above, this is a counter to trying to search for insights. Without a grain of sand, the pearl will not get laid down, layer by layer.

    So, instead of what might have been imagined as social search a few years ago — asking contacts what they know about your interest, and for pointers — Quora has implemented social findings. Instead of searching, you follow interesting people and topics, and over time your interaction with those people in the context of those topics leads to meaning: a growing understanding of the topic, and direct contact with those people who are most knowledgeable on the topic.

    This is why I have been saying (for some time) that ‘meaning is the new search.’ We can’t rely on algorithms to assemble meaning for us: they will only yield a bunch of pointers to disarticulated web pages without a clear focal point. The search terms did not shape the writers’ posts, they are merely coincident.

    Our deepest understanding does not rely on coincidence.

    So Quora is hitting a sweet spot that search cannot reach.

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