Asking Questions on Quora: The Guidelines

Quora CEO Adam D'Angelo
Quora CEO, Adam D’Angelo

Quora is a popular question-and-answer forum that was founded in 2009. It was created by Adam D’Angelo after he left Facebook for a second time, and quickly became a popular site for tech experts to interact with each other and ask/answer questions. In 2010, Mark Zuckerberg acquired the startup NextStop after someone recommended him to do so on Quora. Since then, Quora has grown to have over 200 million unique monthly users. This is quite incredible growth for a website, especially one that is not technically a social media platform (though it has some features that do make it feel like a social network).

I recently started using Quora and fell in love with it. It is so much fun to go onto their website and answer random questions. The four main areas I answer questions are Star Wars, history, marketing, and libertarianism/classical liberalism. I got pretty lucky on the first day I was using Quora when I gave an answer that ended up getting 2.9 thousand views and 168 upvotes. The answer was about the existence of lightwhips in the Star Wars universe, which is a completely trivial and non-important question (but an interesting one).

Though I love answering questions, it takes me a long time to find a good question. I know there is the phrase “there is no such thing as a dumb question”, but I think people only say this so others don’t feel discouraged from asking any questions at all. Go on to Quora for five minutes and I dare you to tell me that “there is no such thing as a dumb question”.

With this, I wanted to provide some guidelines on what I think is a good question on Quora. These aren’t necessarily “rules” that have to be followed, but more guidelines for the kind of questions that I like to answer and that I like to browse the answers for:

Don’t Ask a “Google Question” 

google question
Example of a Google Question

A Google question is one that can be answered in less than 5 seconds with a Google search. These are my biggest pet peeves on the website because it is obvious to me that these are people that are posting questions for the sake of posting questions instead of being genuinely curious. Think of questions like this: “What year was the Declaration of Independence written?” This question has such a cut and dry answer that will show up as preview text on Google’s search results. Just use Google for these kinds of questions.

Have Good Scope for Your Question

Ask a question that can be reasonably answered in 1 – 10 paragraphs. This is not so much for the sake of the people answering, but for the sake of the people reading the answers. A lot of times I will see a question with incredibly wide scope on Quora that ends up being answered in 3 paragraphs. Unfortunately, the answer is full of unproven assumptions and misinformation because it could only truly be answered in an entire book (or even book series). Think of questions like this: “What happened during the American revolution?” This question is so wide. Try to make your questions more concise with a reasonable scope like “what significant events happened in Rhode Island during the American revolution?”

Ask Questions that Have an Answer

ice-cream-2717489_1280
Best Ice Cream Flavor?

This one may seem obvious to some, but just looking at Quora you would know its not. With this, think of questions that are purely subjective and have no resounding answer. I have seen so many people post questions like “What is the best ice cream flavor ever?” Obviously there is no correct answer to this question.

Don’t Ask “What If” Questions

My annoyance with “what if” questions is kind of a combination of the third and second guidelines I have posted above. Since I like to look at history questions, this is one that I see frequently. For this, think of a question like “What if Adolf Hitler was never born?” For one, there is a correct answer to this question, but there is no way a human being could ever possibly know the answer to it (no matter how much research he put into it). Second, the scope of this question is massive, and if a human being could hypothetically answer this question, it would take books and books to answer it.

Be Wary of Political Questions

Politics is actually one of the areas I like to explore in Quora, but I see a lot of questions that I find utterly useless. When writing a political question on Quora, ask something specific and not self-serving. I frequently see questions like “Why is libertarianism the best political philosophy?” or “Who has a better philosophy: classical liberals or modern liberals?” The first one is complete self-service. I have no doubts it was written by someone that wasn’t that curious in the answer because they were already convinced of something. The second one is interesting, but I don’t think you should expect to get a very interesting answer. You will only get partisans on both sides explaining what makes their philosophy best with bad examples and arguments against the opposing side. When writing a political question on Quora just ask yourself a couple things: Are you genuinely curious about the answer? Do you actually expect to get a good answer for it that won’t be partisan talking points?

Most of these guidelines revolve around things you shouldn’t do, but that is because the list of things you shouldn’t do is much shorter than the things you should do. For questions, possibilities are basically endless, but the goal of the question should be being useful!

Here are some examples of good questions:

  • “Are there lightwhips in Star Wars cannon? If so, what are the examples?”
  • “What are some ways Pinterest be used to grow my business’ brand?”
  • “Is Facebook dying? Is #deletefacebook having successful results?”
  • “What are examples of propaganda used in the American Revolution?”
  • “Is Catholicism compatible with Classical Liberalism?”
opinionated
Ask Opinion Questions!

I want to make it clear that the third guideline about “asking questions that have answers” is not to discourage you from asking more opinion based questions. It is alright to ask an opinion based question, and I actually think that is the best part about Quora (rather than just looking up the answer on a search engine). Though, there is a difference between asking the question “What is the best ice cream flavor?”, which is completely based on personal preferences and tastes, and asking the question “Is Facebook dying?”, which certainly has opinion involved but can be informed in-part with some solid information or data.

Hopefully this will help users make Quora a better and more informative place to be! Happy questioning.

Follow me on Quora for excellent questions and answers!

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Top 5 Snapshot History Posts

On November 15, I started a new project called Snapshot History. I created this page to share the story of us on a daily basis. However, not all the posts get the same kind of engagement. Actually, some really surprise me! Seemingly out of nowhere a post can take off. Let’s take a look at the pages top performing posts since it has been created:

5. Ronald Reagan is inaugurate/Iranian hostages released (January 20)

reagan hostage history

“37 years ago today, Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as President of the United States. As he is inaugurated, 52 American hostages were released by Iran that were held for 444 days.”

4. Arthur Guinness dies (January 23)

arthur guinness history

“215 years ago today, Arthur Guinness dies in Dublin, Ireland. Arthur Guinness was the founder of the Guinness Brewery. His red signature can still be found on Guinness products today.”

3. ACLU is founded (January 20)

ACLU history

98 years ago today, the American Civil Liberties Union is founded from the National Civil Liberties Bureau. They now have a membership of 1.2 million members. (Picture is of Helen Keller, a founding member of the ACLU)”

2. Rasputin is born (January 21)

rasputin history

“149 years ago today, Grigori Rasputin is born in Siberia. Rasputin was a Russian mystic that was known for having a precarious sexual life and control over the Russian royal family.”

1. Johnny Cash performs at Folsom State Prison (January 13)

johnny cash history

“50 years ago today, Johnny Cash performs at Folsom State Prison. The performance was recorded and became the top selling country album, as well as in the general top 15 albums nationwide.”

Like what you see? Follow Snapshot History on Facebook and Instagram.

Top 10 Pinball Games

There is nothing more rewarding than a great pinball game. The lights, the noises, and all the moving pieces are perfect for making it feel like you are actually accomplishing something important. However, not all pinball machines are created equally. Actually, some just piss you off! We all know that feeling when a pinball machine has a ramp perfectly angled to always go down the middle of the alley. It doesn’t feel good.

I have been playing pinball for a longtime, and my father and I have been going to the Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown every year since I was seven years old. So basically I am pro. Well, not quite. Compared to some of the players there, I am terrible, but I can always beat out my friends in a good game.

So here is my list of top 10 pinball games:

10. Star Wars Episode 1 Pinball

starwars episode 1

9. World Cup Soccer

worldcup

8. Metallica

metallica

 

7. Joust

joust

  • Manufacturer: Williams Electronics
  • Difficulty: Easy (though depends on who you are playing against)
  • See some game play here!

6. Revenge from Mars

revenge

5. Pirates of the Caribbean

pirates

4. The Simpsons Pinball Party

simpsonspinball

3. Funhouse

FunhouseOriginalPlayfieldUpper

2. The Hobbit

thehobbit

1. Attack from Mars

attack-from-mars-pinball-machine-backglass

Short Film: The Heavy Load

In high school, a group of friends and I made a series of silent movies for a film and video class. I though they were ridiculous enough to share here. I will share a few of them throughout the week.

New Drawings: Daft Punk, C2C, and Porter Robinson

I recently made a set of three drawings related to different musical artists and their music videos.

Daft Punk – Harder Better Faster

daft punk

From the Daft Punk Movie Insterstella 5555.

C2C – Delta

Delta

From the C2C music video, Delta.

Porter Robinson – Shelter

Shelter

From Porter Robinson & Madeon’s music video, Shelter.

Storyism: A Personal Philosophy

Through my life, I have held a number of philosophies that guide my behaviors. At one point, I was super obsessed with Ayn Rand and was a die-hard objectivist (the philosophy that Rand developed). I found objectivism to be logically sound, but I wasn’t happy. Why bother hold a philosophy if it doesn’t make you happy though? In high school I tried to delve into Catholicism, but that was really short lived. I know many people that are happy Catholics, but god damn did that not work out for me.

However, over the past year I have developed a new philosophy of my own. Philosophy might be a big term for this idea I have, though. It doesn’t provide any answers to why we exist, what the purpose of life is, or what is good and what is wrong. Instead, my idea is more of a guiding light on how to lead your life.

I think of my life as a story being read. I would love for people to write books about me and for people to read them, but that is not what I mean when I say this. Your story being read is simply imaginative. Sometimes I like to imagine that I am playing the main character (or a character) in some story that is being read in an alternate universe. The person reading the story has no idea that I am real or the setting I am living in is real.

My story being fictional is important to this philosophy. It is important because think of how you feel about villains in real life vs. villains in a fictional story. You might think Darth Vader is an awesome character, regardless of how horrifying he is. However, you probably don’t think the same about Joseph Stalin.

With this, the goal of storyism is simple: be the character you would find interesting in a fictional story. I imagine that if others adopted storyism, they could have different goals from it though. I imagine that most people would aim to be the hero of a story, but that is not my goal. I have no interest in being a hero or a villain in my story. I am more interested in being the interesting character that may do good things and may do bad things (or at least perceptibly good or bad to others). The important part is that they do interesting things (or at least things that are interesting to me). So far this philosophy has done me pretty good. Definitely adds more excitement into my life than objectivism or Catholicism did.

However, my character has no interest in convincing others to adopt Storyism 🙂 He simply wanted to share his thoughts on it. Chances are I am not the only person who has had this idea, so if you have heard it before, leave it in the comments!