Majority leader's aide uses Quora for ideas on social media

Start-up question-and-answer website gaining popularity

The crowdsourcing website Quora increased its reach in government this week when a staff member for GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) used it to get public comments on using social media for legislation.

Quora is a start-up question-and-answer website created by two former Facebook employees that launched to the public in June 2010. Questions may be posted anonymously or posters may identify themselves.

The site is known to be gaining in popularity, though it is difficult to quantify how many government officials or executives may be using it. In this case a reporter had to scroll down to the bottom of a long list of comments to see the identity of the person who posted the question.


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“How should the United States Congress use social media to enhance the legislative process?” Matt Lira, an aide to Cantor, wrote in a question on Quora on Feb. 21.

Fast Company was first to report the Cantor aide's using Quora in an article published on Feb. 22.

Lira told Fast Company that he posted the question on Cantor's behalf to learn how to reach the best experts, reduce the cost of legislation, make regulation effective but not cumbersome and increase the public’s knowledge of law and its functions. Lira also recommended that respondents be specific and rely on their personal knowledge.

As of today, more than 900 visitors have viewed the question on Quora and 17 lengthy comments have been published and rated by members of the site. Quora also presents a summary of the comments.

“Quora can help government officials provide a clear explanation of stuff that's new and important -new laws, new legislative programs, and new regulations,” was one comment. “Quora can help answer FAQs that normal people have about everyday life dealing with government and government agencies,” was another.

Other commenters see risk in using social media to enhance legislative processes.

“When it comes to politics, disagreement on facts, even when real names are attached has a high risk of becoming partisan and full of noise without much useful information. Passions run too high for simple debate,” was one comment.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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