The latest social media heartthrob

It’s Valentine’s Day, and I have to admit that I am getting a bit envious of the new kid in town. Everyone seems to be infatuated with a social network named Quora.

The website first came to my attention in early January when there were three separate conversations about it on GovLoop. First, Heather Coleman asked: “Should agencies and cities be on Quora?” Because she’s a SharePoint content manager and social media specialist at the Army Contracting Command, her interest intrigued me. Of course, the first response to her question was another one: “What’s Quora?”

For those of you who haven’t heard of it — and fallen head over heels in love — if you were to encounter Quora at a virtual speed dating event, it would introduce itself as “a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited and organized by everyone who uses it.”

Or as Jimmy Leach, head of digital diplomacy at the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said in a blog post a day after Coleman’s inquiry: “It’s like a social media version of Yahoo! Answers.” Leach said he and his colleagues are “dabbling in the shallow waters, trying to get to grips with how we’d use it.” But they’re just not sure about a long-term relationship. It’s all still a bit dreamy, like when the Beatles crossed the pond and found inexplicable mass adoration.

To be fair, I have flirted with Quora myself and found the responses to be better and more trustworthy than Yahoo! Answers. Far from calling Quora every day, I’m fine with a five-minute chance encounter as I wander the Web.

What cannot be easily ignored is the global nature of the phenomenon. A couple of weeks after the GovLoop conversations started, Nick Charney, a federal public servant in Ottawa, posted a blog entry that was akin to a beauty contest between Quora and GCPEDIA, Canada’s version of the MAX Federal Community.

Charney wrote that he believes Quora wins because it has a greater sense of focus — without being too prescriptive — better information management and better search abilities, and it doesn’t require users to learn how to code.

“I'm not saying that GCPEDIA isn't valuable (I still think it is) but only that it is being pulled by users in a number of different ways,” he writes.

In fact, one of the questions on Quora is: “How can Quora help ExpertNet?” — a new initiative by the General Services Administration and White House that seeks to achieve “next-generation citizen consultation, namely a governmentwide software tool and process to elicit expert public participation,” according to the notice published in the Federal Register in December 2010.

Quora can’t be everything to everybody, but it’s worth spending a minute lingering on its profile or checking it out over breakfast or coffee.

In the meantime, I’ve got enough on my plate trying to manage 40,000 relationships, which keeps me from getting too jealous of this new heartthrob.

About the Author

Andy Krzmarzick is the community manager for GovLoop, a social network for people in and around government.

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