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The Quora logo identifying questions and popular answers online

Quora – questions and popular answers online

300px-Quora_logoQ&A on Quora And How Facts Are Being Shaped By Opinion

People often say that all truth is relative. Dark is light if you believe it is or if it’s a shade of grey instead, which makes it both dark and light or neither. If you see what I mean.

Q: Not really. What’s all this about Quora?
A: It’s a site valued in the billions of dollars (at least that’s what some people are saying) which allows users to post questions online and get answers from the public.

Q: It’s that simple?
A: Yes, it is. Of course people have to use their real names.

Q: Mmmm. Any other restrictions?
A: Yes, you have to sign up to read it or participate.

Q: So they are data gathering ready to sell you on to advertisers?
A: Indubitably. You know how it is these days.

Q: So how is that different from other ‘How to…?” websites?
A: This one allows votes on answers, so they rise or fall according to their popularity.

Q: So, a popular answer may not be actually true?
A: Exactly. As long as it’s a ‘good’ answer it will rise high.

Q: And people will believe that?
A: Apparently. A really good answer can be absolute rubbish or sheer brilliance?

Q: Got any examples?
A: Well as I haven’t signed up (to protect my data which I try to sell not give away free), I must rely on the Sunday Times, 16 Feb 2014.

Q: Surely that’s a reliable source?
A: Possibly. It’s from Oliver Thring.

Q: Anyway, what did they quote?
A: What are the most awesome photos ever taken?

Q: That’s not very special is it?
A:  No. Try – How does Apple keep secrets so well?

Q: OK, any more?
A: What’s it like to be a geek in prison?

Q: Yes, that’s good. Any others?
A: What’s it like to be a drug dealer?

Q: Surely not?
A: Oh yes. It’s one of the most viewed questions and the ‘best’ response was a 3000 essay from a self-confessed mid-level trafficker.

Q: What! Did he or she get away with it?
A: So he or she said.

Q: Can we know some of the answers?
A: Not unless you sign up, which as I said, I haven’t done.

Q; That’s a shame. Are all questions answered?
A: Well, some questions have no answers, as we know. Truth is relative after all…

Q: Yes, yes, but like what?
A: Like What’s the most underrated piece of art?

Q: My GCSE art exam piece?
A: The London Underground map, according to popular opinion.

Q: What about the most startling, amazing discoveries ever made?
A: Have you signed up already to know that one?

Q: Are you asking the questions now?
A: No, I’m not. The answer to that one about the most amazing discoveries has ranged from money, electricity, the wheel, antimatter, cooking, heliocentric models and the wheel.

Q: What about space travel, the internet, the internet combustion engine?
A: Time to sign up and post your own questions, then…

Q: Any personal favourites?
A: Well, Oliver Thring liked: Why did almost all societies believe that women were inferior to men?

Q: Mmm, tricky one. Is it all online?
A: No, some groups are trying to organise meet-ups presumably where they will sit round and ask each other clever answers and who ever gives the most interesting/clever/erudite/amusing answer will get a free drink. Or have to get a round in.

Q; OK, could you sum it up with what it’s a mash-up of?
A: It’s a cross between Wikipedia, Pinterest, social media, How to advice directories and stand up comedy, more interesting than Pointless and for egg-heads.

Q: Well, thank you, I’ll take a look for myself.
A: Before you go can I ask you some that may not be on Quora but once puzzled some students of mine years ago?

Q: Can you make it quick?
A: Which are better, squares or circles? Is a pedestrian crossing black with white stripes or white with black stripes? Is it always wrong to have sex with a monkey?