Why do questions on Quora read like they were written by a robotic 9yro?
February 12, 2015 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Are Quora questions all written/edited to follow a stringent style?

To me, the majority of Quora questions read as though they are asked by people with very limited experience of the world and other people, and with an almost stilted slant I tend to associate with technical documentation.
Are the questions edited by a software algorithm as part of the submission process? Or is the a Quora style guide or team of editors that is working to make the questions appear like this?
Contrast this with Ask.mefi or even yahoo answers where there is great diversity in the tone questions asked.
posted by bystander to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: When you submit a new question to quora, there are lots of software hints to provide descriptive tags and make sure you're categorizing it correctly and they show related questions.

After your question goes up, it may be rewritten by (volunteer?) moderators, who may rewrite the title and even some of the text inside. I was testing quora out last year and asked an innocuous PC laptop question, which was rewritten and in the end didn't get too many answers.

The editorial voice might be a thing the moderators are shooting for, and may be a reason why the questions sound similar. If I remember correctly, my rewritten question was pretty dry and boring sounding after their rewrite.
posted by mathowie at 2:17 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

At least for some topics, I believe Quora is dominated by Indians, so you may be seeing Indian English rather than American English.
posted by miyabo at 2:54 PM on February 12, 2015 [6 favorites]

Tried Quora a few times, find the voice and tone off-putting for similar reasons. Not so much the technical writing style but Q&A's written by people who just discovered our species a few hours ago and are trying their best to blend in.

I feel like the site has a lot of ado around structuring questions and answers to gain Quora-Fame, which leads to some fairly hollow dialogue. I never had the sense that, outside of a few key individuals, there were many experts; more that someone was vaguely rephrasing wiki content they had searched in response to seeing your question so they could get in with the first voice.

Honestly not trying to slam the site, just do find it very weird.
posted by zedgoat at 3:58 PM on February 12, 2015 [6 favorites]

Yeah, nowadays I only look at Quora when I have nothing better to do. Which is sad, because answerers are operating at an interesting level, while questioners generally are not.

"Is Obama the worst president ever?" "How can I turn $1,000 into $100,000 in a month?" "What is your most compelling near death experience?"

And the way some answers are displayed to the exclusion of others feels click-baity to me.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 4:19 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Quora questions can be rewritten by anyone. Sometimes this is good, when someone doesn't speak English well and rewriting the question makes it clearer; however, sometimes it's hard to tell what the original question was and the meaning gets warped or lost. Most of the time these edits are made to improve grammar or make questions less specific/long-winded.

To see the editing history of a question just go to the left-hand column on the question page and click the last link "Edits."

As to the tone, YMMV. Looking at my homepage I see pretty normal sounding questions, but I've been using the site forever and have probably already pruned a lot of the junky people/topics away.
posted by annekate at 4:20 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm glad to see this question, because for awhile now I've been trying to figure if it's just me, or if there really is something about Quora that is slightly 'off'. It reassures me to see that I'm not alone.

I seem to notice a lot of questions that are "nationalist trolling" (or something) ala "Why do Chinese people hate organized religion?"

I'm not really "into" it. Somehow I managed to get on an email digest of Quora that has just barely managed to stay interesting enough that I haven't left. Early on, there was a question about song lyrics and poetry that was answered by Sarah McLachlan - I have to admit that that impressed me.
posted by doctor tough love at 8:46 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Why don't you ask this question on Quora?
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 1:16 PM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the info on the mechanics of the editing process.
I suspect now that is what leads to the "Q&A's written by people who just discovered our species a few hours ago and are trying their best to blend in."
posted by bystander at 9:54 PM on February 13, 2015

I think there's also another general feature of Quora that may play into this, which is that stunty or borderline trolly questions (e.g. "Why was Neil Patrick Harris considered for the role of Barney Stinson given that he is gay?"), as well as questions that are super general ("What is the difference between intelligence and commonsense?") or super chatty ("What is the coolest amino acid, and why?") tend to get a lot of attention, and attract a lot of responses that themselves attract a lot of votes. I suspect this therefore means that these questions are likely to show up in people's feeds. This could also help explain a bias towards questions that seem naive (impossibly broad, asking things that don't totally make sense) and/or legalistic ("saying something without saying it"/"asking this question to make a point" type of questions).
posted by en forme de poire at 5:41 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

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