First there was the VBulletin style forums, then Yahoo Groups then Facebook and then Twitter and in between somewhere came linkedin and now Quora.
The meat of all the sites above as well as the many I have missed was to enrich user experience by being able to connect one to another based on our choice of subjects or topic we liked.
So while the Yahoo groups and VBulletin style groups are sites which focus on a particular type of information (and more the people flocking to that particular site / group, better the chance of learning / knowing / enriching ourselves).
Facebook came with a different agenda. The idea was to connect to our friends so that we knew what they were upto :). Once upon a time, you needed to visit a friend to know what he was doing, now, voila, all you needed to do was login to fb and see what your friend is doing. Of course, since connecting is easy, we connect to every one who seems to be interesting (the thought being, what is there to loose after all).
Twitter hit upon a idea of connecting in a different way. Instead of just knowing what your friend was doing, how cool it would be if you can share what you like or what you feel (there of course is a bit of overlap with fb since you can do the same there too) as also connect with guys you don’t even know if you felt that the information they shared (links / posts) are on subjects that you were interested in.
Linkedin approached the whole social networking in a wholly different way. Instead of connecting with friends for chit chat, here the idea is to connect with professionals so that it opens new avenues.
I have been a member of linked in for many years and have 100+ connections and while I have head stories of how linkedin has helped, what I mostly see is A connects to B, C and D in every update. I wonder if its just human psychology at work here to make it appear that the more we connect, the more potential we have got for better oportunities never mind the fact that not many even bother to read teh updates.
Yesterday, got a invitation to Quora. This takes the social networking concept in a pretty new way where the idea is that you can either ask a question that bothers you or answer where you feel you can contribute.
In just 2 days, am feeling bored with Quora while when I joined Twitter, it excited me no end. The problem as I see is that I don’t know whether I should wait for days on end to get a answer to a question that bothers me when a google search can give me similar / better results in real time.
Add to it, the problem is that there is nothing that says the answer has been given by a person with the right credentials. There is ofcourse a way to vote up or down, but that is assuming that others are either following you and are interested / knowledgable in similar area of expertise.
The bigger problem is motivational. If you are good at something, how often will you find the time and the interest to respond to queries on your topic. It takes time and lots of effort and if it does not even get noticed, you may start to feel, what the heck am I doing wasting my time on something where there seem to be no rewards.
Unless properly moderated, most sites / forums become a spammers delight. Am seeing it in groups (Yahoo / Facebook / Linkedin) and same can happen here too. Right now, its invite only and hence numbers are low, but once its open for all, without moderation and grouping, your question can attact no attention since the number of questions will be too much for anyone to handle.
For the time being, I would rather stay with Google where I can search and get answers from different sites / forums than hope some lonely sees my request and answers the same.