May 30, 2011

Quora Makes It Harder to Hurt People's Feelings

While Wikipedia is well-known for its edict against self-aggrandizement and editing one's own biography, question and answer collective Quora looks to be going quite a bit in the other direction, not just permitting people to manage their own reputation on the site, but to outright push for deletion of topics or questions they don't like. In a new policy issued late last week, the service says not only do they want people under discussion to automatically gain moderation of such topics, but any question that is "hurtful or mean-spirited" simply isn't allowed. So no more questions about why specific people are such jerks, you mean Quora-ites.

The policy outlines that it is intended to protect individuals fairly and equally, regardless of their public stature, so Mark Zuckerberg and Ron Conway have equal access as John Smith. Don't know John Smith? Well, he has as much a chance to defend himself on rude comments on the site directed his way as the next guy.

So why is Quora making this move? Is it to whitewash the site of any negativity? They don't seem to believe so, but they do recognize that some high profile users will use the increased ability to moderate, to "remove questions that other users would be interested in learning about," as Marc Bodnick adds, "We believe that this risk is worth taking in return for the benefits we achieve..." in line with the company's mission to create the "best database of human knowledge on the Internet."

While running from the world of libel and slander is laudable, one has to assume that negativity exists in both the real and virtual world, and it's possible that negative feedback related to individuals could be valuable, especially as the word "best" is so subjective. But their goal is to keep the content on the site relevant and valuable.

Oddly, despite focusing on equal protection under the rules, the change is clearly targeting the famous and semi-famous alike, closing with a hope that "Quora will remain a site where there is not much gossip about the personal lives of well-known individuals," as Bodnick adds, "Internet users have many other alternatives for this kind of content."

The move follows another controversial move earlier this month, when the site disavowed its initial position against self-promotion.

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