Using Quora as an Educational Tool (Quora Review)

quora-iconSkip to the bottom of this post to watch the short YouTube video explaining one simple hack to use Quora as an educational tool. This Quora Review is one of many educational software reviews on this site. Check out the other posts for help with your learning journey!

When Quora was first launched, I didn’t quite get it. There was all this talk of the question and answer community, but I never saw it. It felt clunky and hard to use to me. Whenever I searched for an answer it seemed to take too long to find/ask.

Compared to other question and answer community sites, like the programmer-specific StackOverflow, discovery felt like a chore. I wasn’t ever quite sure what or how to ask a question. It felt over-broad and hard to navigate.

Just the other day, though, I jumped back onto Quora, though I’ll admit my original reasons were a bit self-serving…

Why I Started Using Quora

Someone linked me to a Quora post in a forum, suggesting I use it to build authority on a subject and link to my blog. That’s all marketing mumbo-jumbo for “try to use it to get people to visit your blog”. It just so happened that the first couple of questions he linked me to were fairly high-trafficked and also things I could easily answer with confidence and some degree of authority. I linked to this blog as a source and within 24 hours I saw a 40% spike in traffic.

More importantly, people seemed to like what I had to say. My first couple posts got upvotes, so I started following topics like Learning, Education, and Foreign Languages. I started answering more posts, and then things like this started appearing:
Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 7.51.46 PM

This is gamification done well. It’s subtle. No need for big, flashy badges. It’s fitting to the design language of the Quora website. It also feels rewarding.

At first I wanted to find a way to work a link to my blog into every post, trying to relate everything back to topics I had written about here. But soon, I found I was inspired by the questions being asked by Quora and found myself writing down topics I wanted to research in greater detail.

After about 2 days of posting on Quora a handful of times per day, something interesting happened…

The Benefit I See

Maybe I’ve gotten lucky, but the questions I’m getting in my feed are relatively interesting ones. I’ve even been started to be asked to answer questions, directly. That’s kind of cool and humbling. Sometimes the questions are totally out of my wheelhouse, but other times I do have a mix of opinions and knowledge to share.

Trying to fit that information into concise points is hard. I’m challenging myself to become a more effective writer while also hoping to help others. In one post, for example, I saw a young student talk about how he was only sleeping 5 hours per night and was worried about over-studying. That’s just not healthy no matter which way you slice it.

One of the questions inspired me to summarize the philosophy of this blog as succinctly as I could:

Study for short periods of time, but make it count. It should be uncomfortably hard. Do it frequently. Rest in between. Quantify your results and measure your progress over time against goals.

Trying to condense things down like that is a fun writing challenge. A game, almost.

How it Led Me to This Post

A question popped into my feed that I would normally not consider answering, except that I kept thinking back to the question. It was philosophical in nature, and forced me to espouse my views on the human condition. Esoteric? Youbetchya. Not something I’d generally be able to / want to share in this day in age.

Using Quora tends to do that. It leads you down interesting rabbit-holes of thought. Sure, there are lots of junk questions. But there’s also a lot to ponder to read, especially if you’re already interested in learning about a particular subject.

And there it is. The reason I’m talking about Quora on this blog…

Quora as a Learning Tool?

I thought I was coming to Quora as an expert, but in many places I’ve found that I’m still a novice. Writing is one example of that. Quora offers immediate feedback on the quality of writing and expression of ideas. So it can be used as a tool to develop this skill by testing what does and does not work.

There are also very smart people there sharing very interesting things. There are bad answers to sift through and it’s easy to get tangled in the weeds of pseudo-science, but there are also some well documented and researched responses. That’s why I put together this video, explaining a simple trick to use Quora as an educational tool:

Said differently… Quora is a sort of springboard for learning.
I’ve talked in the past about getting an overview of a subject before you start to study something new. At that time, I suggested subscribing to a topical sub-reddit or news feed. I would now say Quora is the best place to start, instead, before progressing to skill-specific educational software.

I hope to keep using Quora, and that my answers are found to be valuable by others. I am afraid that over time, the questions may become repetitive. Or maybe my energy for answering them will fade. We’ll see. For now, it’s been a fun community to explore and contribute to.

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