Sep. 11, 2012 at 6:35 PM ET
The question-and-answer site Quora Tuesday released major updates that could turn this growing source of information into a more intellectual version of Twitter — the latest news supported by in-depth discussion.
Quora has added a Twitter-style trending topics list to its pages, consisting of the five most talked about topics. While news topics are not new to Quora, there was no way for a user to find a trending topic if they weren't already following it.
"For example, a user started a new topic about the Chicago teachers strike last Sunday," Marc Bodnick, Quora's head of operations, told TechNewsDaily. "If you weren't following Chicago or some other related topic, you would have missed it."
Click on one of the trending topics and you'll see a list of questions and answers related to the topic, ranked by popularity.
Quora works on a credits system, but there's no cash involved. Everyone starts with 500 credits. You earn 20 credits when people follow questions you ask and 10 credits when people "upvote" your contributions. You spend 10 credits when you ask another member to answer a question. Credit balances are private — only you can see how many credits you have, along with Quora staff.
But how reliable are answers?
"Our content is only as good as the users who write it," Bodnick said. "The voting system on the site does a really good job signaling quality."
Bodnick said that answers are evenly spread across the four main categories. Data showed that a new quality answer is as likely to be about parenting than about Facebook or Apple put together.
Further, Quora members are required to use their own names and provide a topic-related biography. That means users can check the credentials of those who answer questions.
And those new to Quora may be surprised at the notables who answer questions. Yesterday, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan answered a question. Other Quora contributors include House Majority leader Eric Cantor, economist Larry Summers, who served as director of the U.S. National Economic Council for President Barack Obama, actor Ashton Kutcher and director J.J. Abrams of "Star Trek" and "Lost" fame. Users can follow topics, as well as people.
Quora has also built a mini-home page for each topic to make it easier to follow their interests. Previously, Quora featured a single home page newsfeed, a mixed bag of topics organized around four major themes: Tech and Business, Politics and Economics, Entertainment and Advice, plus an "other" category for everything else.
Over the past year or so, Quora has nearly tripled its number of topics to more than 250,000. The number may sound daunting, but Bodnick offered some advice for new users.
"The trick is to follow 20 to 50 topics that you're interested in and your home page becomes amazing," he said.
If you sign in with Facebook or Twitter, the site will generate a list of suggested topics to follow based on accounts you follow on Twitter and pages you've liked on Facebook. Otherwise, search for a topic that interests you and then click the "Follow" button on the page.
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Copyright 2014 TechNewsDaily, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.