The funny thing about Quora is that it doesn’t seem to offer itself up as a topic to follow, even though its potential success has raised more questions than anything else on the site so far.
For the uninitiated, Quora describes itself as “a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it.” Think Yahoo! Answers with social media street cred. Although the hype around the service seems to have started just before the new year and hasn’t let up since, it’s really hard to bear predictions that this will be the new Twitter. I’m not going to be using some QuoraDeck service to continually monitor the questions relating to topics that interest me, pose questions or answer them all day long. Instead, Quora strikes me as a more efficient response to Wikipedia – who wants to write a Wikipedia entry when you can just get to the gist of what you’re looking to find out on Quora?
There is no doubt some IT departments will find Quora useful as a resource for sharing common kinds of troubleshooting information, or perhaps, as ReadWriteWeb suggested this week, crowdsource various reviews of enterprise software. Quora could, in some ways, become a new sort of aggregated customer support line for IT managers, bringing in answers to questions not only from the manufacturer itself but other users and even (most devilishly) competitors who prove through their responses that a migration is in order.
If its growth is even a fraction of what people are expecting it, IT managers may also find Quora a good place to create a different kind of relationship with their end users, who will no doubt be using the site for such questions as “What’s a good way to do an end-run around my corporate IT department, who doesn’t want me to connect my Verizon iPhone to the network?” Rather than leave it to the whole world to encourage deviation from IT policy, technology professionals can also use Quora as a way to establish their authority and expertise, give clear and balanced reasons for the kinds of decisions they make and potentially, depending on the kinds of questions they help answer, demonstrate a growing knowledge and understanding of vertical-specific business issues.
Top-notch IT managers may even take it a step further, tapping into Quora to ask, the next time a new consumer device takes the world by storm, what kind of business purposes early adopters see for it in the enterprise, and prepare accordingly. They might provide answers on the best apps that provide a safe and valuable user experience. Or they could test the kind of questions they field in an annual user satisfaction survey before submitting it to actual employees. I don’t know whether any IT departments will actually do any of these things, mind you. That’s probably a question for Quora.