Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Quora Adds “Online Now” Feature to Drive Faster Answers

Quora today is making its site come a little more alive by adding a signal that shows when some users are online.

This isn’t a full-blown presence system — there is no Quora buddy list or chat function. The Q&A site’s new “Online Now” feature is for the very specific purpose of connecting Quora users who have questions with people who are both likely to answer a particular question and online at that very moment.

Quora has long shown suggestions for the best people to answer a question. Starting today, it will sort those people by their availability. The intent is for people to get answers faster. So instead of emphasizing a canonical best answer, Quora wants users to feel like they can ask a pressing question — for instance, a movie or restaurant recommendation, or help with a problem — and get a quick response.

As it tries to grow, Quora has experimented with ways to make users feel more connected and engaged. Not all of them have been popular. In August, it started publicly displaying when a user had read a post — not commented on it or upvoted it, but simply read it. That feature was later toned down, though it wasn’t removed.

This time around, the company is putting more effort into being clear about how Online Now is released. For instance, online status isn’t shown for users until they have visited the Quora homepage. However, after that it is automatically turned on; so users are effectively opted in by default after they’ve been notified.

Privacy-conscious users who already opted out of Views are automatically opted out of Online Now as well.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work