Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

A Further Blow to Online Lurking: Quora Will Now Publicly Show Who Has Read a Post

Quora today is introducing a feature that shows which of its users have read each Quora post, and how they found it. It’s another move by a social Web service to share passive activities, making the simple act of looking at a page on Quora something that other people can easily trace.

“Views” is meant to make Quora more lively — users will now see real-time trending stories in their Quora feeds when multiple people they’re following have viewed a story.

The company told me it built the feature to help Quora contributors get a better idea of how their posts and public boards spread.

But that’s not all of it, since this is not just a back-end analytics tool.

Quora users will be able to see, in the right-hand column of every question, answer and post, how many views it has received. When they click through, they will see the names and pictures of who saw the content, starting with people they follow (see below).

I’ve written about how new read-receipt features from Facebook and other social and messaging services are hastening an end to online lurking by making passive participation active and accountable. Quora Views totally extends this trend — now just the simple act of visiting a page will be shared, by default.

Quora product manager Sandra Liu Huang told me she is aware that people may not always want to share as they surf.

Though Views will be turned on by default for all Quora users starting today, it shares somewhat selectively. Quora only shows views that are referred from within its own service — so, from the main feed and its weekly digest emails. If users visit a page from a search engine or link on Twitter or Facebook, their views won’t be shared. Views to content in adult categories aren’t shared.

Further, users can turn off Views entirely in their Quora settings, or delete their own views on each individual page. And Views aren’t automatically shared through to users’ Facebook pages the way other activity on Quora is through a Facebook Open Graph connection.

Quora exec Marc Bodnick told me that the Views project is part of a larger effort to help Quora content creators get broader distribution. Views gives the authors better insight into how their contributions are spread.

Elsewhere, featured Quora content will be included as a channel on the Pulse and Flipboard newsreaders starting this week. And Quora just redesigned user profiles to show lengthier excerpts of that user’s posts, so, for active writers, they look much like a blog.

“People on Quora are writing to be read,” Bodnick said. “What we’re telling you is that Quora is a distribution mechanism that works.”

Huang acknowledged that with the addition of Views, Quora is now accumulating a ton of different and potentially overlapping signals, as the service already has a complex system of follows and upvotes for its various types of content.

She said that eventually these may be condensed, but there are no plans to do so at the moment.

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— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”