Quora: the Next Social Network IT Pros Need to Know?

Quora is an increasingly popular social network for asking and answering questions on topics ranging from how Britney Spears was discovered to how to flee Tokyo following an earthquake. But the venture funded start-up, which was formed by a couple of ex-Facebook execs, also is filled with plenty of crowdsourced expertise about work-related topics for IT pros, such as whether Cisco will buy EMC, how the iPad might be used at work and how to improve Ubuntu.

By Bob Brown
Mon, April 25, 2011

Network WorldQuora is an increasingly popular social network for asking and answering questions on topics ranging from how Britney Spears was discovered to how to  flee Tokyo following an earthquake. But the venture funded start-up, which was formed by a couple of ex-Facebook execs, also is filled with plenty of crowdsourced expertise about work-related topics for IT pros, such as whether Cisco will buy EMC,  how the iPad might be used at work and how to improve Ubuntu.

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Quora, which calls itself "a continually improving collection of questions and answers" and has been described by others as a more refined version of Wikipedia, is by far not the only such offering on the Web. Everyone from Facebook with its Questions feature to LinkedIn to upstart Formspring provide different takes on answering questions in a social setting.  And then there are more established Q&A sites like Yahoo (YHOO) Answers, Ask.com, ChaCha and StackOverflow, which caters to coders.  

But given the hype around the free Quora offering fueled by everyone from ubiquitous blogger Robert Scoble ("Is Quora the biggest blogging innovation in 10 years?") to TechCrunch, I figured it was worth taking a closer look at Quora and its ability to let users follow not just friends but also topics and individual questions. After all, Quora buttons are even showing up on some websites alongside Twitter and RSS buttons, and the Q&A site has even inspired a parody site called Cwora

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I decided the best way to get a quick sense of whether Quora could be useful for IT pros would be to post a question on the site asking exactly that.  I've only been on the site since February, so my followers' list is relatively short (89 as of this writing, including a number of people I don't believe I really know). As such, I probably shouldn't be surprised that I only got one answer to my question, and that was from an IT analyst who says Quora isn't super useful for enterprise IT topics. Though he did go on to say that you can learn quite a bit about enterprise software startups, hosting services from the likes of Amazon and Rackspace, and software as a service. (Meanwhile, the question "Given our current technology and with the proper training, would it be possible for someone to become Batman?" sparked 19 responses.)

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