How can I support myself in Quora

Facts instead of fake news: How Quora wants to help us understand the world

Adam, you were the CTO of Facebook. Do you regret leaving the company?

Adam D’Angelo: No. I always wanted to start my own company. I think my contribution to the world with Quora is unique and Quora wouldn't exist without me. Facebook was still a very small company when I left, but I was sure it would continue without me.

"The goal of Quora is that people share knowledge and understand the world better"

When you think back to what the internet was made for, does Quora belong to it?

Adam D’Angelo: In any case. The goal of Quora is for people to share knowledge and understand the world better. There is a lot of information on the Internet, but much, much more knowledge is still in people's minds. When we founded Quora, there was no other platform where people could share in-depth knowledge. Our goal was to create this place. The internet is a place to share knowledge. But the development went in a different direction at first. Anyone could create a website or forum. As a result, the quality of the information suffered and the Internet failed to deliver on its promise. I believe Quora has more potential than the decentralized blogs, forums, and other websites.

Most popular are trivial things, like Snapchat, for example.

Adam D’Angelo: The internet is getting bigger and bigger and that's why there is enough space for Snapchat and Quora.

The question is, is the internet there for sharing serious information or more for fun?

Adam D’Angelo: It's there for both. Sometimes people want to know something and sometimes they just want to be entertained. I am personally happy to have created a knowledge product. Because knowledge always has a positive influence. People need access to information in order to make good and right decisions.

Or to choose the right president.

Adam D’Angelo: Ideally.

"At Quora we also have opinions, but usually opinions from well-informed experts"

But much is opinion and not knowledge.

Adam D’Angelo: We also have opinions at Quora, but we usually have opinions from well-informed experts. I don't think there are any more helpful opinions than those of the experts.

People today have access to more information than ever before. Does it make them smarter and more intelligent?

Adam D’Angelo: I think so. In the end, information helps people do something better - whatever it is.

A counterexample from Europe: When it came to Brexit, many experts said that voters did not understand the consequences. There was a lot of discussion and information, but in the end people didn't make the better decision.

Adam D’Angelo: That's true. Quora offers access to better knowledge, but not everyone uses Quora. That would really lead to better decisions. Unfortunately, many other platforms do not offer high-quality information. Instead, people find fake news.

“We focus on quality. There is a big difference between Quora and other knowledge platforms right from the start "

There is fake news and alternative facts. Is there also falsified knowledge and alternative information?

Adam D’Angelo: We focus on quality. There is a big difference between Quora and other knowledge platforms right from the start. Every user has to use their real name and we check their identity. We also use machine learning and try to submit questions to experts in the respective field. We show the answers to other experts and listen to their opinions, thus ensuring quality.

How many employees does Quora have and how is the company structured?

Adam D’Angelo: We have around 200 employees who have very different tasks. We rely heavily on machine learning. For this we need a lot of data, for example about our users and the areas in which they are familiar. We collect characteristics such as university degree, medical education, whether they are lawyers, work for a specific company or live in a specific location. All indications that someone is an expert in a certain area. Most of our developers are working on this machine learning system. Another team takes care of the moderation of the content on the site, for example. We have many rules for this: Users must not be harassed. An answer should always help the person who asked the question. Statements must be substantiated. Our English site has 200 million visitors a month. That is a large cross-section of society.

How do your technicians manage to structure the knowledge?

Adam D’Angelo: We have a large database with all questions and answers, which in turn are sorted by topic. We differentiate between physics, biology, chemistry and many other sciences. This is followed by further subdivisions, for example into quantum physics, mechanics and relativity. Within quantum physics, a distinction can be made between quantum mechanics and quantum field theory. This division into topics can go very deep. One of the great things about Quora is that we can connect laypeople with experts. You live in Berlin. What should I see when I'm in Berlin for the first time and have 36 hours to spare? You should be able to give a good answer because you live here. But we also have experts exchanging ideas with experts. We don't give financial incentives, but I believe that people are naturally willing to share their knowledge.

"There are also many people who found a job at Quora because of their answers"

People just want to be nice?

Adam D’Angelo: There are also many people who found a job at Quora because of their answers. For example, there was a man from Silicon Valley who answered many questions about software for service companies. With the reputation acquired in this way, he was able to raise money for a venture capital fund.

It took you a long time to get ads on Quora. Must be difficult to place ads in the atmosphere you've created?

Adam D’Angelo: The English Quora site has grown very quickly and we have invested a lot of energy to ensure the high quality. Normally we would have had to monetize and internationalize the site much earlier, but that just had to wait.

How does advertising work with the high quality standards that you have set?

Adam D’Angelo: Many questions revolve around products that can be bought. The manufacturers can then, for example, book advertisements for questions related to their products. That is good for both sides, because the questioners are already interested in the topic.

Do you see Wikipedia as a competitor?

Adam D’Angelo: We have no direct competitor. Sometimes you can find explanations on Wikipedia or ask a question in a forum or share your knowledge in your own blog. But the sharing of high-quality knowledge with us is unique.

How is Quora different from Google?

Adam D’Angelo: Google is very good at finding information that is already on the internet. Quora is the exact opposite and brings new knowledge online. With us, users ask questions that have not yet been answered elsewhere. The answers from our experts can, in turn, be found using Google. This makes the search engine more helpful for users and we benefit from the new visitors that Google sends.

"WE ARE NOT FOR SALE"

What does the future of Quora look like? There are always rumors of a sale or an IPO.

Adam D’Angelo: Next, we want to grow internationally and support other languages. There are 200 million English-speaking users now, and there can be many more. For that we need partners. But we also want to remain an independent and profitable company in the long term. We are not for sale.

I've read that your financiers are quiet and ...

Adam D’Angelo: ... are patient.

Exactly. Is that correct?

Adam D’Angelo: Yes, we deliberately opted for investors who are not after the quick buck. They too want their investment back at some point, but they are willing to wait longer for more profit.

Are there things that keep you awake from sleep?

Adam D’Angelo: I can sleep very well, but I believe that machine learning has great potential and can get a lot better. If everyone in the world has a Quora account, then we want to get the questions straight to the person who can best answer them. Our biggest challenge is to find the best expert on a question. That's why we put a lot of energy into making the algorithms better and better.

“Speech output is not nice. It may be useful when driving, but we can read and absorb information much faster "

Voice control is a big topic right now, for you too?

Adam D’Angelo: Language is a wonderful means of communication, even when using a computer or smartphone. Speech output, on the other hand, is not nice. It may be useful when driving, but we can read and absorb information much faster. No speech output is that fast. It is conceivable that you ask your question orally at Quora, but the answers come in writing.

How is the structure of the German version going? Do you translate existing answers?

Adam D’Angelo: We don't translate. We'll start from scratch. Everyone can ask questions in German and everyone can write answers. That's why we're now doing a lot of promoting Quora so that a lot of people who are knowledgeable in different areas can register with us and help other users.

What developments are you currently observing in Silicon Valley?

Adam D’Angelo: Silicon Valley is strong as always. Many are currently dealing with artificial intelligence, machine learning or cryptocurrencies. On the other hand, there is the housing crisis. I look jealously at Berlin. There is enough living space there. In Silicon Valley, rents have risen so much that it is difficult for many people to find an apartment or a house. A lot of people are leaving Silicon Valley because of this.

The interview was conducted by Jan Thomas.