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Quora Is Fascinating and Fun

May 2015

Sometimes I feel a little bit like Dear Abby. I answered a couple questions related to motivation and behavior, and now people ask me to answer their questions about their personal situations.

Such as the high school girl who was working on a group project but couldn't get the other group members to do their part. I recommended talking to her teacher and pointed out that showing gratitude is often the best way to motivate people. She must have found my answer useful, because I got an upvote from her. And now Quora's computer algorithm keeps inviting me to answer additional questions related to motivation.

When I got started in Quora, it was to answer the occasional question related to meditation, which I have some knowledge about. I wasn't intending to give people advice about their lives. But quite a few of my answers now entail that. And because Quora's computer algorithm seems to think my answers are useful, they typically get placed at or near the top of the answers that have been given. Yep, good for my ego.

Quora is among the most popular websites for getting your questions answered. You can ask how to conserve your iPhone's battery life, how to improve your tennis game, which Vanguard mutual fund is the best for your situation, whether it's time to break up with your boyfriend — and just about any other imaginable question.

But one of the best features of Quora may be its daily digest. Each day you receive an email with questions and answers related to topics that interest you as well as answers handpicked by curators because they are utterly fascinating. Some of these get over 1,000 upvotes.

For example, one question was, "What is it like to be wrongly convicted?" As so often happens on Quora, the person answering has first-hand knowledge. In this case, one Michael Morton tells about being wrongly convicted for murdering his wife. His answer is full of wisdom. He begins by talking about the initial resentment and the adjustments, but then tells how he's benefitted from the experience. Here's the latter part:

"But as the decades accrue, an acceptance and an understanding of life creep in. If you're lucky, you become calmer, more relaxed, more sure. You see the value of faith, hope, and of course, love. You come to appreciate pure things, like the behavior of animals and the joy of small children. It sounds cliche and almost banal, but time wears a man down.

"In the end, if you are lucky, you see that our trials are what improve us. And if you are very lucky and somewhat insightful, you see that whatever your trial has been, it is exactly what you needed. Our trials make us who we are."

His answer has over 6,600 upvotes. Deservedly so.

The most fascinating answers are often related to history. Such as "Who was the most unfortunate person in history?" The top answer is Tsutomu Yamaguchi:

"Yamaguchi was a resident of Nagasaki who was visiting Hiroshima on business on the morning of August 6th 1945 — where he experienced (and survived) the atomic bomb dropped on the city at 8:15 am. Yamaguchi was injured but nevertheless returned home to Nagasaki where he returned to work on the morning on August 9th 1945 — just in time to experience the second atomic bomb." (Which he also survived, living until the age of 93.)

The person answering characterizes him as "one of the luckiest AND unluckiest men in history."

The expertise on Quora is impressive. You can find Barack Obama answering questions about Obamacare, Wimbledon champ Pat Cash answering questions about tennis, and well-known scholars answering questions in their disciplines.

Quora has social features similar to Twitter and Facebook. Like Twitter, you can follow other users, and when you look at the news feed on your Quora home page, you'll see answers from those you follow as well as answers to questions in the topic areas that interest you.

When you post a question, you'll see a list of Quora users who are experts on that topic. You can ask them to reply by awarding them credits. Quora gives each new user 500 credits to spend, and if you run out they'll replenish it. Plus, you can earn credits by answering questions. I currently have over 6,000.

Quora has been fascinating and fun. There's a certain pleasure in writing knowledgeable answers to specific questions. And I find it pleasingly meaningful to be Abby and offer helpful advice.

This Month's Hot Tips

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© 2015 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.

E-mail Jim Karpen