Quora may be one of a gajillion question-and-answer sites on the web, but at its best, it’s not like any of the others. It’s uncommonly interesting and engaging, because the site is full of smart people who can answer questions from a unique perspective. When someone asked who Apple’s first 25 employees were, it wasn’t the least bit surprising that some of the answers came from those early staffers — including one who shared a vintage photo of him and his coworkers with the Apple IIs they’d just boxed up.
The stuff that folks share is often meaty in the same way that a good blog is meaty. And starting today, Quora is letting its community members — and anybody else who’s interested — create an actual blog on the site.
Now, the company isn’t planning to compete with WordPress, SquareSpace, Tumblr and the other big guns of blogging head-on. For now, at least, it’s only giving prospective bloggers the basics, including the ability to set up shop at a Quora subdomain (such as yourbloghere.quora.com), create posts, upload images, specify tags and receive comments. The only customization option currently available is the opportunity to choose between a plain-vanilla view and a simple theme which is optimized for mobile reading.
But Quora’s Marc Bodnick, who gave me a sneak peek of the new feature, says that the site offers something which is surprisingly tough for budding bloggers to find: readers. All posts get woven into the feeds of Quora users who are following relevant topics or the specific blog in question; even the very first post created by someone who’s never blogged before has a shot at getting some attention. (Among the site’s most popular topics: startups, sports, movies and food.) Bodnick told me that popular answers on Quora can get tens of thousands of views — which would be enough eyeballs to make a post a success even on an existing name-brand blog.
Only a handful of blogs will launch today. But some Quora members have been using the existing Pinterest-like Boards feature to do something which looks suspiciously like blogging, and Bodnick thinks that many of them will begin blogging. He also expects people who blog elsewhere to republish their work at Quora to reach a larger audience.
In conjunction with the new blogging feature, Quora is also previewing a new rich-text editor it plans to add to its iPhone app in the coming weeks. It’s designed to make composing serious answers and blog posts easier, and includes features such as bolding and italics, numbered lists, blockquotes and embedded photos. The biggest obstacle to thoughtful writing on a smartphone is something Quora can’t do anything about — for most of us, it’s tough to peck out more than a few sentences of quality prose on a tiny keyboard. But if you’re game to give it a try, it looks like the new Quora app will help.