Update April 13: I did submit the delete request. So far, Quora has disabled my account, but neither removed my content nor my comments. This is, of course, not the outcome I was asking for, but the ticket system is curiously non-responsive.

TL;DR

I am leaving Quora because the site’s algorithm and makeup no longer supports my form of online engagement. Quora is overrun by AI-generated content and “TIL” (today I learned) style content, which is posted as a very specific question and directly answered by the person.

Highest content views and upvotes are meme banks and gossip/feel-good content directly copied from Facebook and other sites.

Anti-science, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and Dunning-Kruger run rampant.

As an author who spends ~1h per answer to get everything right, it’s disappointing and a sign to leave when one’s answer languishes below the fold underneath one-sentence memes and images who were taken from stock photo sites and specific content banks.

I am deleting my account, not disabling it because Quora’s recent changes to monetized Spaces and posts means, that simply leaving would enable SEO farms on Quora to monetize my 12 years of writing.

2010

I joined Quora in 2010. I remember the day, it was a rainy, grey, dark, morning. I’d finished a shift the night before, the clothes I’d thrown in a corner next to my bed still smelled of kitchen, bar, making out, smoke, and alcohol.

I’d promised a friend I’d make her breakfast, and to surprise her, I’d decided to make a traditional Sámi one. [1]

I had no idea, so I googled. I didn’t find anything about that online, but I found a question on a site called Quora titled “Why did three meals became (sic!) the norm.” I answered (they did not). And down the rabbit hole I went.

I didn’t make her breakfast that morning. She left, rather unhappy, but I’d found a new cool thing.

In the coming months, I wrote more about cooking, life as a cook, life in the hospitality industry, and the odd answer on military life, sexuality, and psychology. Two years in, having written a few hundred answers and obtained somewhat of an OG status in the food and restaurant topics, I decided to end my career in hospitality and return to my roots in healthcare. More precisely, to return to a job I’d trained for some time ago but had left for a multitude of reasons.

Seems I helped someone with their mental health.
And then there's the greatest reward

Instrumental in this were some physicians and other people on Quora who pushed me to think about it. I had been unhappy in food service for a little while, even cooking with “celebrity chefs,” working in Michelin starred kitchens, opening a popup in Dallas, TX, and competing on TV only relieved the unhappiness for a short while.

Quora has changed

The good in Quora exceeded the not-so-good and outright bad for a long time. Quora pushed me to pursue medicine. I found friends, even romances, on the site. I saw places in the world, I wouln’t have, had it not been for one or the other amazing Quoran to invite me and show me around as only locals can.

In 2015 I lost my wallet in a car in Zagreb. A Quoran retrieved it and sent it by bus to Dubrovnik, where another Quoran picked it up and arranged for it to come to me. Two weeks later, I participated in the Zagreb Pride Parade with even more Quorans.

Zagreb Pride Parade 2015

I was offered writing jobs, even a book. And someone I met on Quora did something so insanely magnificent the past year, it saved my research and with that provided over 2000 vaccinations (not just against COVID-19) and health checkups for refugees in Cyprus.

It may be unfair to the company, whose financial success is, of course, something I consider important. But it feels to me as if the bad is mostly linked to ham-fisted attempts at monetization and spam. While the Quora Partner Program (QPP) had annoying features like Question Spam, the true slap in the face was the simultaneous abandonment of the Top Writer Program. Meaning that those with questions were paid, while those who provided true value to the site, the answer writers, had their only form of “reward” taken away.

The introduction of Quora+ could have been a great thing, but again the scalpel-accurate design decisions of Quora 2010 were nowhere to be found. Instead, paywall content and, much worse, monetized spaces hosting free answers by other writers, joined the mix.

My feed today is 90% filled with the same sad content:

  • “Show me an X that deserves Y upvotes”
  • Here is something I copied from an inspirational group on Facebook and added my spammy link to my website with ‘free’ archetype assessments.
  • Here is a TIL which I phrased as a question and for which I wrote the answer five seconds later that is phrased in a way that only one answer, mine, can be given.
  • Here is a meme from 4chan

And this isn’t all. YouTube and SEO forums are full of AI tool recommendations to quickly write Quora answers on trending topics, post them, boost them by adding a well-calculated initial upvote rush to them (using accounts the AI company or a third party owns and operates), and reap the rewards.

I made a trial account with one of these AI companies. The copywriting tool took a list of ~100 Quora questions, suggested 100 more, then created answers to them. Most sounded exactly like the 15k+ upvote answers littering my feed. Quora either has become a place where bots talk to each other, or bots have become so indistinguishable from the average Quora user, we don’t need users answering things anymore.

Quora AI bot creating Quora Answers for you The “celebrity gossip” filter was particularly impressive. Paired with the “Quora Answers” template, it fetched recent celebrity gossip from websites, created a headline not unlike the “TIL” one above. Out came four questions. “What happened to Steelers QB Dwayne Haskins?” (he died), “What were the news of Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck?” (they might get married again), “What happened to Ella Johnson?” (she admitted she’d been cheating), and “What happened to The Real?” (cancelled).

All answers started with a “Hi,” and a newline, following a retelling of the article the questions were taken from. Sounds familiar? Should be. Oh, and the answer of that precise makeup on Quora for the JLo question has 21k upvotes. My answer on Long Covid implications has 12. Not k. Just 12.

Some of those YouTube and SEO forum posts show earnings and views. Newsletter shares to 50 million readers never happened to me. Neither did 1 million views a month. And for sure not a few hundred bucks in revenue.

Not that I could, I am in Cyprus which is one of those countries Quora doesn’t want to monetize. Or that I would. Academia is too monetized as it stands, I do not want or need to contribute to that.

But it paints a picture of Quora today. And it’s more a Hieronymus Bosch one than a Thomas Cole one.

Behind the feed, anti-vax and anti-science questions and answers get huge upvotes. Questions on medical topics are answered by carefully curated stock photos and personal sob stories about evil doctors and emotional and somatic hardships I had to endure. One question about cancer staging has two answers, mine and another physician, an oncologist, both with 12 and 16 upvotes respectively, and a 19.6k answer not answering the question but telling the story about someone dying from a non-stageable cancer.

Misogyny, sexism, racism, harassment, xenophobia, thinly veiled Nazi era glorification, live large on Quora.

That’s not to say Quora doesn’t have a moderation team. It does.

Wheeeee

… because using the f-word on a charlatan calling themselves a physician (they are not) and advertising dangerous and expensive “treatments” to desperate patients, is surely worse than shilling Vitamin D treatments as a substitute for COVID vaccinations (doesn’t work, says science) or posting homophobic and transphobic questions and answers.

Exodus Mikka, Stage Left

So, I think I am done with the site. Usually, I’d just stop going, and let the site be site. But in this case, I am taking the drastic step of engaging the GDPR to have all my content on it deleted. Why?

Because free content can be linked behind paywall Spaces. Quora intentionally did not provide a means for people like me, who will never monetize their content, to prevent others from two-click placing it behind a paywall, making money with my work.

My answers on Quora are the result of now 12 years of writing, thinking, dreaming, researching, arguing, pleading, hoping, and a little despair and cursing. As I leave the site, all this content will benefit someone financially who not now and never before cared about me, the topics I write about, or the people I wrote it for. Some SEO marketer running 50+ Spaces on the site, all monetized, all optimized for a specific target audience.

Quora World Meetup Munich 2019

I don’t begrudge Quora the money. Quora has given me much, this is the least I can do to reciprocate. But monetized Spaces and paywalls are no place for my content. As I leave, I lose my chance at individual intervention in such reshares. Much as I wished for there to just be a switch to make my content non-shareable, my only recourse is this, the path of deletion.

So I will ask Quora to send me an archive of my writing, possibly to move some of the better items here, and then throw the GDPR erasure hammer at my account.


  1. Sámi are the minority population of most of northern Scandinavia. Often referred to, wrongly, as the “native population” or “aboriginal Scandinavians,” the Sámi immigrated around 1200 BC to the area which, then, was already populated by proto-viking tribes pushing up from the south. They were, however, the native tribes of the area around north-western Russia, which leads many researchers to believe, that they were the result of Rus and Ungur relationships, as opposed to their Rus-Germanic co-inhabitants. ↩︎