Quora.com is a social media website that “crowdsources” knowledge and content from its users on various topics. Its entry into the database of user-inputted data is through a search box at the top of the page where the user can browse topics by using keyword and/or phrase search methods to find the desired topic. From there, the user can further explore their topic through a results lists ranked by relevancy and lots of hyperlinks peppered throughout the search list.
What’s so interesting about Quora.com is that it’s authority control/controlled vocabulary is largely left to the user. You create the topic, or add a new question within an applicable topic and from there have the ability to do some series “authority” control by way of the “Manage” button listed below the topic title. Similar to including additional MARC fields on a record that may be searched by more than one name, under this section, users can add “Topic Aliases” to help make it easier for users to search under misspelled words (ie. “Quora” and “Qoura”), close-to words, and other names that a particular topic may go by.
Now the great thing about this feature is that users are able to create topics, topic aliases, descriptions, add geolocation info, merge topics, and delete topics. Now the not-so-great thing about this feature is that users are able to create topics, topic aliases, descriptions, add geolocation info, merge topics, and delete topics. Did you see what I did there? Exactly, many dilemmas can come up with this model including, bias, false information, and even self-promotion as in the Social Media topic page where someone tried to advertise within the actual definition of the phrase “Social Media” that can be discovered when you select the “Manage” link (this was later removed by another “authority control” savvy user):
Quora.com is only as controlled as its users let it be. It does give a good bit of democratic control to the masses and has surprisingly an objective model for controlled vocabulary, because as much as someone wants to screw with the topic page, there is another gallant user who wants to correct it. Call it “user-enabled equilibrium”. In addition, when topics are answered the most relevant and credible do make their way to the top of the results list, that again is do to a crowdsourced voting system, which is a whole other story.
And just for a little “meta” amusement…you may need to log in to view the links, but here is Quora topic page on the Quora.com site, and users can manipulate the aforementioned fields within the Quora topic page under the “Manage” section or look at the innards of all that is Quora by searching it’s page, viewing its policies, as well as, see what’s trending about Quora on Quora and even ask Quora a question about Quora on the Quora website. Pretty neat, huh?
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