On Quora

How do you waste your time online?

I used to blog quite a bit, and spend a lot of time on Facebook. As you may have noticed, I am now much less active on Facebook, and my blog posts are fewer and further between.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t waste time online anymore (ha!), but I’ve found quite possibly the most productive way to waste time – on Quora!

If you haven’t already heard, Quora is essentially Yahoo Answers done right. It’s a site where people post questions, and others answer them.

The main difference between Quora and all other Q&A sites is that, Quora, for some reason, seems to attract very high quality content, unlike Yahoo Answers and Reddit (when used for Q&A). It’s either that low quality content don’t get posted, or that their machine learning systems are better than other sites’ at filtering out low quality content.

I spend about an hour on Quora everyday now for my daily doses of random knowledge. I used to read Wikipedia for that, but Quora is a little more social, and the content tend to be more casually-readable.

On Quora, your feed is personalized by “following” either people or topics. Following people means their content will show up in your feed more often (usually answers), and following topics means you get mostly unanswered questions in those topics. If you follow the right people, after a while, more or less everything on your feed will be interesting.

IMHO, the best thing about Quora and what sets it apart is the fact that many active users are experts in what they write answers on. This could mean professors (there are many), seasoned industry veterans, lawyers, doctors, or people who have their own restaurants (making them experts at running restaurants).

If you are getting started on Quora and have similar interests to mine, here are some of the people I follow. Maybe you’ll find some of them interesting, too? By the way, if you want to see their answers instead of all activities, click the “answers” link on the left.

Eva Kor – “Holocaust survivor and forgiveness advocate”. She was a child during the Holocaust, and was subject to medical experiments by Josef Mengele. Lot’s of very touching content on the Holocaust, Nazies, and forgiveness. Why did Eva Kor shake hands with a former Auschwitz guard?

Jimmy Wales – Founder of Wikipedia. He is actually a very active Quora user, and answers many question on the philosophies as well as day to day operations of Wikipedia (and Wikimedia Foundation).

Clayton Anderson – ex-NASA ISS Astronaut. Lots of answers on how ISS works, daily life on ISS, orbital mechanics, etc. Also, cool pictures :). What would happen to astronauts if they got detached from the ISS during EVA? Would they fall back to Earth or drift away into space?

Adriana Heguy – Professor of Pathology and genomics researcher at NYU. Answers on genomics and evolutionary biology, and biology in general. Given that eyes appear to have evolved multiple times independently through evolution, why has human-level intelligence not evolved more than once?

Robert Frost – NASA instructor. He trains astronauts! More space and ISS stuff.

Brian Bi – Competitive programmer and software engineer. And physicist. Lots of answers on C++.

Viola Yee – Generally awesome person :). I have no idea what she does for a living, but she writes a lot of good answers on a lot of different things. Mostly things to do with animals and plants. Is extracting wool harmful for sheep?

Emma Homes – Australian flight instructor. Answers on aviation, parenting, and pregnancies.

Yoshua Bengio – If you do any machine learning, he probably doesn’t need any introduction. He is one of the pioneers in deep learning. Answers on deep learning, big data, life in academia, etc.

Sergey Zubkov – Living and breathing C++ standard. He knows just about everything about C++.

You can, of course, follow me as well, and I’d be incredibly honoured :). Most of my answers are in machine learning (especially deep learning and neural nets), electronics design, CS, and aviation. I also occasionally answer questions on martial arts, chess, viola/violin, scuba diving, and a few other things.

Happy Quora-ing!