Ask a Celebrity Geek

By Lyons, Daniel | Newsweek, February 7, 2011 | Go to article overview

Ask a Celebrity Geek


Lyons, Daniel, Newsweek


Byline: Daniel Lyons

Quora is the new site where you can interrogate Mark Cuban--and Ashton Kutcher.

For people who already have their hands full keeping up with Facebook, scanning Twitter tweets, and answering email too, here's a heads up. The cool kids and big egos of Silicon Valley are busy colonizing a new social network--and soon you may want to as well.

It's called Quora, and the basic idea is that you can post questions and others will answer them. What makes Quora noteworthy is the surge of boldfaced names holding court there: tech mogul turned sports mogul Mark Cuban; Steve Case, the founder of AOL; and Netscape founder Marc Andreessen, to name a few. You'll find noted Twitter addict and actor Ashton Kutcher there too.

The chance to interact with big shots is drawing scads of aspiring entrepreneurs to Quora, along with venture capitalists and other Valley players. They're using the site as a place to network--and to show off. Answer questions on Quora and you can buff (or create) your reputation as an expert. Especially in Silicon Valley, the appetite for such preening seems insatiable. (Case, asked on Quora why he participates, writes: "I share the view that to whom much is given, much is expected .?.?. Plus, I am a sponge for knowledge, and I recognize that I too can learn from participating.")

Until recently Quora was used mostly by Valley insiders. A lot of the questions have to do with tech startups, like, "How will Bnter monetize?" and "How did Jack Dorsey, Ev Williams and Biz Stone split up the equity on Twitter when they restructured Twitter (post-Odeo)?" (Go look up the answer if you really need to know.) Josh McFarland, CEO of a venture-backed Internet startup called TellApart, says he visits Quora every day to keep up on topics like machine learning. He says it's also a great recruiting tool. "You can very quickly get a sense of who is interested in a topic, and whether they get it or not," McFarland says.

But as Quora grows, questions are veering into the mainstream. "What's the best hotel in Madrid?" "Where can I look for the cheapest airline tickets? …

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