I’m a fan of Medium. I believe it will succeed in many areas where Quora has not. I was a big fan of Quora. In fact, I used Quora very regularly for a 9-12 month period and enjoyed posting, answering, and browsing for answers to questions. I still use Quora sometimes when I want an in-depth answer to a tech or business related question, but otherwise it does not have much use to me anymore. Before we get into the main differences, let’s cover the overwhelming similarities of each site’s mission.
First from Medium’s About page:
Medium is based on the belief that the sharing of ideas and experiences is what moves humanity forward. The Internet is the greatest idea-sharing tool ever imagined, but we’ve only scratched the surface of its capabilities.
And now from Quora’s About page:
Quora’s mission is to share and grow the world’s knowledge. Quora is your best source of knowledge. Ask any question, get real answers from people with first hand experience, and blog about what you know.
So it seems both sites are about knowledge being shared from real world experts (who have specific experiences to support their knowledge). Quora only recently added the “blogging” aspect of their site, while Medium has launched as a blogging service based around collections. Quora has collections as well, which they call boards. The similarities can continue, but if you’ve never used either site I hope you get the point.
Why Medium Is Different
Medium is about stories. Quora is about answers. And people love stories. Our favorite way to learn is through stories and narrative. More importantly though (in this situation) is the fact that Google is where the mass majority of the internet using population goes to ask a question. If a Quora answer pops up on the first page of results then we may click, but it will be hard to move users over to Quora to start the asking process. I think Quora has done a fantastic job of bringing in tech, business, and movie related experts—and I really enjoy hearing first hand how they handled certain situations. However, I didn’t feel a connection to many of these users, and the site was dominated by power users popping up on many of the questions.
Medium is built around collections of stories. While these stories are focused on a similar topic, they are not answering a question. It’s more like blogging and less like Wikipedia. Stories that connect to many different collection topics can be cross-posted and found by browsing any of the collections. I have an education bias, but this is where the power of Medium resides.
The “Teaching and Learning” collection on Medium is growing, but it is really being co-created by a multitude of sub-topics that relate to education and are cross-posted (or added) to the “T & L” collection. For any teacher browsing the main collection this can take them to follow their specific interest in education. For example, the “20% Time” collection on Medium has a few posts that are all cross-posted to “T & L”. Now other educators can find our collection by browsing the main “T & L”. There aren’t any posts that give an “answer” for 20% Time, but instead share a story. These stories help inspire, motivate, and persuade other teachers to take action.
If they only found answers in the collection they may miss the real point: a call to action.
A Final Point
When I first started using Quora it was a bit intimidating. The up/down voting of answers and the moderation were real parts of the service. I tried to get my students on the site for a research project, but many did not want to contribute, and instead chose to continue being a “watcher”. After I got used to Quora a bit, it was fun…but a took a while to get to that point. Most of us don’t have that kind of patience or persistence to try something new. Thus, I believe many younger people who I’ve told about Quora never became active users and contributors because they felt their voice was not “expert” enough.
Medium is closed right now, and only available by invitation (Quora and many other sites started this way) but once I was able to post I started immediately. Everyone has an experience to share. Everyone has a story to tell. Medium makes it easy and painless to both browse and post. The design is friendly and clean. I would have no problem sending students or friends to Medium telling them to post immediately.
I know Quora has a great amount of knowledge available on the site, and it seems they have been making changes to include many other experts and topics. However, I believe Medium will succeed because it is about shared experiences not shared answers. Here’s hoping both help move humanity forward.