The Post Quora, Inc. Doesn’t Want You to Read: My Short Experiment With Monetization is Over

Quora is addictive. There are a lot of great things about it. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of awful things about it. The awful things cause me to want to stop writing there. Occasionally, something good happens that makes me want to come back. And then something awful happens again.

Quora’s central problem is that the main page feed is based on a buggy algorithm that mostly shows the users random posts and not posts on topics they actually ask for. Pretty much all the other problems derive from that. Many writers have been complaining about this since 2018. Unfortunately, the Quora staff refuses to acknowledge this problem, and keeps saying that the feed is excellent and that it is Quora’s unique advantage that makes it better than its competitors, such as Substack, Medium, or Reddit. The problem described here is related to it, too.

In the summer of 2021, Quora announced the monetization program. It even made me one of the first people to be able to participate in it. I tried it, and decided to stop. Here’s the post that explains why. I published it in Quora’s official Writer’s Feedback space. After several hours, the moderation hid it.

Yes, it criticizes Quora. That’s what happens occasionally when you welcome feedback. I don’t think I violated any written rules, but it was hidden anyway. If for some reason it interests you, read and decide for yourself.

When the monetization was announced, I was cautiously optimistic about it. For a year, since June 2020, it was possible to get paid only for managing Spaces and not for writing answers or even Space posts, so making it possible to get paid for answers was an improvement. It was a matter of fairness; I never planned to actually earn even a penny from it. I know I’m not popular enough for that, and I don’t plan to do anything to become popular. I’m here to ask and answer questions on relatively niche topics.

Nevertheless, just for the fun of it, I monetized a few answers I wrote over the years. Mostly answers that I am not too proud of, such as not-actually-funny jokes that got too many upvotes. My thinking was that despite the thousands of upvotes, it’s unlikely that I’ll actually get paid for it, but at least it will reduce the number of people who read and upvote that nonsense I wrote once. I could, of course, delete or mute these answers, but monetizing looked like a funnier solution. Maybe I should stop trying to be funny.

Anyway, a few days ago Quora+ was fully launched and I started seeing paywalled answers in the feed. The paywalled answers are just like almost everything else on my feed: written by people that I don’t follow, about topics that I don’t follow, and generally looking like something that I wouldn’t want to read even for free, let alone pay for. I’m not saying that these answers are bad, or that their writers don’t deserve payment. They just don’t interest me. So I muted most of these writers.

I have to reiterate: the problem is not the money. The problem is relevance. I pay for New York Times, Spotify, and some other podcasts and blogs, and I can afford paying 50 U.S. dollars more per year. I just have no reason to pay to read things that don’t interest me.

And I’m hearing from a lot of Quorans here and there, in answers, posts, and comments that they are muting all the writers of paywalled answers that they see on their feed. So it’s not just me.

Since this looks like a certain way to get muted by a lot of users, why would I want to monetize anything? So I went back and removed the monetization from the few answers where I enabled it.

Again, I’m not saying monetization can’t work in principle. It possibly can. But I’m not convinced that this “adaptive paywall” thingie does anything useful, and it makes me think that I’m much more likely to get muted than to get paid.

Here’s an idea: Want to get me to pay for subscription and to think that monetization is worth the risk of losing some readers? Try showing me more paywalled answers from topics and writers I follow in the feed. I literally told you I’m interested in them by following them. If I see that, I may consider monetizing again.