I got an email from one of the founders at the startup where my wife works. The controller at that company and I apparently viewed a question about wealth on quora, this bubbled up to him, and he emailed over this screenshot:
I don’t recall ever setting the permission to allow others to see what I’ve read. The other image here is the setting to turn this off:
What if the question were “How can I cope with newly discovered cancer?”
Or, “Should I come out to my parents?”
Or, “What is the best way to hide an affair?”
Just to state it plainly I don’t care about these questions on Quora. But, that they would tell fairly arbitrary friends about my activity is extremely inappropriate.
The thing is, I know that the more information shared across the network the better for the engagement of users and health of the network. One person’s activity can syndicate to all of their friends, meaning very little actual usage needs to take place for the appearance of activity. The problem is when this syndication doesn’t actually benefit everyone. This is a cynical product decision from a service that I otherwise really love using.
They could instead, for example, use the reading of answers as an implicit vote of confidence, and bubble up the stories without saying who is interested in them. Their newsletters with suggested questions are actually quite excellent. Here I think they need to do a better job.
UPDATE: This got on Hacker News. Hi everyone! I happened to answer a question on Quora today. After turning off this setting, I noticed “9 people have viewed this answer”. Clicking through, it appears you have to syndicate your own reading in order to see the activity of others. This doesn’t make sense to me because the two are unrelated. This is yet another design decision focused entirely on driving users to be more public. Because I want to keep my browsing private (to read more on Quora without hesitation!) I can’t see the default public activity of others. Here is the notification: