What can Quora do for an Adventurer?

Banner photo: Tam McTavish on the Fuhrmann Ledges, a route giving access to the Abbot Hutt above Lake Louise via the flanks of Mt Lefroy. (Alberta, Canada.)

The Big Five - Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, your blog / email list - are not the only places on the web where you can build a following. Other possibilities include sites like Quora, Reddit and Medium. 

What is Quora and what can it do for you?

Quora is a website where users post questions via Threads and other Quora users answer them – it’s essentially Yahoo Answers and an Internet forum rolled into a social network," says Ryan Stewart on Webris. It’s been open to the public since 2010 and reports having “over 200 million monthly unique visitors.”

How does it work?

Both question threads and the answers that users give can receive upvotes from other users. The answers with the most upvotes rise to the top of the thread. Users fill in a bio, which includes selecting your areas of expertise and listing your credentials for that expertise. You can follow other users who you find interesting and request answers from specific users to your questions.  

As an general interest user, Quora can be a good place to ask strange questions, both to get new answers and to see what answers have been offered to similar questions in the past. This question - How do people travel around the world if they're not rich? - received over a hundred answers, full of interesting tips. Over 1,000 users signed up to follow the question thread and the thread has received over 1 million views. 

What can you get from Quora besides answers?

1. Followers - difficult to directly influence them

You can build up a follower base on Quora - the most followed accounts have between 100k and 300k followers. However these users are almost all in the silicon valley / tech / startup space. Quora followers can’t be easily engaged the way your Twitter/Instagram/Facebook/YouTube followers can. 

2. SEO - links are nofollow

While you can put links in your bio, and in your answers, links from Quora are no-follow. That means it contains an instruction to search engines bots that a hyperlink should not influence the target website’s ranking in the search engine’s index. (For an explanation of nofollow links, go here.)  Humans can follow the link but your Quora activity will not boost the SEO of your linked website. 

3. Establish your authority in your field

Apart from being a good source of answers, the best use of Quora for Adventurers is in the category of “Bloggers that want to establish themselves as an authority in their subject matter”. Will Robins in Search Engine Journal  contends that “Quora is a long-term traffic strategy.”

If you have an area of expertise in the adventure space, you want to spread the word about that expertise, and you like writing, then answering questions on Quora could be worth investigating. 

Resources about using Quora from the wider web:  

Tam McTavish strip2.jpg

Why and How Tam McTavish uses Quora 

I tracked down one of the most prolific providers of answers in the outdoor adventure space and asked him what he gets out of it. (Answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.) As of September 2017 Tam had 755 followers. He had provided 1,232 answers and had 1.2m answer views. 

Who are you?
I’m Tam McTavish, a Canadian living in Vancouver. I like being outside. 

What has your career path in adventure been?
I’ve worked in outdoor retail for many years, and spent a year working for a small bespoke IFMGA guiding services in the Canadian Rockies. I currently work as a product specialist for a outdoor retailer in their head office. 

What kind of outdoor / adventure sports do you do?
Mountaineering is my biggest enjoyment, but it’s tough to get the partners and time for big projects, so I trail run, scramble, hike, and ski mountaineer and tour. I used to do a lot more rock and ice climbing but I’ve been really more interested in less technical endurance pursuits of late.
In the future I’d really love to get to a level of fitness where I can combine running and mountaineering. I’d also like to get into Paragliding as Vol Biv, Speedflying, and Para-mountaineering just seem like the most fun in the world.

You seem to be on Quora almost every single day - How often do you visit?
I have the mobile phone app. I actually deleted it because I was on too often. I really enjoy reading the answers, and writing my own. It’s a fun way to pass commutes on buses, or lulls in work when I’ve been working in an office. 
I first got on Quora looking for climbing advice. I never found much useful info, but I stayed for the insights into international politics, sciences and economics. I also started getting asked to give answers. It became habit of sorts. 

Why do you like the site so much?
I admit I’ve been finding it less and less appealing these days. It used to be a lot more thoughtful. The answers were insightful and offered a new perspective. People used to up vote for quality. Now it’s just a competition for whose answers are more popular.
It used to be just people discussing the experiences they themselves had. I would never have written about subjects like Everest in the past. Partially because I had a lot less knowledge, but equally because I felt that Quora was about sharing your experiences, not those of others. 
I still love Quora as a platform to create knowledge, and while I don’t consider it a part of my life, it’s bizarre realising that the amount of time I’ve invested in it says something else entirely. 

You’ve currently given 1232 answers. What do you get from providing answers? 
I miss writing, but I’m bad at creating things from scratch. I appreciate a question. It just has so much potential. I enjoy sharing what knowledge, and sometimes what opinions I have.

Tam McTavish heading up the Granddaddy Couloir.

Tam McTavish heading up the Granddaddy Couloir.

How much time do you spend reading other answers compared with providing your own?
Probably about 30/80 - I read quite a few answers a day. But writing answers takes a lot more time. 

Is Quora a site where anybody cares about follower numbers? Are there tricks involved in trying to increase follower numbers? 
I don’t really check in with any one else. I’ve never asked. I think you can probably inflate your numbers like any other social media platform. Appeal to growing demographics. Talking about how great Elon Musk, and Start Ups are seems to be the way to success on Quora. 

Which kind of answers lead to you getting a lot of upvotes? 
Everest. Pretty much anytime I write about Everest and am not wholly negative it gets a lot of attention, especially with the increase in Quora’s popularity in India. 

You do spend a lot of time answering questions about Everest - what looks like the same sort of questions over and over again. And it’s clear you don’t think much of the fascination with Everest ascents among many Quora users. Why do you keep answering? 
“I’m on a mission to civilise” - Will MacAvoy (Aaron Sorkin). A big part is people ask. I feel a little bad saying no. I don’t know why. So I answer.  I guess I keep hoping I’ll get through to people that there is more to climbing than altitude. That the most expensive climbs isn’t necessarily the best, and that pursue a love of mountains rarely is a pursuit of the world’s largest peak. 
But to expand on that, I’m guilty of being fascinated by the mountain as well, though I am more interested in the new routes, the history, and the cultural debates and controversies that swirl around it.

As a guess, what proportion of those 1232 answers were about Everest? 
Too many? Haha, apparently about 200. 

What do you find the most interesting questions to answer?
Genuine climbing questions and gear questions. Especially when it requires a bit of research. 
I think my favourite answer is one I wrote about a hypothetical war between the UK and Canada. I did a lot of research, and I am familiar with both cultures and countries. I thought it was a fun thought exercise, and I’m still amused at some of the jingoistic responses it elicited.. 

What frustrates you about Quora and the users?
I dislike the direction it’s taken in regards to being less about experiences and more about opinions. It’s become prone to startup culture. There often seems to an obsession with success and wealth, more than creation and ideas.

What are the key ideas that you are trying to promote through your Quora answers? 
I want people to be better informed. Do it safely. Doing it safely is easy, but you do have to plan, and be considerate. 

Who do you admire in the adventure space and why? 

  • Brendan Leonard of Semi Rad for reminding me what an asshole I can be, and showing me a better way as well as constant inspiration. 
  • Will Gadd for his honesty, and directness, as well as his excellent writings
  • Kilian Jornet for always being an inspiration
  • John Price - honest, kindness and generosity
  • Adam Campbell - overcoming what he has, and continuing to follow his passions. It’s pretty cool. He also writes well, and honestly, admiring mistakes and showing how one can learn from them. 

You can follow Tam's mountain activities on Instagram @tammctavish or ask him a question (preferably not about Everest) on Quora

Tam McTavish strip.jpg