I'm Phil Jones.
If you are reading this, you probably know me from Quora where I spent over 10 years writing more than 11,000 answers.
I'm writing this page because I will soon be gone from Quora.
I've not been thrown out. Nor am I leaving with any great bitterness. Over the years I've found Quora informative, stimulating and the community there about as great as can be expected on the internet today. It's a good site. And frankly, it's treated me perfectly well.
But I am a Quora addict. And I have not been able to control my use of the site.
I found myself this week surveying what I'd achieved there. There are some great answers. Where questions and discussions had stimulated me to come up with some wonderful innovative ideas and suggestions.
But as I re-read them, admiring my own rhetoric and insight, I also saw so many seeds that could have grown into something much bigger. Ideas for software, or essays or research papers or startups or books or social movements that I thought I might develop further. But never did.
And more than that, so many long (sometimes essay-length) disquisitions on political figures and situations that are already irrelevant and receding into history. A comment which took me hours to write, to try to persuade a single person to change their mind on an issue which they were never likely to.
I have given thousands (if not tens of thousands) of hours to writing on Quora. Far more than the 11,000 answers, there are over 5000 draft answers, many of which are already long, just not published because they lacked a final polish. And long comment-thread arguments that hardly anyone reads.
I had people following me. And readers. And upvotes. I've been a "Top Writer" a couple of times.
But in the final, cold-blooded reckoning, the amount of work I have done on Quora hasn't paid off. Not financially. Not in terms of social media "attention" or acclaim or "clout". Not in terms of "personal growth".
When I started writing on Quora I had just turned 40. I'm now over 50. And in some ways, my Quora contribution has been my biggest project / "achievement" over the last decade.
And I don't regard that as "nothing". I am proud of some of it. But it's not "cumulative". It doesn't grow into anything more. Initially there's a good cost/benefit. A quick hit of satisfaction. For an hour of writing, I might come up with some great ideas and get several upvotes or interesting comments.
But over the years I find myself rewriting the same answers, almost word for word, refining and updating the idea. Yes, the idea gets better (but diminishingly so each time the question comes around). But writing Quora answers is not like writing a chapter in a book where 10 or 20 add up to something more substantial. I grabbed a couple of hundred of my computer science answers at one point and made a "book" from them. And it was obviously less than the sum of its parts.
In the last 10 years, my friends have written books, built academic careers, made films, and had other achievements. I've accumulated a stack of Quora answers. It's not nothing. But I look at it and I think it's not as much as I could have done with my time and talents and energies.
I have made more money from writing one magazine article in the last 10 years than I made writing 11,000 Quora answers. It should be obvious that money isn't my primary objective here, but it is worth noting. And what I think is more important is that I have that article in my portfolio. Few of my Quora answers really stand alone as something I can put in a portfolio.
Of course I have known all this for several years. I've resolved to treat Quora only as a stimulant to creativity, to launch ideas that I then take and develop elsewhere.
But the truth is ... I can sit down one morning, go into Quora "to quickly check notifications" and find that the best part of the day has been wasted there. And maybe half the answers I started didn't even get finished enough to publish them. I have spent days on fruitless political arguments. Or explaining generic programming concepts that are equally well explained all over the web.
The truth is, I am an addict. And I can't control myself on Quora.
So I have to leave.
And I have to make the next decade of my life count. I have to use what time and talent and energy I have to making something more substantial rather than just squandering it on a few thousand more answers.
I want to focus more on my music, which I was embarrassed about for many years, but am increasingly proud of and want more people to hear.
I want to resuscitate my old wiki / "digital garden" and turn it into something that holds my best thoughts (including those that came out of Quora) in a way which is more accessible and more coherent and self contained.
I want to develop my software for managing this wiki / knowledge. And build it into the writing / publishing tool that I really need.
And finish so many other unfinished projects.
I want to explore new things, read more, and learn more about things I don't know. Not just pontificate about things I think I do. Perhaps even get out of my comfort zone.
I guess I even need to take more exercise.
I can't just do another decade of Quora.
I am in two minds whether I will deactivate my Quora account or delete it altogether. It seems a shame to destroy my legacy on Quora (and deprive everyone of my wisdom) by deleting the account and removing the content altogether. I'd rather leave the content there. But merely "deactivating" might not be enough. It's too easy to reactivate the account. And as an addict, I must not do that. So that is a decision I'm still thinking about.
However, I have managed to rescue my content from Quora so it will not be lost from the internet altogether.
Either is OK, but both is better. Quora's own export (due to the GDPR) gives you more information (about drafts and comments and upvotes and shares etc.) but the output format is pretty terrible if you want to reuse your content. I suspect Quora try to deliberately make this as useless as possible. They give you an HTML page full of your answers that doesn't even include links back to those answers (or the original question) on Quora. That just looks gratuitous to me.
QuArk gives you the results in a sensible HTML page, with links etc. But can't give you your drafts or other comments etc. And is unreliable at scale. With 11000 answers it times out and fails a lot. But the final time I tried it yesterday, it worked. (Possibly because this machine has more memory than my older machines)
And so that's it. I'm going.
If for any reason you like what I did on Quora, and want to follow what I do next / elsewhere, this is the definitive page to find out where I am.
At the moment ...
My intention is to keep the better, more useful part of my Quora writing on the web. I will start to extract what is good about it, and incorporate that firstly into the ThoughtStorms wiki. And then maybe reorganize some of it in other more accessible formats. However, as a very first, rough solution, I am simply putting the entire QuArk export of my answers online. Here.
If you liked my computer science and programming content on Quora, Smart Disorganized is my programming oriented blog. It's mainly focused on thinking about programming languages, particularly Clojure and other FP or logic languages. And wikis, and other personal knowledge management / digital gardening / "getting things done" type tools. It talks about my own software. And the languages, tools I'm playing with.
If you liked my musical writing and the stuff from "Phil's Music Rants" ... I have some plans to try to create a new space for thinking, writing about music. Until then my old Composing blog has some of that among other things. It's a bit abandoned, and like I say, I am rethinking what I do in this area. Meanwhile, if you want to know about my own musical compositions, my experimental net-label or mixes, the best place to find that at the moment is my music focused home Synaesmedia
Finally, if you liked my political ranting ... well, I'm trying to cut down, because more than anything else, I realize this kind of content goes out of date fast. And the stuff that's about deeper principles often gets bogged down in argument. I'm on Twitter where I get sucked into even more pointless political arguing and forwarding. ThoughtStorms has some Political Stuff which reflects some of my thinking. Although a lot of it is about 10 - 15 years out of date. I'll be moving what I consider my better, longer-lived political Quora writing into ThoughtStorms
Er ... that's it. Love you all. But I'm outta here.
-- Phil Jones, 2021