Not just breaches: Never, ever use Quora


The one part of the explaination of why they don’t allow archiving hits home with me:

“People share a lot of sensitive material on Quora – controversial political views, workplace gossip and compensation, and negative opinions held of companies. Over many years, as they change jobs or change their views, it is important that they can delete or anonymize their previously-written answers.”

I stopped using Slashdot not because it wasn’t relevant anymore…this was one of the first geek forums on the net for folks that are too young to know this…I stopped using it because I couldn’t change my username nor delete old posts. I finally had an admin delete a shit ton on their way out, but there is a lot of things I just don’t want preserved.

Sites that are conversational based should be like similar to conversations – they die after a while and aren’t preserved. I regularly delete old comments on Reddit – and at this point, I’ve started using no less than four accounts because I have levels of WHAT DO I WANT ARCHIVED??? because folks do and will archive these comments.

That said, I ran a popular music site a few years ago. When we left, we decided to delete all the comments and otherwise that we could have sold. Decided not to because I don’t know what the next folks would have done. It wasn’t worth a slight bump in the bank account to do so. Conversations need to have a lifespan.

So, honestly? I don’t give a damn that Quora isn’t backing anything up or allowing anyone else to do so.


As a regular StackOverflow user, I beg to differ. SO has strict standards for the quality of both questions and answers. These standards are backed up with excellent user-based moderation.

Quora isn’t quite as bad as Yahoo Answers, it’s nowhere near the same level of quality as SO/SE.


The etymological fallacy is when you say “if you ask for a panini, that means you want more than one sandwich because the word is plural” – it’s asserting that someone meant something they didn’t, just because of some irrelevant fact about the words they used.

What I was doing was prescriptivism, which is not the same thing. I know what was meant, I’m just being schoolmarmish about how it was said.


Here at Quora, we take your privacy seriously, and won’t sell it for any less than top dollar. You are important to us.


I created an account back when Quora was new. Occasional read some answer but never posted anything. Just deleted my account. I should have grabbed a screenshot. The wording seemed weasily. Something to the effect of if I continue with the deleting, my account information would no longer be accessible. Which is not the same as saying it would be deleted.


I answered several questions on Quora. Quite often, the best answer involved pointing to an authoritative source on the internet.

Quora started flagging my answers saying this was not allowed.

I closed my account an told them to flush whatever was possible out of their system.


The etymological fallacy is asserting that because something once had a meaning, it must still have the same meaning (and only that meaning). Your tsk tsk to @Ian_Sullivan was an assertion that their use of “begs so many questions” was predicated on misapplying the historical logical fallacy meaning of “begging the question” to their post, when they were (correctly) using the contemporary vernacular meaning of the phrase. And yes, you were being prescriptive.


With some exceptions, eg. .

As noted in the Stack Exchange Terms of Service and in the footer of every page, all user contributions are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike.


We have many different ways to say “raise the question”. We have just one way to (concisely) call out the fallacy of petitio principi - which, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, is more commonly used as a dishonest debating/propaganda tactic.

I freely admit that my prescriptivism isn’t all that productive; for instance, I should probably give up on “irregardless”. People are stupid and lazy and the sooner I accept that the happier I’ll be. But “begging the question”, used properly, is a weapon against dishonesty, and I think it’s worth defending.


Disagree. My experience was that it’s incredibly cliqueish and reputation-based with no regard to the quality of the question or the spirit of the field. I went the Chemistry Stack Exchange to ask if anyone could help identify an unusual phenomenon I noticed. Not only was my question closed, but people jeered it as trivial.

Problem: Literally every single person was wrong about the phenomenon. All of their assumptions were wrong. The answer was interesting, and not something you could turn up on a Google search. You still can’t, since the question is closed. My only mistake was being new.


Who ever said that two things cannot both be true? “Begging the question” has a meaning within the context of formal logic, and a separate meaning within common vernacular use. Asserting that the latter is wrong or unacceptable in the context of a lay discussion is a rank colonizing tactic.


But “begging the question” as a logical fallacy isn’t a superseded definition. It still means that. There is a colloquial use that means something else, but even Quora (to keep pedantry relevant to the thread) gives the original and still current meaning first:

The OED and the M-W don’t even list the alternate definition, though they both do, for example, include definitions of “literally” as emphasizing something hyperbolic of metaphorical.

So, not an etymological fallacy.

Of course,Wikipedia and I may be using an old definition of “etymological fallacy.” :wink:


I never said it was superseded. As I wrote:


The etymological fallcy inheres to bobtato’s “correction,” since colloquially the phrase is used as a synonym for “raises the question” (incidentally, despite your appeal to authority, both the Oxford and Merriam-Webster have landed on the modern vernacular use?), and their prescriptive call-out is simply an assertion that the historical (and important formal) meaning is somehow the correct meaning and therefore makes Ian_Sullivan’s use wrong.


Huh. This is a tangent on a tangent on a tangent, but it is really interesting that the Oxford English Dictionary does not list that definition (paywalled, so can’t usefully link), but the Oxford Living Dictionary does.
Apparently, I completely missed it in M-W.

Still, the definition of etymological fallacy you linked to is:

The etymological fallacy is a genetic fallacy that holds that the present-day meaning of a word or phrase should necessarily be similar to its historical meaning

What you are saying is that begging the question has more than one meaning, which is different.

Similarly, I wouldn’t (and you didn’t actually, though I appreciated the suggestiveness of your wording) characterize referring to the OED as an example of the ‘appeal to authority’ fallacy…

You know, I am engaging in this in a spirit of joyfulness and friendliness - I enjoy mutually satisfying pedantry - but I realize I might just be coming across as a tedious ass. So, if I am irritating, my apologies. Not my intention.


This shit. Fuck them and the horse they rode in on forcing me to use their app just to read my goddamn digest.

I finally deleted my account as soon as I got word of the breach. That was just the final straw.


You seem bluntly oblivious to what I’ve said. Conversation over.


Everyone ought to know that you can bypass Quora’s paywall by appending “?share=1” to any of their URLs. You’re welcome.


Web systems tend to be backed with relational databases, wherein your account is related to your posts which are related to other people’s replies which are related to their accounts, and related to topics and metrics records, etc. etc. Punching a hole in that web of relations by deleting something can have unexpected consequences in terms of unexpectedly breaking things in distant parts of the system that can be hard to debug. That sucks both as a user and a developer.

We may be finally reaching a point where people are starting to think about how to handle that when initially designing a system (especially with things like GDPR). But for existing systems, it’s safe to assume that your data probably won’t be deleted, just flagged ‘hidden’ or something, with all the relations left intact so that some other part of the system doesn’t inexplicably break. This is a very good reason to prefer sites that allow pseudonymity, anonymity, and/or throwaway accounts.

For anyone interested here’s an example of a thread where it took most of a decade (8 years) of debate to determine a way to allow users to delete their accounts in one of the most common CMS systems on the web (used by over a million sites): It’s nontrivial. We really should be building these things better, and with that sort of thing in mind, but I wouldn’t expect it for an existing site.


Yes, I know what soft deletes are and why hard deletes can be problematic. I have never actually had the issue you describe on the services I have built but that was due to the nature of the data more than any brilliance on my part. I have used soft deletes in situations where recreating an accidentally deleted account would be difficult or impossible with a process that would clean out accounts after a set time that users were made aware of.

None of those services monetized user data and the push from management was actually to delete PII as soon as possible. But the leak from Quora and how they might use user data in the future made their wording stand out to me.


That’s charitable way to put it. SO is also an incredibly user hostile place because of its often overzealous moderation.