Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Should I get vaccinated for COVID-19?

Posted in advice, COVID-19, virus by commorancy on December 10, 2020

This is a very good question, but the answer may not be as simple as you think. Let’s explore.

[Updated Aug 1, 2021] This article was written in December of 2020 when the vaccines were first introduced and still new. However, the vaccines have at least proven their safety record. Meaning, taking the shot, even if it doesn’t work as intended (which it likely will), has an infinitesimally low chance of harming you. The point here is that it’s now been long enough to see both the good and bad side effects.

To that effort, there have been some negative side effects associated with the J&J vaccine, including the possibility for blood clotting in some individuals. Moderna and Pfizer’s shots also aren’t free from side effects, including heart inflammation in some younger adults apparently under the age of 29. There’s also the possibility of rare allergic reactions, but that can be said of lots of medications. If you have had allergic reactions to other medicines, including any immunization shots, you should consult with your doctor before having the COVID shot.

Whether the shot is truly and completely effective against all current and future COVID variants is a matter of debate and may depend on how much longer these surges persist. Even the Delta variant seems to be giving the vaccines a challenge. However, it does seem that so long as your vaccination is still in effect and offering you antibodies, if you contract COVID-19, the symptoms should be reduced to much more manageable, less severe levels… thus, keeping you out of the hospital and off of a ventilator. That’s at least a good thing.

With the recent surge of the Delta variant and its associated uptick in cases after the July 4th holiday gatherings (almost as a directly result of these gatherings) coupled with the CDC’s guidelines to drop masking and distancing requirements for those who are vaccinated, this left the remaining 60% of the unvaccinated population fully susceptible to another Pandemic surge and even those susceptible vaccinated people. The CDC’s drop in masking and distancing guidelines was far too premature. It was the CDC’s hubris and unwise decision which has almost directly and irresponsibly led to this uptick in cases of the Delta variant. The CDC’s guidelines dropped just over 1 month prior to July 4th (middle of May). As a result, many people took the CDC’s change in guidelines as a “blessing” that “COVID was over”. Clearly, COVID is not over and it never was. The CDC’s stance should have remained cautious, not exceedingly optimistic. The CDC should always be working towards public health and safety interests, not against it. Hubris doesn’t belong anywhere near the CDC. The CDC should have left its masking guidelines in place until at least holidays, if not longer. Dropping their guidelines immediately prior to one of the biggest summer holidays, as I said, intentionally left the 60% unvaccinated population fully susceptible to COVID-19. So, here we are with surges in every state as of this update.

Worse, the CDC (and other medical professionals) kept espousing an unproven (and now false) assumption that those who have been vaccinated could “rarely” transmit the virus to others. We now know that transmission assumption has been proven false to which the CDC has even admitted, thus forcing the CDC to rethink its masking guidelines in indoor spaces for vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.

Unfortunately, the genie is out of the bottle. State’s leaders who have likewise rolled back their mask mandates, also against public health and safety interests were based, in part, on the CDC’s drop in guidelines. This means that even though the CDC has recently (as of July 27th) walked its guidance backwards and is now, once again, asking ALL people (vaxxed or not) to mask up in indoor public spaces. It’s too late. The CDC should have predicted this outcome before dropping its guidelines. Few are actually masking up now. As I said, the genie is out of the bottle and it doesn’t want to go back in. Worse, the general public is now wary of listening to anyone to mask back up, especially not listening are those who are vaccinated, who feel they are “invincible”. If we want to stop the virus, we have to stop being selfish and mask up. The point in masking isn’t to protect YOU, it’s to protect others FROM YOU. It is a reciprocal arrangement that works so long as everyone wears masks. As long as the vast majority refuse to wear masks, this pandemic will continue unabated…. yes, even eventually working around the vaccines. To stop this pandemic, we must stop the transmission. That can’t happen while people refuse to wear masks.

To those who claim that if we get to 99% vaccination rate that this will all stop, I say, “Let’s wait and see.” That’s, once again, being overly optimistic and offering up unnecessary hubris. It’s clear, this virus is resilient and it wants to propagate. Even were everyone to become vaccinated, I believe this virus would mutate and figure out a way around it, just like the Flu virus does. This is why no one should be touting the vaccine as a magical cure. It isn’t. It’s a stepping stone to getting out of the pandemic, but only if all of the correct pieces also fall into place around the vaccine. Getting us out of the pandemic will require multiple pieces of this health jigsaw puzzle, including best practices, distancing, masking, limiting gatherings and so on…. in addition to the vaccine. The vaccine cannot bring us out of this pandemic alone.

Onto the article…

COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 is clearly the news of the year. It is a virus with an approximate 6% mortality rate for at-risk individuals. What that means is that for every 100 people infected, around 6 people will die from contracting it. That’s a 94% survival rate. While 6% seems low, it’s high when considering the number of people infected so far. By comparison, let’s consider that the Flu’s mortality rate is about 0.1 percent. To see one death to Influenza would take 1000 infections.

Let’s consider that there are around 330 million people in the United States. We’ll go with this number for calculations, but the population of the United States may now be closer to 350 million people as of 2020. Let’s consider that 2% of 330 million is 6.6 million deaths and 6% is 19.8 million deaths. If the range of mortality swings from 2% to 6%, that’s somewhere more than 6 million and less than 20 million dead due to COVID-19 if the majority of the United States population becomes infected. That’s a lot of dead people… way more than from Influenza and colds combined.

COVID-19 was identified by China on December 31st, 2019 to the World Health Organization. However, the virus may have been in circulation as early as mid-November 2019. This means that the virus could have been circulating the globe since late November 2019.

Statistics

As of this article, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of nearly 290,000 people in the United States. Compared against the reported number of infections of 15.5 million, that’s an approximate 1.9% mortality rate. That may seem lower than the 6% high, but that’s partly because hospitals have had time to reduce the mortality rate under their care. It’s also that during the summer into fall, those who tested positive were younger adults whose survival rate is much higher than older adults and those at risk.

Unfortunately, the Spring statistics when the virus first appeared showed the mortality rate much closer to that 6% number than it is today. There are many reasons for this change, but suffice it to say that survival of the virus isn’t going up specifically. It’s that the age (and survival rate) of those infected during the summer have skewed the numbers of dead in a lower direction. Though, medical workers have also had some time to help work through better treatment options which may have had some impact on survival in some cases, including the use of Remdesivir. The only way to know the true mortality rate is for the virus to spread through the entire population of the U.S. before we can really know the survivability statistics.

Vaccination

One other way to alter the survivability is by developing a vaccine that can help our susceptible and fragile human bodies build up immunity to this virus before exposure. To that end, pharmaceutical companies are hard at work fast tracking human vaccines that have been tested (albeit with limited trials) for their effectiveness.

Unfortunately, fast tracking a drug through the United States system is fraught with peril. Most drugs go through years of many clinical trials and FDA approval processes before being allowed to be sold within the United States. This is the way the FDA works. Years of clinical trials ensures that each drug’s side effects are mostly documented and known. Fast tracking a vaccine through the system means that while the efficacy of the drug may be somewhat proven, the long term side effects have not at all been tested. Long term testing of side effects cannot happen when a drug maker has a few months to formulate a product and a few weeks to test it.

Side Effects

What all of this means is that these vaccines may have unintended side effects that could appear weeks, months or even years later. In fact, these long term effects could lead to cancer or any number of other deadly diseases or medical conditions. These vaccines are simply untested and unknown how far or deep these unintended side effects may go.

Sure, it’s great that a rushed vaccine may (or may not) produce an immunity to COVID-19 (we’ll come to this point in another section below), but at the cost of what future medical reality? Do you really want to be the first to jump out of a sinking boat into another sinking boat simply because it looks like it isn’t?

This isn’t saying the COVID-19 vaccines aren’t effective. They may very well be. But, we also don’t know what else may come to those who cannot wait. If you take the vaccine and then a month later develop a nerve disorder, then what? The damage has already been done. You can’t un-vaccinate yourself. Once you take the vaccine, it’s a done deal. The cards fall where they may. If that means that you become debilitated by a separate disease, then you’re stuck with that choice for the rest of your life.

Waiting Game

What I’m stating is that this is a game of wait and see. What I mean is that we’ve waited this long for a vaccine, we can wait a little longer. Being the first person to have that needle stuck in your arm may mean future health problems. We simply don’t know what’s in store with this vaccine.

What I’m advocating is waiting to see how the early adopters fare. Let them be the guinea pigs to inject themselves. Let those early adopters jeopardize their health first. When you’re buying an Apple product, the 1.0 version is always literally the worst version to buy. It’s never ready to go day one. The same exists for this vaccine.

Can it get worse?

After all of the above, it can still get worse. Considering that the vaccines for COVID-19 currently being formulated are explicitly designed to trigger an immune system response, there’s always a danger. First, it could trigger the wrong response in the body. The below documentary describes a clinical trial for an immuno-mucking drug which ultimately led to a Cytokine Storm in almost every trial participant, which in-turn nearly killed every participant in the trial. If the trial had been performed in any place other than in a very large hospital under hospital auspices, the trial may have been lethal.

Second, consider that when taking this vaccine, you’re likely to leave that medical facility the very same day without any further monitoring. You’re going to head home or back to work or out shopping immediately. If your body spirals into a cytokine storm half an hour after taking the vaccine, it could be fatal before you ever reach a hospital. You won’t be at a hospital for them to notice and treat you. Even then, hospital staff aren’t likely to determine that it’s a cytokine storm reaction. Instead, they’re likely to admit you under the guise of COVID-19 and then treat you as if you have COVID-19… that even assumes that with the overcrowding of hospitals to COVID-19, that you can even be admitted and treated. If the hospital misdiagnoses the cytokine storm, it could be fatal. Even respected journals have published theories discussing cytokine storms as a possible outcome from a COVID-19 infection. In fact, it is supposed that many of the deaths from COVID-19 may, in fact, be because of a cytokine storm.

If an adverse reaction occurs after taking a COVID-19 vaccine, the hospitals may not have any beds to treat you. Yet a third reason why it may not be a great idea to take the vaccine during this hospital overcrowding situation. Considering the unknowns surrounding these vaccines, it may be medically wise to consider all options, including waiting to take the vaccine until a time when hospitals are far less crowded.

You don’t want to be first in-line and then end up in the hospital hours later clinging to life because your body’s immune response has overreacted to the vaccine and your organs are shutting down.

Realities, Theories and Promises

It’s always wise to consider all options before you jump into anything that requires poking a needle into your arm. Anything that is something you haven’t taken before is always a risk. These vaccines are particularly at risk because not only were they rushed to market, not only were they not fully clinically trialed, not only does this vaccine muck with immune system responses, not only does it claim efficacy, it may not even work as promised and may have unknown side effects.

The theories surrounding the method of action for these vaccines is that these vaccines are designed to elicit the same immuno-response as COVID-19 in the body. That’s the theory (and the promise). If the formulations are off, if the quality control is suspect, if the manufacturer can’t replicate the vaccine properly, if the vaccine is improperly stored, it can lead to all sorts of complications. This is the reason it’s important to consider all options before being stuck with a needle.

You don’t want to find out that your body rejects the vaccine and now you’re in a life or death struggle. But, that’s an immediate response. What about long term responses? We simply don’t know what those are. The vaccine companies and doctors are espousing exactly how “safe” these vaccines are, but they’re speaking out of turn. In reality, they have no idea how safe or effective these vaccines actually are.

Even if the best case is that the vaccine does exactly what it claims (and there’s a chance it won’t on at least some percentage of the population), it may turn out that the vaccine’s effects only lasts for 3 or 4 months. That’s effectively the same as wearing SPF in the sun where you have to reapply it every 30 minutes. Yes, SPF works, but at the cost of constantly reapplying it. Same for this vaccine. Unless a vaccine lasts for years, it’s not really a vaccine. It’s a drug. If you’re required to re-administer this “drug” every 2 months, that’s not really a useful product. Worse, you’ll end up exposing yourself to this drug every 2 months which increases the risk of short and long term side effects with each dose.

We simply don’t know how long this “vaccine” lasts. Taking this shot every 60 days is really not an option. I’m sure the pharmaceutical companies would love this for money making purposes, but heading to the doctor’s office for constant shots is not an option.

As a result of the rapid testing, there’s no way to know just how long the antibodies will last in the body. We could also find that in just a few months, a new strain of COVID-19 has taken hold, invalidating this “vaccine”. It’s impossible to know much about the effectiveness of this vaccine.

Risks vs Reward

Yet, CNN and other so-called “health correspondents” vigorously advocate the use of the vaccine and completely downplay all of the above concerns.

The risk with this vaccine is that it does nothing to stem the tide of COVID-19 deaths. That taking it was all for naught. We can certainly go through the charade of an ineffective vaccine, but what may come out of it is, at best, little. At worst, even more death.

We have to weigh which is more problematic, COVID-19 or the vaccine itself. I’m sure the pharmaceutical companies have formulated this vaccine with the best of intentions. We know how that proverb goes…

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

that and Murphy’s Law

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong

Rushing to produce anything medical is fraught with unknown consequences. It is these exact unknown consequences that may very well lead us down the road to hell.

Way Down The List?

If you’re way down the list of vaccine recipients, consider yourself lucky. Those who are most at risk will be the ones who will test both Murphy’s Law and this proverb. The difficulty is that it is the front line medical workers and those most at risk earmarked for the first batches of the vaccine.

If the vaccine has consequences which are as yet unknown, complications for our front line workers could turn our hospital systems into ghost towns. If even 10% of the medical workers die as a result of unknown consequences from being vaccinated, that will leave our hospital systems unable to cope with the the mounting COVID-19 illnesses, let alone those who are ill strictly from the vaccines (see next section for more details).

These vaccines are very much an unknown risk. COVID-19 is a risk, but it is known. Which risk is better? I’ll have to let you decide. If you feel the risks of taking the vaccine are being overinflated here, then by all means go have a poke. If you’re cautious about your own body, then you may want to wait until others have jabbed themselves first. Never in the history of never has a vaccine been produced this rapidly. We just can’t know what we don’t know. Only after a first batch of vaccines have been widely disseminated and administered with few ill effects will I personally feel more confident about these vaccine risks.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the vaccine’s efficacy will fare as well as its safety record, however. The vaccine might prove to be safe and not at all risky, but how well (or long) that it is able to fend off COVID-19 has not yet been determined. For the efficacy, we will have to wait at least several months to determine.

Front Line Medical Workers and Vaccination

[Updated: 12/16/2020] Here’s a point that’s highly concerning and I thought needed more detailed discussion. Since the powers that be have decided that the front line medical workers will be the first in line to get the Pfizer vaccine, this could set the United States up for a huge future medical system failure. I can’t sugar coat this next part at all. Should an unknown medical condition rear its ugly head a month after these vaccines have been administered and incapacitate or kill many of these front line medical workers, that could leave our hospitals in a huge problematic state. As I said above, even a 10% reduction in the front line medical workers could devastate our hospital system so much so that they can no longer function.

It’s not like medical schools are ready to graduate 10% more medical students into the system who are “ready to go”. If such a problem grows way beyond 10%, then it’ll become an epic disaster. Any unforeseen problem with these vaccines could quite literally decapitate our hospital system leaving not only a disaster in this vaccine, but thousands of people without the medical care they need just as COVID-19 is ramping up to be the worst medical disaster in recent history.

Basically, if we think COVID-19 is bad now, such a vaccine failure could decimate the United States’s ability to medically handle this escalating pandemic. With such a vaccine failure, it’ll be almost impossible to foresee how much worse it will get with the loss of 10% of our front line medical workers. Let’s not even discuss the devastating blow to investors that will be laid bare on Wall Street. Considering that politicians also want to be first in line, such a vaccine failure could devastate our election and Capital Hill.

Note that the above is not intended to predict anything. In fact, these are suppositions… what if scenarios. We may find that the vaccine is perfectly safe and entirely efficacious. However, considering how rushed-to-market these vaccines are, such a vaccine failure is not at all out of the realm of possibility. In fact, simply because this failure possibility exists, I have to grit my teeth every time I see some random medical doctor on CNN or Fox News or any other news program espousing just how safe and efficacious these vaccines allegedly are. Worse, these alleged “medical professionals” completely downplay the above possibility. Even news networks which have been extremely biased towards specific politicians have completely ignored this possibility.

If I had been in charge over who gets the first vaccine doses, I would not dose every front line medical professional. Instead, I would temper that decision by giving it only to a critically short list. Any hospital professionals who are not directly in contact with COVID-19 patients should wait until we know if the vaccine has any unforeseen consequences. Dosing every front line medical worker could accidentally leave not only hospitals in the lurch, but other critical front line industries severely short on staff, like pharmacies, grocery stores and other critical industry workers.

If we think COVID-19 is bad today, a vaccine failure could take COVID-19 to a whole new level of survival… way beyond the devastation that we presently face today.

↩︎

What’s wrong with Quora?

Posted in botch, business, california, rant by commorancy on July 28, 2019

QuoraYou might be asking, “What is Quora?” We’ll get into that soon enough. Let’s explore the problems with Quora.

Questions and Answers

Before we get into Quora, let’s start by talking about Google. Many people seek answers from Google for many different questions. In fact, questions are the number one use for Google. You don’t go to Google to seek answers you already know. You go there to search (or question) things you don’t know. Such questions might include:

  • Where can I buy a toaster?
  • How long do I bake a chicken?
  • How do I make Quesadillas?
  • What’s the value of my 1974 Pontiac T-Bird?

These are full text questions. And yes, Google does support asking questions in long form such as these above. You can also search Google by using short key words, such as “toastmaster toaster” or “pontiac t-bird” (no, you don’t even need to use the proper case).

These short form questions are solely for use at search engines. When seeking answers to long form questions both Google and other sites can offer responses to your questions. One such site is Quora. Another is Yahoo Answers (a much older platform). Even Google got in on this action with Google Questions and Answers.

Quora

Quora is a recent incarnation of the older Yahoo Answers platform. Even before Yahoo Answers, there was Ask Jeeves. Even Epinions, a product review site (defunct as of 2018), had many answers to many questions. Epinions, in fact, opens a bigger discussion around site closures and content… but that’s a discussion for another article.

The real question (ahem) is whether sites like Yahoo Answers and Quora provide valuable answers or whether they simply usurp Google’s ability to answer questions in more trusted ways. I’m on the fence as to this question’s answer. Let me explain more about Quora to understand why I feel this way.

Quora is a crowdsourced product. By that I mean that both questions and answers are driven by crowds of subscribers. Not by Quora staff or, indeed, Quora at all. Unlike Wikipedia which has many volunteers who constantly proof, correct and improve articles to make Wikipedia a trustworthy information source, Quora offers nothing but the weakest of moderation. In fact, the only moderation Quora offers is both removal of answers and banning of accounts.

Quora has no live people out there reviewing questions and answers for either grammar and mechanics, nor trustworthiness. No one questions whether an answer is valid, useful or indeed even correct. Quora doesn’t even require its answer authors to cite sources or in any way validate what they have written. In fact, Quora’s moderation system is so broken that when answer authors do cite sources, their answer might be flagged and removed as ‘spam’. Yes, the very inclusion of web site links can and will cause answers to be marked as spam and removed from the site. Quora’s insane rationale is that if there’s a web link, it must be pointing to a site owned by the answer author and in which the answer author is attempting to advertise. This stupid and undermining rationale is applied by bots who neither read the content they review nor do they understand that the answer author can’t possibly own Wikipedia.com, Amazon.com or eBay.com.

Indeed, Quora’s moderation is so bare bones basic and broken, it undermines Quora’s own trustworthiness so much so that when you read an answer on Quora, you must always question the answer author’s reputation. Even then, because Quora’s verification and reputation system is non-existent, you can never know if the person is who they say they are. But, this is just the tip of the troubles at Quora.

Quora’s Real Problems

Trustworthiness is something every information site must address. It must address it in concrete and useful ways, ways that subscribers can easily get really fast. Wikipedia has addressed its trust issues by a fleet of moderators who constantly comb Wikipedia and who question every article and every statement in each article. Even with a fleet of moderators, incorrect information can creep in. Within a day or two, that information will either be corrected or removed. Wikipedia has very stringent rules around the addition and verification of information.

Twitter offers a verification system so that celebrities and people of note can send information to Twitter to verify who they say they are to Twitter staff. You’ll notice these as little blue check mark’s by the Twitter subscriber’s name. These check marks validate the person as legitimate and not a fake.

Quora, on the other hand, has no such rules or validation systems at all. In fact, Quora’s terms of service are all primarily designed around “behaving nicely” with no rules around validation of content or of authors. Indeed, Quora offers no terms that address trust or truth of the information provided. Far too many times, authors use Quora as a way of writing fanciful fiction. Worse, Quora does nothing to address this problem. They’re too worried about “spam” links than about whether an answer to a question is valid or trustworthy.

Yet, Quora continually usurps Google’s search by placing its questions (and answers implicitly) at the top of the search results. I question the value in Quora for this. It’s fine if Quora’s answers appear in search towards the bottom of the page, but they should NEVER appear at the number 1 position. This is primarily a Google problem. That Google chooses to promote untrustworthy sites at the top of its search results is something that Google most definitely needs to address. Sure, it is a problem for Quora, but it’s likewise a problem for Google.

Google purports to want to maintain “safety” and “trustworthiness” in its search by not leading you to malicious sites and by, instead, leading you to trustworthy sites. Yet, it plops Quora’s sometimes malicious answers at the top of its search results. Google needs to begin rating sites for trustworthiness and it should then push search results to appropriate levels based on that level of trust. Google needs to insist that sites like Quora, which provide consumers with actionable information, must maintain a certain level of trust to maintain high search rankings. Quora having its question results appear in the top 3 positions of the first page of Google search based entirely on weak trustworthiness is completely problematic.

Wikipedia strives to make its site trustworthy… that what you read is, indeed, valuable, valid and truthful information. Quora, on the other hand, makes absolutely no effort to ensure its answers are valid, trustworthy or, indeed, even truthful. You could ask Google for the answer to a question. You might see Quora’s results at the top of Google’s results and click it. Google placing such sites in the top 3 positions implies an automatic level of trust. That the sites that appear in the first 3 results are there because they ARE trustworthy. This implicit trust is entirely misplaced. Google doesn’t, in fact, place sites in the top of its search because they are trustworthy. It places them there because of “popularity”.

You simply can’t jump to this “trustworthiness” conclusion when viewing Google search results. The only thing you can glean from a site appearing in Google results is that it is not going to infect your computer with a virus. Otherwise, Google places any site at the top of its ranking when Google decides to rank in that position. As I said, you should never read any implicit level of trust into sites which appear in the first 3 positions of Google search. Quora proves this out. Quora’s entire lack of trustworthiness of information means that Google is not, in any way, looking out for your best interests. They are looking out for Quora, not you. Quora’s questions sometimes even rank higher than Wikipedia.

Quora’s Answers

With that said, let’s delve deeper into the problem with Quora’s answers. If you’ve ever written an answer on Quora, then you’ll fully understand what I’m about to say. Quora’s terms of service are, in fact, counter to producing trustworthy answers. Unlike news sites like CNN, The Washington Post and the L.A. Times, where journalistic integrity is the key driving force, Quora ensures none of this. Sure, Quora’s answer editor tool does offer the ability to insert quotes and references, but doing so can easily mark your answer as ‘spam’.

In fact, I’ve had 2 or 3 year old Quora answers marked as ‘spam’ and removed from view because of the inclusion of a link to an external and reputable web site. Quora cites violation of terms for this when, in fact, no such violation exists. The author is then required to spend time appealing this “decision”.

Instead, its bots will remove reviews from its site based entirely upon reports by users. If a user doesn’t like the answer, they can report the review and the review bot will then take the answer down and place it under moderation appeal. There is no manual review by actual Quora staff to check the bot’s work. This work is all done by robots. Robots that can be gamed and sabotaged by irate, irrational, upset users who have a vendetta against other Quorans.

The answer takedowns are never in the interest of trust or making Quora more trustworthy, but are always in the interest of siding with the reporting user who has a vendetta or is simply insane. Users have even learned that they can game Quora’s robots to have answers removed without valid reasons or, indeed, no reasons at all. There’s no check and balance with the moderation robots or takedown requests. Quora receives a report, the answer is summarily removed.

Unfortunately, this is the tip of a much larger Quora iceberg. Let’s continue.

Which is more important, the question or the answer?

All of the above leads to an even bigger problem. Instead of Quora spending its development time attempting to shore up its level of site trust, it instead spends its time creating questionable programs like the Partner Program. A program that, in one idea, sums up everything wrong with Quora.

What is the Partner Program? I’ll get to that in a moment. What the Partner Program ultimately is to Quora is an albatross. Or, more specifically, it will likely become Quora’s downfall. This program solidifies everything I’ve said above and, simultaneously, illustrates Quora’s lack of understanding of its very own platform. Quora doesn’t “get” why a question and answer platform is important.

Which is more important to Quora? They answered this question (ha, see what I did there?) by making the question more important than the answer.

That’s right. The Partner Program rewards people monetarily who ask questions, NOT by rewarding the people who spend the lion’s share of their time writing thoughtful, truthful, trustworthy answers. In effect, Quora has told answer authors that their answers don’t matter. You can write a two sentence answer and it would make no difference. Yes, let’s reward the people who spend 5 minutes writing a 5-10 word sentence… not the people who spend an hour or two crafting trustworthy answers. And this is Quora’s problem in a nutshell.

Worse, it’s not the questions that draw people in to Quora. Yes, the question may be the ‘search terms’, but it’s not why people end up on Quora. The question leads people in, it’s the ANSWER that keeps them there. It’s the answers that people spend their time reading, not the questions.

This is the iceberg that Quora doesn’t get nor do they even understand. The questions are stubs. The questions are merely the arrow pointing the way. It’s not the end, it’s the beginning. The questions are not the reason people visit Quora.

By producing the Partner Program, Quora has flipped the answer authors the proverbial middle finger.finger-512If you’re a Quora answer author, you should definitely consider the Partner Program as insulting. Quora has effectively told the answer authors, “Your answers are worthless. Only questions have monetary value.” Yes, let’s reward the question writers who’ve spent perhaps less than 5 minutes devising a sentence. Let’s completely ignore the answer authors who have spent sometimes hours or days crafting their words, researching those words for clarity and truthfulness and ensuring trust in each detailed answer.

It’s not the questions that draw people in, Quora staff. People visit Quora for the answers. Without thoughtful answers, there is absolutely no reason to visit Quora.

Indeed, Quora’s thinking is completely backasswards, foolish and clownish. It shows just how much a clown outfit Quora really is. Seriously, placing value on the questions at the expense of answer authors who spend hours crafting detailed answers is the very definition of clownish. That situation would be synonymous to The Washington Post or The New York Times valuing and paying readers to leave comments and then asking their journalists to spend their own time and money writing and researching their articles, only to give the article to the newspaper for free. How many journalists would have ever become journalists knowing this business model?

Qlowns

Whomever at Quora dreamed up this clownish idea should be summarily walked to the door. Dissing and dismissing the very lifeblood of your site, the actual question authors, is just intensely one of the most stupid and insane things I’ve seen a site do in its life.

Not only is the very concept of the partner program qlownish, not only does it completely dissuade authors from participating in Quora, not only is it completely backwards thinking, not only does it reward question authors (which honestly makes no sense at all), this program does nothing to establish trust or indeed, does nothing to put forth any journalistic integrity.

Instead, Quora needs to ditch the question Partner Program and fast. It needs to quickly establish a system that not only rewards the best answer authors, it needs to enforce journalistic integrity on EVERY ANSWER. It needs to implement a validation system to ensure that authors are who they say they are. It needs to make certain that every answer author understands that they are in every real sense a ‘journalist’. And, as a journalist, they should uphold journalistic integrity. That integrity means properly researching sources and properly citing those sources. Yes, it’s a hassle, but it means that Quora’s answers will become trustworthy sources of information.

Right now, the answer authors are mostly random and low quality. In fact, most answers are of such low quality that you simply can’t trust anything found on Quora. Since Quora does not enforce any level of journalistic standards on the answers, there is no way anyone reading Quora should trust what any answer author writes. An answer may seem detailed, but in some cases they are pure fiction. No one at Quora ensures that answers in any way uphold any level of journalistic integrity (there’s that phrase again). It’s an important phrase when you’re writing something that people rely on.

Making a statement of fact for something that seems questionable needs to be cited with a source of reference. Show that at least one other reputable source agrees with your “facts”. That doesn’t mean that that “fact” is true. It’s easy for other reputable sites to be fooled by tricksters. This is why it’s important to cite several reputable sources which agree with your facts. I don’t want to dive deep into the topic of journalistic integrity or what it takes to validate sources, so I’ll leave this one here. This article is about Quora’s inability to uphold journalistic integrity.

Quora’s Backward Thinking

Indeed, the Partner Program’s existence confirms that Quora’s site importance is the opposite of journalistic integrity. Quora’s team values only the questions and the question writers. They do not, in any way, value the journalistic integrity required to write a solid, trustworthy answer. Questions are mere tools. They do not at all imply any level of trust. Here’s another analogy that might make more sense.

A question is simply the key to open a lock. A key is a tool and nothing more. You pay for the lock and key together. You don’t pay only for a key. Paying for a key without a lock means you don’t value (or indeed) even need a lock. You can’t lock anything with only a key. The two are a pair and they both go hand-in-hand. If you lose the key, you can’t open the lock. If you lose the lock, they key has no value. However, it’s easier and cheaper to replace a key than it is to replace the lock. This shows you the value of a ‘key’ alone.

Because Quora chooses to place value only the key and not on the lock, they have entirely lost the ability to protect Quora’s reputation and credibility. Indeed, Quora’s credibility was already in jeopardy before the Partner Program was even a twinkle in someone’s eye. With the Partner Program, Quora has solidified its lack of credibility. Quora has officially demonstrated that it is committed to valuing and paying only for keys and never paying for locks to go with those keys. That means the locks will be the weakest, most flimsiest pieces of junk to ever exist… indeed, the locks won’t even exist.

When you’re trying to secure something, you want the strongest, most durable, most rugged, most secure lock you can afford. You don’t care about the key other than as a the means of opening and securing a lock. Sure, you want the key to be durable and rugged, but a key is a key. There’s nothing so magical about a key that you’d be willing the shell out big bucks solely for a key. You always expect a lock and key to go together. You expect to buy both and you expect them both to work as a cohesive whole. If the key fails, the lock is worthless. If the lock is breakable, then the key is worthless. A lock and key are the very definition of a synergistic relationship. In the lock and key relationship, both have equal importance to the relationship. However, the lock itself is viewed by most people as the most important piece. Locks, however, become unimportant if they can’t secure the belongings they are entrusted to protect. Yes, you do need both the key and the lock for the system to function as a whole.

Likewise, Quora needs both the question and answer to function as a cohesive whole. In the synergistic relationship between the question and an answer, neither is more important in this synergy. Of the two, however, like the lock mechanism, the answer is the most important to the end user because it is what imparts the most information to the reader. It is what must be trustworthy. It is what must contain the information needed to answer the question. The question then holds the same functionality as a key. In fact, it is very much considered a key to Google. That’s why they’re called ‘keywords’ or ‘key phrases’. Using the word ‘key’ when in relation to a search engine is intended to be very much synonymous with a real life key you attach to a key ring. A keyword unlocks the data you need.

Valuing both the Lock and Key

Quora needs a rethink. If there’s any value to be held on data, both the key and the lock, or more specifically the question and answer, need to be valued as a cohesive whole. If you value the question, then you must also value the answer(s). This means revenue sharing. The question author will then receive the equivalent % of revenue that each answer author receives based on work involved. Since a sentence might take you 5 minutes to write and requires no trustworthiness at all, the maximum value a question author might receive would be no more than 10%. The remaining 90% of the revenue would be issued to the answer authors based on traffic driven to the site.

Let’s say that $100 in revenue is driven to that Q&A for the first month. $10 is given to the question asker… always 10% of total revenue. That’s probably a little on the high side, but the question asker did kick the whole process off.

Now, let’s say 3 answers are submitted for the question. Let’s assume all 3 answer authors are participating in the revenue program. The remaining $90 is then spread among the 3 answer authors based on total views. Likes might pump up the percentage by a small percentage. If one answer is fully detailed and receives 2.5k views in 30 days and the remaining two answers receive 500 views each, then the 2.5k views answer author would receive at least 72% of the remaining revenue (2.5k + 1k = 3.5k). 2.5k is ~72% of 3.5k. This means this author would receive 72% of the remaining $90 or a total of $65. The remaining $15 would be split between the other two authors. The more participating authors, the less money to go around per answer. Questions that receive perhaps 200 answers might see only a few dollars of revenue per author.

There must also be some guidelines around answers for this to work. Answer authors must be invited to participate in the program. If the answer author isn’t invited and hasn’t agreed to terms, no revenue is shared. Also, one word, one sentence and off-topic answers disqualify the answer from sharing in revenue. Additionally, to remain in the revenue program, the answer author must agree to write solid, on-topic, properly structured, fully researched and cited answers. If an invited author attempts to game the system by producing inappropriate answers to gain revenue, the author will be disqualified from the program with any further ability to participate. Basically, you risk involvement in the revenue sharing by attempting to game it.

This math incentivizes not only quality questions, but also quality answers. The better an answer is, the more views it is likely to receive. More views means more revenue. The better and clearer the answer, the more likely the author is to not only be asked to participate in the revenue sharing program, the more likely they are to receive a higher share of that revenue. The best answers should always be awarded the highest amounts of revenue possible.

Google vs Quora

As I postulated early in the article, does Quora actually hold any value as a site or does it merely usurp Google’s search results? This is a very good question, one that doesn’t have a definitive answer. For me, I find that Quora’s current answers range from occasionally and rarely very high quality to, mostly, junky worthless answers. This junky aspect of Quora leads me towards Quora being a Google usurper. In other words, most of Quora’s results in Google are trash clogging up the search results. They shouldn’t be there.

Unfortunately, Google returns all results in a search whether high or low quality. Google does offer some limited protection mechanisms to prevent malicious sites from appearing in results. But, Google’s definition of the word ‘malicious’ can be different than mine in many cases. Simply because someone can put up a web site with random information doesn’t automatically make that site valuable. Value comes from continually providing high quality information on an ongoing basis… the very definition of professional journalism. Now we’re back to journalistic integrity. We’ve come full circle.

Unfortunately, because of Quora’s lack of insistence on journalistic integrity, I find Quora to be nothing more than a mere novelty… no better than TMZ or the National Enquirer. I’m not saying TMZ doesn’t have journalists. They do. But, a rag is always a rag. Any newspaper dishing dirt on people I always consider the bottom feeders of journalism… the very dreckiest of tabloid journalism. This type of journalism is the kind of trash that has kept the National Enquirer and other tabloids in business for many, many years. It’s sensational journalism at its finest (or worst). Sure, these writers might aspire to be true journalists some day, but they’ll never find reputable journalistic employment dishing dirt on celebrities or fabricating fiction (unless they begin writing fiction novels).

Unfortunately, many of Quora’s answers fall well below even the standards established by the dreckiest of tabloids. The one and only one thing tabloids and Quora have in common is fiction. Unfortunately, the fiction on Quora isn’t even that entertaining. It’s occasionally amusing, but most of it is tedious and cliché at its most common. Think of the worst movie you’ve watched, then realize that most of these Quora fiction “stories” are even less entertaining than that. There may be a few gems here and there (probably written by professional writers simply exercising their chops on Quora), but most of it is not worth reading.

Worse, the trust level of what’s written is so low (regardless of purported “credentials”), there’s nothing on Quora worth extending a level of trust. Reading Quora for sheer entertainment value, perhaps that can be justified a little. Even then, most answers fall way short of having even entertainment value. Even the worst YouTube videos have more entertainment value. Full levels of trust? No way. Quora has in no way earned that.

Seeking Answers

Yes, we all need questions answered, occasionally. We all need to seek advice, occasionally. Yes, I’m even seeking to answer the question, “What’s wrong with Quora?” Of course, don’t expect to read any answers like THIS on Quora. Oh, no no no. Quora is very, very diligent at removing anything it deems to be anti-Quora in sentiment, such at this article. Anyway, if you choose to seek out Quora for this kind of information, Quora’s immediate problems now become your problems. Considering all of the above, Quora is probably one of the worst ways of getting information. Not only can you be easily deceived by an answer author, you can be taken for a ride down Scam Lane. Trust advice from Quora with the same level of skepticism as you would from a 6 year old child. I’m not saying there are 6 year old children on Quora, but Quora certainly acts like one. Seeking Quora for advice means you could, in fact, be taking advice from 13 year old via a Barbie encrusted iPad.

Should I write for Quora?

I’m sure this is the question you are now contemplating after having read this article. This is a question that only you can answer. However, let me leave you with these thoughts. When you write answers for Quora under the current Partner Program, you are doing so for free. Yet, question authors are being paid for YOUR effort, answer and research. You spend the time, THEY get the dime. It’s an entirely unfair arrangement.

To answer this question more definitively… I personally won’t write any future answers for Quora. Quora currently relies on each answer author’s thoughtful, researched answers to make its a success (and bring in ad dollars). If you do not like this turn of events with the Partner Program, say, “NO” and do not write for Quora.

If enough answer authors stop 🛑 writing for Quora, the questions writers can’t and won’t be paid. This will have Quora scrambling for a new fairer equity system. If you are just as disgusted by Quora’s Partner Program as I am, then walk way from Quora and no longer write answers. I have stopped writing answers and will no longer write any further answers for the site until they come to their senses and compensate both question writers and answer authors equally in a profit sharing arrangement.

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Apple Watch: A commentary

Posted in Apple, business, california by commorancy on September 11, 2014

Apple WatchI had not planned to write anything about the newest Apple announcements, but I’ve decided there are few things that need to be said about the Apple Watch. Let’s explore.

Apple Watch

So, this is the one thing that’s on everyone’s mind. I mean, it basically stole the show, but not necessarily in a good way. Why is that? Let’s start by saying that phones are the new watches. Most people don’t need to wear watches any longer because the phone itself suffices for that purpose. I mean, why carry around two different devices each needing their own battery charges when you can carry around one? I think this is where Apple assumes their distortion field is enough to overcome people’s recent aversion to wearing watches.

It’s not like the Apple Watch has reinvented something new. It’s a bloomin’ watch for chrissake. Its most basic feature is to tell time. It’s not like that’s new or revolutionary. It’s all the extra bells and whistles that come along for the ride that make or break the deal. Are those extra bells and whistles worth it? For some maybe yes, for others likely no. I mean, if you don’t need the pulse monitor or step tracker and you don’t really plan to use it as an iPhone controller, then you’re cutting about 60% of its functionality right off the top. For the $349 price tag, that’s quite pricey for a bulky thick watch.

Yeah, it’ll have a music player, but how much storage? We’re not really sure yet. But, if I know Apple, it’ll go out on the cheap and we’ll get 8G or some piddly amount like that. Just enough to hold a tiny music collection, but not enough to really be useful nor is that storage in keeping with a $350 price tag. It might also play movies, but why? Who wants to watch a movie on that tiny watch screen? Not me. That’s why I bought an iPod touch, though I don’t really much like watching moves there either. So that’s why I also bought an iPad.

Watch Failure?

Adoption of this device will be tough for Apple primarily because it will be difficult to retrain so many people to embrace the need for the Apple Watch. I mean, people have done without watches for the last decade just fine. For those people who love to wear watches, though, the Apple Watch might appeal to them. But, at that price tag, it might not. I mean, you’re going to be wearing a $350 device on your wrist in addition to carrying around a $500 valued iPhone. After all, what’s the point in buying this watch unless you have an iPhone? The other problem Apple faces is name brand watches. There is no way Apple will push aside such luxury brands as Rolex, Cartier, Patek Philippe, Tag Heuer or others. For the person looking for a luxury brand, they won’t think twice about looking at their favorite luxury brand. The Apple Watch won’t even factor in other than just having it as a novelty item. I guarantee the red carpet crowd will still show off their Rolex watches and not the Apple Watch when showing off their newest duds waltzing down the red carpet.

However, there will be a core group of Apple early adopters who will invest in this technology from Apple just because it looks cool and is new. After those people are done shelling out the cash, what then? We may find that the Apple Watch fares no better than sales of any other watch brands, which are not doing all that well today (other than the super ritzy brands of which the celebs adore).

Battery Life?

Apple faces a whole new set of problems when introducing this new device. Obviously, the battery will be a big deal clincher for a lot of people. If the battery lasts 3-5 hours, that’s just not enough to be useful or you’ll be yanking that watch off your wrist to charge it up frequently. This would be the absolute kiss of death for this device. No one is going to put that much time and effort into keeping it charged constantly.

Knowing that this device has Bluetooth and possibly WiFi, both of these wireless protocols are absolute battery hogs. There is no way around it. If you have Bluetooth and WiFi enabled, you can say goodbye to any decent amount of battery life on a device.

For example, when I cut off WiFi and cellular data on my iPhone 4s, I can typically get at least 3 days worth of charge out of the battery. With cellular data on, you might get a day at best. With WiFi on, you’ll get a day at best. These wireless protocols are out and out battery killers. For this reason, that’s why it wasn’t on the original square iPod nano. And, the battery on the iPod nano (aka. first gen Apple watch) lasted amazingly long.

Overall

This new Apple Watch itself is bulky, and bulbous. Though, I like some of the features, like the less breakable crystal. But, there are things I don’t like, like the icon vomit on the main screen. It’s easily one of the most ugly eyesores I’ve seen on an Apple device yet. I’m also not sure that Apple can sufficiently overcome this last decade of training people to use mobile phones as watches. Apple even ironically ushered in this trend with the iPhone itself. Now they’re trying to undo this? Good luck. I’ll wait and see just how the sales do on this long term, but I’m not holding out much hope with this first version of the watch.

Perhaps Apple can fix a lot of these problems in the 2G version of the watch. Personally, I’d rather see them do a pocket watch edition. Now that would be more useful. The screen would be bigger, you can hold it in your hand like you do a pocket watch and it has that cool button at the top which could be used for so many things (including opening a flap covering the display like a normal pocket watch). Not to mention, there are many people who collect pocket watches over standard wrist watches. We’ll just have to wait and see how well this all turns out.

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