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Quest for knowledge

What are the most important unanswered questions on Quora?

For a site whose goal is to share knowledge, Quora has a considerable amount of questions that go unanswered.

“What happened to Steve Jobs’ office at Apple?” or “What was it like to work at the CIA in September 2001?” or even “What does Jack Dorsey tell all new Square employees on his ‘Gandhi Walk’?” sit orphaned, week after week on the community-based question and answer site. Quora depends on the community to edit and fact-check answers, by voting them up or down—and by posting them to a board of highly-regarded questions with factual errors.

Even one query: “What are the most important unanswered questions on Quora?” has not been filled in. Approximately 20% of the questions users pose on Quora remain unanswered, but the number with answers has been “trending up for a while,” said Marc Bodnick, who leads Quora’s business and community teams.

Bodnick told Quartz: “Our goal for every single question page on Quora is to be the best resource page on the internet on that question.” Bodnick himself has answered 3,850 questions on Quora—including quite a few about himself. He’s a former Blackstone Partners and Elevation Partners partner, where he spurred investment in many tech and consumer startups.

Many answers come from CEOs, entrepreneurs, actors and other well-known people including Steve Case, the co-founder of AOL, Wikipedia founder Jimmy WalesThe Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence, and Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

But Bodnick made it clear Quora won’t just create games or promotions to draw answers quickly. “Then those pages would suck,” he said, “like many of the other Q&A sites.”

Instead, the company has added features like Ask to Answer, where various experts bios show up next to inquiries and users can encourage them to respond. “We’ve been working to make Ask to Answer suggestions better and better,” with improved suggestion algorithms Bodnick said. But, he noted: “Speed is as important as quality in some situations.” So a year ago, it added the Online Now feature to assist people with time-pressing questions like what to do if you smell gas near your home. This shows up only in the Answer Now section.

So why are some inquiries left alone? “Some questions are unanswerable or very hard to answer,” said Bodnick, adding others may be badly stated or duplicates of others. Quora administrators use 24 different “needs improvement tags” for questions that aren’t ready to be shared or do not meet Quora’s guidelines. Many are edited and reposted.

Slowly, though, answers trickle in. These questions had no answers when I first looked over month ago but do now: “How has Airbnb approached customer acquisition to date?” and “How much are Zynga, Twitter, LinkedIn and Yelp offering to new employees” in RSUs, or restricted stock?

The question about Steve Jobs’ office has 17 answers—all of them humor or guesses—but nothing substantial. Apple did not respond to our inquiry about it. Neither will Square disclose what founder Jack Dorsey tells new employee on a walk through San Francisco about the “Four Corners of Square,” another popular question, though unanswered in one place on Quora has an anonymous answer elsewhere on the site.

Quora loyalists may be more interested in an authoritative answer to this question, unanswered after two months:  What does it take to get a maximum possible query response within 24 hours (or at all)?

Follow Vickie Elmer on Twitter @WorkingKind. We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com.

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