I don't think TechCrunch's M.G. Siegler cares about location in the same way I do. Maybe it's because he lives in the heart of the tech scene of San Francisco; which is both the center of the world and a kind of history-less-nowhere. It's more fun to know where you are and what has happened there before when you're not in a place that's all about planned obsolescence.
Either way, Siegler was told by the startup Quora today that Topics (collections of questions and answers on Quora) will soon have locations associated with them. (The feature is live now.) He makes a case that it's a bigger deal than it might seem, but the way he explains it makes me wonder whether he was even able to convince himself. I'll tell you why adding location data to Quora could be a big deal. I think it's because of the pseudo-secret Quora iPhone app that's about to launch.
Above: The Quora map of Portland, Oregon - where tech bloggers come from to challenge other tech bloggers who seem like they want to retire. ;)
To be honest, I think location is going to need to be rolled out to a broader range of topics than it is today on Quora and probably to individual questions too before it proves as useful as it ought to.
How to Hold a Map Upside Down & Backwards
Siegler says that dropping a pin on a map to associate a Quora Topic with a place means that people looking at the Quora page for the Topic will know what place the content is related to. I don't think that's terribly interesting, myself.
He then mentions something brief about mobile phones making location more relevant ("The company notes that as more people use the service from their mobile phones, location-based questions and answers are increasingly important.") and concludes with a line about how if you were planning a vacation someplace, you could use Quora to find unique and interesting information about the place you're going to go.
Sure. Undoubtedly a few people will appreciate the opportunity to look at a topic page on Quora.com about the Taj Mahal and say "well I'll be darned, there it is on a map." And udoubtedly some people will take a detour past quora when planning a vacation. Not very many though and if I were Quora I wouldn't bet the farm on that.
I imagine Quora's vision for location probably extends far beyond these limited scenarios. Their PR strategy regarding the feature may have been woefully unimaginative (and have correspondingly dissapointing results, I'd think, though they're not unique in that) - but I bet the feature itself is going to aim high.
What Location Offers Quora
Take a look at the Quora thread asking what the most beautiful buildings in the world are. It's a commonly referenced part of the site and it really shows what Quora can do. It's beautiful, mind-expanding and compelling for visitors.
Other parts of Quora are just waiting for their elements of location to be leveraged as well. What are the best places to rent a startup company office in SOMA? What are the best restaurants in Portland, Oregon and why? Where can I find an open wifi connection with power after mindnight in Arcata, California?
Those are the location-based questions people want to know...when they are out on location and have location exposed to apps on their phone.
Like the forthcoming iPhone app that Quora is building, testing and going to launch sometime very soon. Why will you have that app running in the background on your phone when there's already a really good HTML5 mobile web app Quora has had forever? Because, one might assume given all this "let's add location" stuff that app will quietly track your location if you let it - and then ping you when it can drop some awesome Quora knowledge about the place you're in.
This isn't about people planning vacations to the Taj Mahal but unclear on where it is on a map.
This is about a big bold move to make Quora, the potentially lovable but potentially pedantic, nichey and forgettable Question and Answer network into something that will stick with users, that will be passed around through word of mouth and thus will grow outside of the Silicon Valley startup and VC clique that...put it on the map.
It sounds great to me. I love those evenings when I remember to go browse the Quora, to find upvoted answers to in-depth questions on topics of interest to me. Tech, location technologies, art, Portland, Oregon, personal hygiene or odd intimate proclivities - there's a Topic on Quora for everyone.
And sometime soon I'm going to guess that you're going to get a push notification sent to your phone reminding you about all that collective knowledge, when you're in a real-world place that it references.
Specifically, you won't just get push notifications when Quora has something to say about the place you're at. You'll get push notifications when you and your phone are in a place that is related to a Topic you are following on Quora. That sounds to me like something that could be awesome.
Where are the best places to go to find UI designers? Let's say you're following that question and then you find yourself in one of those places. Ding, ding, ding says your phone! That would be super cool!
That's what I think is going to happen - and I think it could be way cooler than M.G. Siegler makes it sound. Maybe I just find online location data more exciting than other people, though.