This is gold dust.
After the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1849 people wanting to strike it rich, or even just to make a decent living with little to no other prospects, made the arduous journey in droves to California from all across the United States.
In those days miners might work a long time — weeks, months, sometimes years — before they ever found any gold. Often they would only find flakes of gold which they called “gold dust”. Since gold dust could be melted down and turned into jewelry it was still valuable. All GOLD was valuable. Miners never knew exactly what the value of their gold dust would be as market forces would change without their knowing why or when. They just knew that they had to keep working to gather as much gold as they could find, even if it was just crumbs because every bit counted. The only way the really knew how much there hard work was worth was when they assayer (the person who was trained in valuing gold purity) analyzed it and then presented a receipt for the value.
But, eventually the gold rush ended, corporations took over, war started, California became a state, and what was once wild and free was now harshly restricted in order to restructure the territory into a safe space that reputable merchants would want to build in and that families (more financially reliable than drifters and prospectors) would want to make their home in. Basically, gentrification happened.
In the end, those who got in early and those willing to invest a bunch of time and money serving the miners (e.g., assayers, general store owners, clothing shops, entertainers, whisky merchants, prostitutes, etc.) were the only ones who struck it rich. The successes of the first few “rich” 49ers inspired and enticed all the others to think they could get rich too. In that way it was sort of like a Ponzi scheme maybe. At least it was similar to buying a stock when it has already started to gain value. You may have missed it and you like will break even at best when comparing time, energy, and money spent trying to make wise trades vs the actual gains and losses all added together. Back to the miners, let’s not forget those who “struck it rich” only to have their claim jumped by somebody bigger and stronger or with more friends. Some were mugged on the way to town. And it is likely that most were definitely robbed by the assayer himself.
Having designed almost 1000 questions for Quora so far, in addition to posting around 80 answers — at least one of which was highly circulated and publicized — and being a member of the Quora Partner Program (QPP, where members get paid pennies for asking questions, most averaging around $15-20 per month, if that) it occured to me recently that the QPP has some striking similarities to the California Gold Rush of the 1800s:
- Conceving quality questions that will help me, be useful to others, and last the test of time is like digging for gold. It is hard (mental) work but worth it when you find those valuable nuggets.
- Most questions are like gold dust, worth very little but still valuable.
- Many people (mostly young people from other countries, mainly India, are hoping to make a fortune or at least a living “doing Quora”).
- Most will NOT strike it rich and in the end will break even at best.
- The real money is in supplying “services” to question posters. One of the most common ways of doing this is using content marketing to tease the questioner with a partial response, then redirecting them with a hyperlink to your website where you explain the rest and often offer some service for a fee. The content marketing entrepreneurs get double bonus of traffic (good for SEO) and actual purchase transactions. But probably the ones who stand to gain the most are the advertisers. They invest the most and they will undoubtedly reap the most reward. Finally, the “Governor” (company owner) and investors will likely do very well financially.
Like the miners of old, anything helps and I am thankful that the Quora partner program exists. I get paid to do something I’m really good at and enjoy doing (posting well-thought-out questions, deep philosophical questions, hypothetical but plausible scenarios, and questions that nobody is asking that I feel will help the world). But, it is too much investment and now that I have a *real* 9-5 full-time job, my free time is very limited.
And the earnings I am getting from new questions are much like gold dust. I don’t have time right now to invest energy into composing new questions for only a pittance in return, if anything. Most questions asked on Quora (by anyone in QPP) don’t earn anything. Mine included. Less than 10% of my questions have earned any money. My highest earner is a question I asked almost a year ago — it just reached $10. Whoopee!
Now, Don’t get me wrong. I’m not quitting the QPP. I’ve just decided to take a break from writing new questions. It is hard. Like a hobby that you are addicted to. But, I have no choice.
Another benefit of this for me is that I will have more time to catch up with old answers.
If you have been sitting there saying, “Eric, when are going to respond to my answer?” or “Eric, when are you going to reply to my response?”, the answer is “soon”.
I am intending that the “hiatus” will be 3 months, but I might extend that. Who knows.
You know, just as a quick sidebar, I often write a blog post intending to create a series but then it never works out for some reason. I’ll end with something like “See you next episode”, and then it might be months before I actually get the time to compose and post another blog. I even have some posts that have been in draft and “stub” status for years!
My Quora question hiatus is part of my overall effort to better organize my digital online life and persona, if you will.
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