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Social Q&A site Quora adds new blogging functions

Q&A site Quora is adding a new outfit to its wardrobe with the addition of freeform blogs.

Branching out from its stricter question-and-answer structure, Quora now allows writers to continue to share their knowledge, just in a looser format.

The new standalone feature is aimed at people who don't have an established online presence or don't want to put the time-intensive heavy lifting into marketing their blog.

For most bloggers, personal connections and word-of-mouth are the key drivers to building an audience, Quora business team member Marc Bodnick said. But that can take a lot of time and tends to work best for celebrities and well-known writers. Quora's new system relies instead on topic tags, leaving each blogger's audience up to the number of people who are interested in the particular subject they are writing about.

"If you are a good writer but don't have thousands of Twitter followers or a big audience for your blog, Quora is an ideal place to write," Quora engineer Kah Keng Tay wrote in a blog entry.

With 300,000 total topics currently on the site, a completely anonymous person can earn an audience overnight by posting "one great answer," Bodnick said. "If I'm a blogger and nobody knows me, I can start a blog on Quora in about 60 seconds, write one good post, and that post could be seen tomorrow by 10,000 people or more," he said.

Quora is initially offering two blog design choices: the theme-less view and the Loose Leaf page, which focuses more on readability than visual customisation.

Despite the Q&A site's open format, Quora engineers recognised that people were already writing blog-like posts or linking to their own blogs, but tagging them with topics to help distribution.

"We came to realize that people like writing Q&As, but some people like sharing knowledge in a way they can control. So we decided to offer a standalone product," Bodnick said.

Blogs will be integrated into users' homepage feed, depending on which topics they have marked. Writers can start a new entry via the menu tab's "Create a Blog" option.

For on-the-go bloggers, Quora announced an iOS app update with rich text formatting for mobile blogging.

"In terms of writing, phones are treated as second class," Bodnick said, adding that most people are simply encouraged to write drafts, tips, or short-form posts from a smartphone, but not in-depth ideas that require polishing and organisation.

In a few weeks, the company will push out its Quora for iPhone 2.2 update, complete with a full-featured rich text editor that allows users to "do every single thing that you're going to do from the computer," Bodnick said, including generating bulleted or numbered lists, formatting fonts, and adding photos anywhere within the body of the text.

The feature will eventually land on the Android app, but for now, iOS users can keep an eye out for the upcoming release. Quora's iOS app is currently available for free in the Apple App Store.