Are you a Quora power user? Now you can get a stamp of approval

Unlike a lot of crowdsourced social media sites, Quora usually manages to bring an air of legitimacy to its postings. It’s the site where CEOs post background info on their companies, and former employees give the inside scoop on their industries. But as the site continues to grow, how can it keep that insider feel?

The company hopes that by distinguishing top writers on the site, who bring either a particular expertise to their answers or a commitment to posting, they can direct new users to some of the best content on the site and entice people to keep providing high-level feedback.

Quora top writers pose in their tshirts. From left to right, they are: David Cole, Alex Wu, Kat Li, John Clover, Marc Bodnick.

The site was launched in 2010 by former Facebook CTO Adam D’Angelo with the goal of providing a database of the world’s knowledge, which seemed like a lofty goal in a crowded space at the time, but doesn’t look so silly almost three years later. Marc Bodnick, the site’s product and business executive, said in an interview that in the past year alone, the site has grown from addressing about 70,000 topics to 250,000, topics, and now sees less than 10 percent of new users coming from California, a huge success for a site that saw early adoption mainly from tech folks in Silicon Valley.

Bodnick says it’s too early for the site to focus on monetization yet, which is understandable when the company raised a $50 million funding round in May. Bodnick said they’re trying to keep the site’s quality high while expanding the userbase. He said they divide the majority of Quora’s questions and answers into five main categories: business and technology, economics and politics, entertainment (including television, sports, music, and food), career and life advice, and then everything else.

With the new top writers, the company has selected about 500 individuals for their class of 2012 top writers, and they plan to select a new class next year. The full list can be found on the blog post, but the users span a wide variety of industries and professions, including venture capitalists, neuroscientists, and prison inmates, among others. The users come from more than 30 countries and the median top writer has written more than 350 answers. The company picked the top writers based on their contributions to the site, either presently or in the company’s past, and gave extra weight to writers who covered more obscure or less-widespread topics.

Bodnick says the company has been focused on the issues of how to keep the quality that Quora’s become known for intact as the site continues to grow exponentially, and said they hope that recognizing top writers will guide new users toward the kind of content that works well as well.

“In some sense it’s a way of bringing recognition to a site where the topics and categories are exploding in a rational way,” he said.

Top writers will have a badge on their profile page to indicate their status, and the company will still recognize a few more individuals for 2012 before moving on to creating the group for 2013. Users can send an email and ask to be considered for the status, or they can recommend other users for top writer consideration.