And: a very extended journey. A long-haul journey, you might say. If you were to ask Quora your own question -- "How did Tim Morgan answer that question about the controls of airplane cockpits?" -- you'd likely get an answer that includes the following stats:
Uses of the word "knob": 74
The answer would also include, most likely, the words "epic" and "awesome" and "amazing." And that's not just because of the post's length, or the wealth of information it contains, or the fact that, after reading it, you will probably be unable to look at an airplane or a pilot or a manual outflow valve control quite the same way again. It's also ... the joy. Seriously: the joy. It's the sheer enthusiasm, the I-know-something-you-want-to-know-about-and-I'm-gonna-tell-you-about-it excitement, that pretty much bursts through the answer's 9,322 words and 162 paragraphs. It is epic. It is awesome. It is amazing.
The article, Morgan told me, was the product of eight "post-midnight hours" -- and hours spent not, by the way, in a state of effortless, in-the-zone flow, but spent engaged in hard work. "My first draft was rough and the result of tedious diligence," he says, "but was rewarding in that I was checking my own knowledge and solidifying what I knew." And then Kat Li, Quora's community manager, contacted Morgan to let him know that his answer would be featured on its site. At that point, Morgan says, "I took the time to go over it again and verify that everything was correct. I used an operations manual from a 737 simulator to check my facts." And "in the end it was a very personally rewarding experience, because I had had the operations manual lying around and had been meaning to really study it, and now I finally had my excuse."
So answering the Quora question was as much about learning as it was about sharing. And as for Morgan's overall motivation? "I can tell you with certainty that it is related to my pathological interest in aircraft," he says, "and in general a love to write and share knowledge."
This is telling. And it offers hints, in its little (and also, you know, loooooong) way, about how knowledge is changing in a web-ified world. What we know, archived online, is increasingly the product of personal interests and enthusiasms -- the exact kind that Quora so constructively surfaces. Collected, collective information is increasingly symbolized not by Britannica, but by Wikipedia -- written by amateurs who do the writing, literally, for the love of the information they share. Morgan isn't just a regular Quora contributor; he's also the creator of the flight-based image-sharing service Flightseein', and of the hilarious Ultimate Guide to Shooting Rubber Bands. He finds ways to convert his interests -- learning, building, flying -- into shared experiences. And he looks for ways to make his passions for those experiences infectious.