Most of us would probably do less Web surfing if everyone in the world could see all the items on sex, drugs and nasty diseases that we spend time reading.
Question-and-answer site Quora is adding a new Views feature -- one that's enabled by default -- today that reveals the identity of people who view posts, excepting adult topics and items you're not "following" on the site in some way. So if you follow a person or a subject to an item on "How to get rid of those pesky hemorrhoids," anyone who visits that page will see that you read it. (By contrast, if you searched for it or clicked into it via a related question, Quora won't out you in Views.)
Users can sidestep Views by either disabling the feature in their settings or clicking "delete" next to their username and profile picture on any individual view they have triggered.
Many people won't like the fact that their networked reading habits will be on public display, but Sandra Liu Huang, a product manager at Quora, says the benefits to the site outweigh the risks.
"It will help writers get feedback to improve the content they write. If it were an opt-in product it wouldn't be as useful to writers because not enough people may go turn it on," she told CNET. "It will improve the content and help readers discover useful and interesting content more quickly."
Personally, I'd rather keep my low-brow reading private and signal to the world my interests and tastes via comments or "votes," as they are called on Quora.
If you view a potentially embarrassing post there is a note underneath your name that can explain the context. For instance, it may say "via Diseases" or "via Dr. Smith," signaling that you follow either that topic or person so it's natural that you would view the item.
"I could be following 'diseases' as a topic, which could bring all sorts of interesting diseases into my feed," Huang said. "People are comfortable following the topics publicly. It's explainable why you might run into some topic."
Quora is putting a notice at the top of the home page that alerts users to the new feature so that people won't be surprised that their reading habits on the site are now public.