Q&A Of A Q&Aer: I Interview Peter Clark

There are a number of people on Quora who make the place what it is. Yet for their prolific efforts I found that I knew relatively little about themselves. This is an experiment to learn more.

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This week’s victim is Peter Clark, who you may know from such questions as What are the advantages and disadvantages of various types of men underwear (e.g. boxers, boxer-briefs and briefs)?
How much time do you spend on Quora?

I certainly check it each day. I am actually spending less time on it since I’ve started manually browsing to interesting Quora friends and seeing their recent activity and moving from there – rather than Wikipedia style serendipitous clicking which takes up entire afternoons.

For addictive services like Facebook, Twitter and Quora, I try to only use the mobile interfaces so I don’t get distracted whilst doing actual work on my actual computer.

Judging by your output, the bulk of your answers deal in fashion, movies, videogames, technology or the UK. Are there any other interests in your life that are not well-represented on Quora?

I am a huge comedy nerd and there is nothing really on Quora about that. I am going to try and start populating it in 2011.

I think the Music, Movies and Video Games topics at Quora are poorly represented, too.

Pretend Quora is an MMORPG. What does your avatar look like? What role would you carve out for yourself in this world?

No need to pretend…

My avatar would look like me since I generally find avatars a bit too creepy if they are some blonde bomb shell and in reality it is Gary Glitter. If I have a role and responsibilities then suddenly Quora feels like real work, but I’d settle for being the bartender.

How did your interest in fashion develop? Who are your favorite designers?

In University I went out with a girl who was an artist and fashion obsessed, and at this point of my life I was nerding and playing World of Warcraft, so she kind of gave me a taste of fashion and I was hooked.

Recently I read an interview with Patrick Robinson (creative director at Gap), and that reminded me of the beauty of simple and clean styles, so in 2011 I am working on the principle that less is more. I’ve been switching out clothes with simple gap t-shirts, and went wild in their christmas sales with buying their cashmere/merino blended knitwear.

Brogues, slim jeans, a grey tshirt and a cashmere hoody coupled with a pair of wayfarers is my current style crush.

I love Ralph Lauren Black Label, Michael Bastian, Hugo Boss and J Crew.

Do you support an English football club?

I will support Spurs if David Beckham moves there. If not, probably Cambridge City since I can see the football “stadium” from my study, but not seriously. I think I prefer to play, which is something I currently do not do enough of.

What’s with your fascination with zombies?

Zombies are pretty much amazing in every sense. There is something so poetic about the concept, of your loved ones dying before you but then never quite going away,causing so much pain and grief – it’s the ultimate horror story.
I also love how deep the lore goes, and how you get such lively debates about what the best and worst scenarios would be, like in World War Z the author interviews a marine task force and sheds light on why modern weaponry is actually really ineffective towards zombies.
In your estimation, what kinds of people are missing from the site? Who should Quora be trying to target?
It feels like Quora can grow it’s user base reasonably easily. There’ll always be an influx of random people like myself who do not crush it at a specific topic, the trick will be convincing the 10x (high achieving) users of specific verticals to become addicted to Quora.
The hard bit there is reaching out to them, because as inconceivable as it sounds, Starcraft players, Chiropodists and Pastry Chefs do not read Techcrunch [ed. note – if you are one and reading this, make yourself known]. A big benefit here is that any dork like myself can ask questions about these topics, and eventually Google will pick them up and distribute them to interested parties. Once you have them through the door, I think the UX can be made strong enough that they start dumping their brain onto the site.

Which topics do find yourself doing more reading and less answering?

The Harry Potter topic is just incredible – as is the US Politics stuff. Totally over my head, in both cases.

What does the full potential of Quora look like in your imagination?

I think Quora will fit in really nicely between community and knowledge, somewhere between Wikipedia and Facebook, Quora sits.

My favourite thing about Quora isn’t that you can learn how to recruit 10X Engineers, but that there is such an attractive community behind this knowledge, and it’s a really neat way to make friends. Even with services like Twitter and (especially) Facebook, its actually really hard to make friends around specific things you care about.
So the full potential of Quora is a destination full of interesting people that are passionate about stuff, and somewhere along the line knowledge is extracted, but that really should be almost an after thought to the community.

And now, the Proust Questionnaire

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Freedom to not ask for permission.

What is your greatest fear?

Champagne corks popping terrify me.

I find that my mental state is very aligned with design. I find it very hard to articulate. Things like: have you noticed how on Android when you unlock the phone the clock is “fixed” on a specific time, and then reloads to the most recent time. Also, have you noticed how Google Chrome “squares” the edges of a browser when flash is playing? Fuck that shit. http://dl.dropbox.com/u/20635/Sc…
That kind of thing really really irritates me – far more than any personality could, so bad design, too.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I am 23 and have yet to do anything remarkable. At this point of my life I identify with almost any mediocre person. I am working on this.

Which living person do you most admire?

I’ve never been a fan of admiring people. I do not think it leads to anything other than people vainly trying to walk down paths already explored.

If you bent my arm, I would say Margaret Thatcher or possibly Paul Rudd.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

I am a big believer in fixing oneself, especially when you can identify your negative traits. The thing I am working on is fixing is impatience, an attitude somewhat valuable to startups, but not life.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

I hate undeserved arrogance, I also abhor people that say ten words when two will suffice. “skip to the end.”

What is your greatest extravagance?

The most expensive thing I own is my MacBook Pro, followed by some suits, followed by my car. I have a cheap car (and nice suits)

I generally buy the very best, unfortunately I am poor and there is positive correlation with cost and quality, so this means I do not own very much, but what I do own – is awesome.
(Aside: PC’s suits are made by BOSS and Steel & Jelly.)

On what occasion do you lie?

Whenever I can’t get my own way by telling the truth, the same as everyone…

What do you dislike most about your appearance?

I smashed my teeth out when I was mountain biking, so they are pretty awful – and I’m british and moving to SF which will probably hurt the stereotypes for my fellow country men. So them. I’m having to pay $40,000 to get them fixed in the very near future.

Soon, my most expensive possession will be my teeth.

When and where were you happiest?

I don’t really experience extreme emotions, I can’t remember an occasion which I’d look back upon and think I was my “happiest” nor can I think of anything when was my “saddest” moment.

Times which I remember stopping and thinking that I should mentally bookmark these events as awesome times: Getting into Y Combinator for the first time, surfing for the first time, getting laid for the first time, and seeing Spoon live for the first time.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d have fixed my impatience when I was 14 so that I appreciated the amazing educational system my parents pushed me through, rather than rushing it and scraping by and having to “waste” time now educating myself on things that I believe are culturally important (learning languages, other religions, classics, classical music, ballet.)

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

My family are mostly entrepreneurial and contrarian minded, so I wouldn’t change them for the world (hi mom).

Just kidding, my parents can be real jerks sometimes and troll my friends and I for their own amusement. Sometimes when I ring up to see how it’s going they pretend to not know who I am, and when my mother first met my housemates at University she said “so what do you think of Peter? Pretty weird guy right?”

Another one time when I was ~17 and well aware of the sexual ways of humans, they decided to educate me by my mother– you know, I can’t re-tell this story without it sounding freaking bizarre. I’ll re-tell in person [ed. note – wtf?].

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Probably something to do with my previous startup which is too raw to think about what we won at. (which was lots of things)

If you died and came back as a person or a thing what do you think it would be?

A fox. If you’ve read Fantastic Mr Fox you know why.

What is your most treasured possession?

I have carried the same $1 note around in my wallet for good luck since an ex-girlfriend gave it me years ago, and also a dumb Japanese tree seed my father gave me after he went travelling in Japan – it’s supposed to bring wealth. It hasn’t yet, but I worry if I stop carrying either thing it’d plummet me into negative luck/wealth.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Not sure how to answer this.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Pretty much anyone involved with World War 2 is an actual hero. It is worth stopping and thinking about the sacrifices made over those fateful years for our freedoms.

Also (and not in the same league as war heroes) George Clooney, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Jay Z and Reid Hoffman. Man, that’d be a bizarre sex tape.

What is it you most dislike?

I was once force fed cheese shiitake mushrooms on toast. Shiitake mushrooms now make me gag.
I was once queueing in a shop in Cambridge and Kings of Leon were playing on the radio. Kings of Leon now make me gag.

How would you like to die?

I’d like to think I was the kind of guy that’d step out in front of a bus to save a child. (you know, I am not entirely sure how this would actually happen in real life – why would stepping out in front of a bus save the child?)

What is your motto?

This isn’t a motto (since they are pretty lame) but this is the only thing that springs to mind:
You have to pretend you’re 100 percent sure. You have to take action; you can’t hesitate or hedge your bets. Anything less will condemn your efforts to failure.

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