Putting yourself in the picture

What was life like in a middle-class Toronto neighborhood in the 1940s? I don’t know, but for a work-in-progress, I need to find out. Yet there’s surprisingly little information available on what is outwardly a banal topic.

Enter Quora. If you’re not familiar with it, Quora is a site where you can ask a question on any topic and get answers from those expert in the field (as well as those who haven’t a clue) throughout the world.

Quora has lately begun paying people to post questions. If you are a frequent “answerer,” as I am, the result is that you have to wade through a lot of nonsense to get to the point.

But it has its uses, particularly to writers. Twice in the past week, I’ve posed questions that only Canadians would know–those with knowledge of the Second World War and those with knowledge of Toronto eight decades ago.

Within hours, I’ve received knowledgable responses, two with nuanced replies that introduce side issues I hadn’t considered.

It’s a new way of going to the source, and it can provide personal insights you’ll never find in a newspaper article or history book.

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