Yahoo! Answers is a portal, driven by search engine Yahoo!, where regular people ask and answer questions online. The key word here is regular people – your questions are being answered by other people. However there is no telling whether these other people are professors, highly literate individuals, or people who never got a grade 2 and now sell tie-die scarves on the side of the road.
Yahoo! Answers works in much the same way as Wikipedia, although the information on Wikipedia seems to generally be more accurate. The portal is “full of inaccurate statements of fact, snarky and ignorant replies, and all-in-all is a poor reference tool” according to an article on www.searchenginejournal.com. Despite this, Yahoo! Answers has solicited more than 400 million answers, drawing in over 120 million users.
The portal offers new users three choices – Ask, Answer or Discover. Each of these involves the interaction with someone else’s question and or information, and the rating and categorization thereof.
A quick search through today’s hot topics in the Discover section quickly indicates that this seems more like a forum site than an actual hub of real and quality information. Topics such as “Is it normal for a boy to put his arm around you in a cinema?”, “What equips God with the right to decide what is good and evil?” and “Will my Chinese dwarf hamsters like me?” are laughable, but enduring in their unassuming sincerity. However, if I was researching the rise and fall of the Third Reich, or trying to get a hold of the financial affect of mergers and acquisition, this would clearly be the wrong site for me.
Again unlike Wikipedia, the site permits any topic to be shared (within the confines general user protection). While Wikipedia may not always have the correct information, the basis of its site is fact, as opposed to opinion. On Yahoo! Answers, a great deal of the content seems to be musings, and other peoples’ opinion on these musings.
Yahoo! Answers elicits a far more social feel than does Wikipedia or other such “answers sites”, which is possibly why it’s become so popular. People like to share, and while there are an almost limitless array of social networking sites to share comment, thoughts, pictures and mundane details of day-to-day life, there are not that many sites which permit sharing of a “factual” basis.
Yahoo! Answers have some guidelines as to how to be a good and responsible Yahoo! Answers user. These are:
- Sharing what you know
- Being courteous
- Being a good citizen
- Citing your sources
- Asking clear questions
- Categorizing your questions correctly
Yahoo! Answers is clearly a very popular tool to many people for many reasons – however the central tenet seems to be the ability to share knowledge and opinion, in a categorized online environment. Remember, however, that the information on this site is gathered purely from other people’s answers – if you want a factual answer to your question, it might be better to head to a library.