Yahoo Answers
January 11th, 2006

Luke Biewald sent me some commentary on the new Yahoo Answers service launched in December:

“Users ask questions and then other users answer them. At the same time there is a moderation system where you can vote for the best answer. Presumably, the people whose questions get consistantly moderated well get more points and their moderations get more weight and their answers are given more weight. This idea is really obvious, but has the potential to be as transformative as the Wikipedia. The problem of course is getting people to use it, and to use it in the ways invisioned by the engineers. While there might not be clear right and wrong ways to use a thing like this service, the people who created the service expected it would become more than a way to tell jokes or ask personal questions.

Google has a system where people pay money for an answer and only handpicked group of contractors are allowed to answer any question, but I think that this is a much less exciting option. In Korea, the website Naver used this idea in 2004 to not only become one of the top websites in Korea, but to drive their search engine to dominant marketshare over Yahoo and Google. So Yahoo now has a substantial amount of traffic, but here are some random questions and answers:

Question: Why will a ducks quack not echo?

Question: If evolution is correct and there is no god why cant I shoot you?

Question: Where is HERE?
Answer: here is there for right now

Question: how to be a creative ?
Answer: you just are or aren’t. or just find inspiration in anything.

Question: is your family dysfunctional?

You have to see these to believe them. So what is the problem with Yahoo Answers? The implementation seems to be working very hard to reduce questions like this. While they have built in a point system, it doesn’t seem to have an effect in bubbling up good questions or answers. Surely the Korean site wouldn’t be the top Korean destination on the net for information if it was filled with q&a like this. Are there cultural differences causing this type of system not to work in the United States?”

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