Yahoo! Answers: Search with a Human Touch

Posted by: Rob Hof on December 7, 2005

Just launched in beta, Yahoo! Answers is a place where you can ask questions on any topic and get answers from real people. It’s free, presumably funded by sponsored ads. Keen.com started out trying to provide something like that, and it’s still around as a sort of psychic/astrology advice line, but clearly Yahoo has bigger ambitions. The big question on these Power of Us services is whether the incentives—in this case, it appears, the chance to build a reputation from people’s ratings of answers—will be enough to build a critical mass of users. As soon as I can check it out, I’ll post a short update.

UPDATE: Looks like Yahoo folks or alpha users or both seeded the questions to start—everything from “What’s the best John Coltrane album?” to “Just took poison what should I do?” (don’t know whether to laugh at that one) to arcana like “What is the max speed cpu an FIC KA-6100 motherboard can support?” (Yes, someone answered that.) Categories are a bit limiting for now, and you have to register to post a question, but it’s pretty easy to use otherwise. I’ve asked my own question and will see if anyone has the answer.

Pete Cashmore at Mashable offers some interesting thoughts and links that point out that people should view the answers they get in open forums like this—even those with reputation systems like this one—with caution. Gary Price also takes a detailed look, as well as a look at the alternatives.

Reader Comments

Jim Dermitt

December 11, 2005 12:00 PM

It could work if Yahoo gives the people with the answers a chunk of the ad revenues as an incentive.
Not many people are going to operate a help desk for nothing. If you are being helpful then you deserve to be paid. This could be a good way for airlines to boost customer service, with a Yahoo Travel site and Yahoo Talk. The airlines have bad customer service, due to financial difficulties of course.

Jimmy Wallis

January 28, 2006 2:16 PM

Where do I go to get the forward and backward
green arrows in the upper left corner to work or shine????

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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