Features: Yahoo Answers goes into the social Q&A competition with one huge advantage: it’s heavily promoted elsewhere on Yahoo.com sites, which collectively attract more visitors every day than any Web destination except MySpace. The site, which is only one year old, has become the second most popular reference site after Wikipedia. It has 60 million unique users, as well as the largest collection of answers of any Q&A site: more than 160 million as of late November 2006, up from 70 million in June 2006 (see “Answers By the People, For the People,” June 27, 2006). Some 60 million of those answers are in English; the rest are in a mix of world languages.
The site has a clean, attractive, and simple interface. The point system is nothing out of the ordinary, but there is a very convenient “My Q&A” page where users can track their points as well as the questions they’ve asked and answered. One fun twist: users can choose and customize their own cartoon self-portraits, which appear alongside their questions and answers and give the site a surprisingly jaunty feel. Points: 3
Is there any truth to the five-second rule? Other Yahoo Answers users had asked this question no fewer than 11 times, eliciting more than 160 answers. Most were on the strictly sanitary side. One of my favorites: “No!! I watched this on the Science Channel the other day, some guy tested it out, dropping food in various places for 5 sec. and then testing it for microbiological growth. The bacteria was transferred immediately upon the food hitting the ground.” (Upon further investigation, it seems that this answerer was likely referring to an experiment actually carried out during a 2005 episode of “Mythbusters” on the Discovery Channel.) Points: 3
Why did the Mormons settle in Utah? At Yahoo Answers, I added the following note to my question: “Wouldn’t they have been happier if they’d pushed on to a less desolate place like California?” Users provided six answers. One was offensive and four were cursory. The best answer: “It was a place [where] they could be left alone. Although they were persecuted and killed by those in the east, California wasn’t exactly a safe haven, either. The Sacramento Bee, a popular newspaper at the time, frequently printed articles suggesting that the Mormons should be exterminated. By settling in the middle of the desert they at least had some breathing space from all of their enemies. And evidently it was the right place; Mormons are still around today and have created a vibrant community in Utah.” Points: 2
What is the best way to make a grilled cheese sandwich? I didn’t bother to post this question on Yahoo Answers, since the site already contains more than 100 questions and thousands of answers relating to grilled cheese sandwiches. I can’t begin to list them all; just go to http://answers.yahoo.com and type “grilled cheese sandwich” into the “Search for questions” box. Points: 3
Total points: 11