Yahoo Answers

Yahoo Answers has been around for a while now, since the end of 2005, but I've finally got a chance to explore over there a bit these past few weeks.

For those unfamiliar with how the service works, users can both pose and answer questions, as well as vote on the responses. It's like a social virtual reference desk. Participants receive points for voting on and answering questions and spend out points to ask questions.

As you can imagine, there's a fair amount of gaming going on as people try to jockey for points. And as you also may imagine, most of these questions can be easily answered (and more quickly and correctly!) by any reference librarian. About 20% of the time so far my answers have been chosen as the best by voters just because I actually answer the question and provide supporting information. I bet if I had time to really exert myself I'd be raking in points and kudos.

Cruising through Yahoo Answers is an interesting experience--why don't these people turn to an authoritative resource? It seems that authoritative responses are appreciated. I suppose there is an attraction to getting answers from peers, plus Yahoo is already a service these people are using for IM and email. Maybe the library is just not on their personal radar. Or maybe they think their questions are not worthy of our attention.

I'm not sure I'll become a Yahoo Answers regular but it has been interesting to check it out and test out my reference 'chops' on some of the harder questions. I recommend checking it out for yourself, and perhaps even answering a few questions (they could use the help!).

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