Why Yahoo! Answers Is A Librarian's Worst Nightmare

Don't worry – it's not because it's going to replace us anytime soon – it's because it's an incredibly crappy reference tool which is (unfortunately) also one of the most widely used on the Net, second only to Wikipedia.

The blockbuster success of Yahoo! Answers is all the more surprising
once you spend a few days using the site. While Answers is a valuable
window into how people look for information online, it looks like a
complete disaster as a traditional reference tool. It encourages bad
research habits, rewards people who post things that aren't true, and
frequently labels factual errors as correct information. It's every
middle-school teacher's worst nightmare about the Web.

The article has some good insight on why a site like Wikipedia succeeds while a site like Yahoo! Answers fails.  (On that note, I've mentioned it a lot before but Ask MetaFilter probably comes closest to getting the “community answer site” idea right of any I've seen.)

(via Reddit)

Comments 4

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    I never did do that paper, but here is what I don't understand. If this “service” is so widely used, why have I never come across Anyone who uses it. I mean, granted, I know a whole bunch of librarians, so that answers part of the question. But, I also work with students everyday, and yes, they mention Wikipedia all the time, they try to cite Wikipedia in academic papers, but they never mention Yahoo Answers.
    Who is using this service? It is like online dating…do people use it secretly hoping their friends and family never find out?
    Maybe there are some mysteries that will always remain unsolved. 😛

    Posted 11 Dec 2007 at 2:49 pm
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    Shelf Check did a comic on the librarian's-worst-nightmare thing. 🙂 It even has a Buffy reference!
    …I don't know anyone who uses Yahoo Answers either. Maybe it's a regional thing?

    Posted 12 Dec 2007 at 5:09 am
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    Because the people who use it are completely exclusive from the people that use libraries? I think there's a very good chance of that.
    Another possibility is the one you suggest – that people who use it don't admit that they do because they know it's sort of seen as an embarrassment, no matter how popular it is – like admitting boy bands or something.

    Posted 22 Dec 2007 at 11:17 pm
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    Thanks for the comic – good stuff! As for a “regional” thing, my snarky responses is “yeah, the US uses it and no one else does.” 😉

    Posted 22 Dec 2007 at 11:20 pm
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