Thursday, May 11, 2006

Answers

I was recently alerted to a new Yahoo service my alert co-worker, Aurora. Yahoo Answers is available for anyone - ask a question and other users will answer. One reviewer noted that it's addictive, and then said, "If I could search and answer questions like this for a living I would be so happy!" Ahem. (I answered her blog post and informed here there is a way to do this for a living. Become a librarian.)

Anyway, as Aurora notes,
The premise of the site is that users submit a question that will then be answered by their peers, as long as those peers have a registered My Yahoo! account. Each time someone answers, they have an opportunity to cite their source. After a specified period, one answer is picked as the "“best answer" either by vote or by the user that submitted the question.

I'’ve seen a wide range of questions there, from "“What do you think of the way 7th Heaven ended?"” to "“How was Shakespeare influential? —I"’ve got a term paper and I need a quick answer."” to "“Is a "presumed" fatty tumor something to be concerned about?"”. The answers themselves are as diverse as the answerers themselves. Almost none of the answerers cite a source beyond "“personal experience."”

Aurora questions the value of personal experience in answering certain questions - like health questions. And then challenges librarians to answer the questions, citing resources.

I took up the challenge and have answered a number of questions. For most of them, I used the Librarian's Index to the Internet as my source. What I found discouraging and rather distressing is that, even though this service is still in its Beta stage, already a number of idiots have jumped in and are asking obnoxious/rude/ridiculous/obscene questions. At the risk of sounding like the old man telling kids to get off his lawn....what is wrong with people????

Anyway, it's fun to answer. Go ahead. Let the world know how knowledgeable librarians really are!

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