We chatted with Ofer Shaked and Caterina Fake at Yahoo today about yet another service the company rolled out. This one is called Yahoo Answers. It's not to be confused with Google Answers, which allows people to ask a pool of experts to research questions for them for a price.
Yahoo Answers is all about leveraging the collective knowledge of the Yahoo community. Ask any question - Can I test my eyesight without going to the doctor - and hope the community chimes in with an answer. Use it for off-the-wall questions or for help finding local services, etc. There are really no limits.
"Let's say I'm interested in pets and travel, and I don't know where the forums and blogs are, and I want to have a place where I can ask questions,'' Shaked said. "We think of this as an extension of the algorithmic web search, and it builds on our social search initiatives.''
There's some reputation management built into the system, as well. Users get points every time they ask or answer questions. Points elevate their stature in the system, lend their posts credibility. They also, to some degree, give them more access to the service. Rookies, for example, can't dive in and bombard the service with questions or answers. The service will automatically throttle their number of posts.
No doubt there'll be a lot of white noise on the Answers boards. And Yahoo will likely need to tweak the category structure as time goes on. Shaked says Yahoo is looking at letting posters tag their questions.
"We're actively looking at making this much more flexible,'' he said.
UPDATE: Per usual, Gary Price breaks down the offering in great detail.
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