The news came down this week that Yahoo Answers is going the way of the Dodo. The site had appeal if you were looking for homework answers (shh, don’t tell the teachers!) or if you were worried about summoning a demon. Despite the sometimes questionable nature of the asked questions, there was also a plethora of good communication out there.
Case in point, discussions on eating disorders. There are hundreds of questions about eating disorders on the site. Interestingly, in most cases, people answer kindly and with personal experiences. The original user often responded, thanking the person answering for sharing.
The conversations within the Q&A shared emotional encouragement and support.
This is a positive on many levels. A study by the American Society of Information Science & Technology found that many people who answered questions on social media genuinely wanted to help others.
Social media is all about connection, and that happened on Yahoo Answers. It especially happened when people had strangely specific questions that they might have been embarrassed to ask their friends. For example, “How do I get spaghetti stains out of my underwear?” This, of course, begs the question, how did you get spaghetti on your underwear in the first place?
There isn’t anything wrong with asking embarrassing questions of strangers; the problem came about when people answering the questions trolled the asker. Frankly, I could use a good spaghetti stain remover guide for white shirts.
Sadly, the trolls and the silliness took over more and more of Yahoo Answers. With no moderation to the site, this was inevitable. Finding good, trustworthy advice online can be difficult. How can you know that what you are getting isn’t a long-form joke on you?
There are great alternatives out there. Sage is one of those; a moderated site where you can ask questions and get good quality advice. You can ask publicly for free, or if you are looking for something more detailed or specific, you can pay for private advice. When you really appreciate the answer you get, you can even tip the Sage who answered you. Pretty cool.
Most importantly, for avid Yahoo Answers stalwarts, Sage includes a question rating algorithm to ensure people ask good questions from the beginning.
Because Yahoo Answers became a haven for trolls and misinformation, it makes sense that it is sunsetting. Let’s choose to remember the happier stories and questions and forget the vitriol and even the wackiness. And hey, if you’re looking for a better place to share your knowledge, or for a moderated and high-quality place to ask good questions, I know a spot.