Yahoo! Answers is actually a cool product. I was doing my taxes today and had a few relatively straightforward questions, but couldn’t find the answers via Google. Within 15 minutes of posting each question on Answers, I had my answer.
(Question 1: Is there an income limit on making contributions to a traditional IRA? There’s an income limit on making contributions to a Roth IRA. There’s also a income limit on write-offs of traditional contributions. But is there an income limit to making traditional contributions (even if you can’t write them off). Turns out no — there’s a minimum income, but no max.
Question 2 related to 401k rollovers. If you haven’t done it, your old institution send you a 1099-R. This, despite you’re just moving money around & not really pocketing anything. In the end, you should declare it, even if the taxable income is zero.)
The general interaction is interesting. With search, you’re query is basically running through every document out there on the Internet to see if there’s any electronic document that matches it. With Answers, you query isn’t running against documents, but people. You’re basically taping the common knowledge of a very large group of people.
The reason all this surprised me is that Answers also has the most bone-headed marketing I’ve seen in a long time. When it was first launched, there where a lot of high-profile people asking, basically, un-answerable questions. Hawkings asking how we can survive another 100 years. Bono asking how to wipe out poverty.
Look, if anyone actually knew the answers to those, it’s not like they’re just been sitting at their computer, waiting to be asked.
Questions like that are good for traditional messages boards. Or rather beer & coffee. For discussion & debate. There’s no one “right” answer or one “best” answer. (At least none we’re all going to agree to.)
On the other hand, Answer’s strength seems to be the ability to get answers about things that are common knowledge in certain communities. E.g., my questions amongst CPAs, Tax Advisers and so on. You can imagine lots of other groups — things your mom always seems to know about handling stains, what the kid around the corner always seems to know about electronics and so on.
To me, that seems to be the way to promote. A college student asking about to iron a shirt before a big date, being answered by a mom waiting for an answer about setting up her new printer, being answered by a 13 year old asking a algebra question the college student answers.
After all, Bono’s just a musician. What the fuck does he know?