>Yahoo Answers is almost as worthless as Yelp and Chowhound in interweb realm of Populist Advice. Seemingly peopled with a concentrate of drooling morons, the threads that attempt to answer Yahoo users’ questions — subjects include diagnosing strange physical symptoms, ingredients in certain recipes, taking legal action against landlords, etc — are riddled with grammatical errors, logical fallacies and off-subject rants. The best answers are blatantly copied and pasted from other websites. I once read a question about drug interactions whose three out of four answers were encyclopedia entries taken from drugs.com. The fourth was a sentence of shorthand drivel so incomprehensible I can’t even repeat it here. None of the answers actually addressed the question at all.
Further, just like with equally unreliable websites Yelp and Chowhound, you can rate an answer’s helpfulness on a scale of 5 stars. Ratings seem to attract a subset of internet users with too much free time who also require constant validation. I have tracked a few users who leave detailed (one might say superfluously detailed) answers on a wide range of issues from medical to philosophical to home and garden maintenance. They flitter like bees from question to question, dropping suspiciously well-researched answers and collecting 4-to-5-star ratings.
I like to imagine a manic midnight in a basement somewhere, 40-oz Mountain Dew sweating away on the table littered with opened encyclopedias as a lonely, frustrated person who commands no respect by daylight – perhaps a third-grade teacher? – furiously clicking away at facts and figures regarding scabies in pets, eco-safe termite extermination, and housing laws in the greater Milwaukee area, muttering Come on, five stars!
Just now, I Googled “getting rat urine smell out of oven” (for reasons completely unrelated to having rat urine smells in my oven. Swearsies.) and my first link was to a Yahoo Answers thread. The first answer was vaguely helpful, as the user suggested a solution of vinegar and water be placed near the smell to neutralize it, or an open carton of Arm & Hammer. Every response thereafter seemed to unravel farther from the question – a few alluding to pet odors; an apologetic sentiment that suggested the asker’s rat problem came from a dead pet – until finally, the thread disintegrated utterly into an answer about training your pet rat to urinate in a litter box.
It’s true that Wikipedia is tightly policed enough to ensure a higher rate of accuracy than many other reference sites on the internet. But even it is subject to the chaos of democracy. But if Wikipedia is a remarkably graceful attempt at egalitarian wisdom, Yahoo Answers reminds us that we are all equally incapable and in need of corked forks.