Thursday, April 05, 2007

Introduction to Yahoo! Answers (Part 1 of 2)

Have questions? Take them to Yahoo! Answers.

Introduced in 2006, Yahoo! Answers is an online community that promises “Real people. Real questions. Real answers.” It really is that simple. Community members can ask questions on any topic, provide answers to other people’s questions, or browse for interesting Q&A.

This March, Yahoo! introduced Answers Network (Beta), which allows community members to add their favorite Yahoo! Answers users to their personal network of “contacts.” By doing so, members gain easy access to the questions and answers posted by people they find interesting.

How to Ask

Yahoo! Answers gives its members the freedom to ask anything, no matter how serious or silly, just so long as it’s within the bounds of common decency, the Community Guidelines and Yahoo! TOS. Here are some basic guidelines for participation:

  • Conduct yourself with “integrity, decency, and respect.”
  • Keep interactions within the Q&A format. Yahoo! Answers is not a message board. Questions such as “Who here is a Jessica Alba fan?” may be deleted by moderators.
  • Do not post advertisements or link to non-Yahoo! websites for promotional purposes. You may post a URL if it is a valid resource.

To get started, click “Ask” and type your question. Categorize your question by topic so members can easily find it. It’s standard for questions to be “open” to answers for 4 days, although you can modify the length of this time period. Once answers have been provided, you may select the best answer or let the community vote on it.

How to Answer

Feel like sharing your knowledge, opinions or personal experience with others? Try answering a question.

Search the Yahoo! Answers category list to find open questions or use the search tool. Once a question catches your interest, click “Answer this Question.” Type your answer and include any helpful resources. If your answer is a good one, it may be chosen as the “Best Answer” by the asker or by the community.

Beyond proving that you’re a font of wisdom, there’s an added incentive for trying to provide a “Best Answer.” Yahoo! Answers awards points for different user actions – the more you participate, the more points you earn and the higher your member “level” becomes. High level members have greater community influence and additional privileges. By being a productive member of the community (i.e., providing a “Best Answer”), you earn bonus points and can move up in status faster.

How to Discover

Feed your curiosity by browsing existing questions and answers. Use the category list, the search tool, or view The Best of Answers to find helpful or fascinating information. “Resolved” questions are those with a “Best Answer” selected – community members may comment on and rate answers to resolved questions. If you come across an open question (one that’s still working its way through the answer process) feel free to chime in with an answer if you’re in the mood.

After you reach level 2 status or higher, if you see a really good question, rate it by clicking on the “star” icon. You can also rate answers as “Thumbs up” or “Thumbs down.”

Next post: DBE’s thoughts on what Yahoo! Answers means to SEO/SMO.

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