Yahoo! Answers is an online community where you can ask questions on a range of topics, from the serious to the purely fun, and get answers from real people. Or you might help others by answering their burning questions. Either way, you have the chance to share ideas and information with millions of Yahoo! users about politics, sports, health, or whatever else interests you. By asking and answering questions you can accumulate points and build a reputation as a valuable and knowledgeable community participant.
Beyond the obvious social-networking stuff (who's talking about what I'm interested in, etc.) I can see at least one compelling business use for Yahoo! Answers. Answers users--especially high-scoring ones--are what Seth Godin refers to in Unleashing the Ideavirus as "promiscuous sneezers." According to Godin, ideas are like viruses, and the more powerful they are, the more likely they are to be retransmitted by important people:
Powerful sneezers can't be bought. But don't forget that they are selfishly motivated. Will this make me look smart? Will it make someone else happy? Will it make the world a better place? There are plenty of levers that motivate powerful sneezers to spread the word, and they are often complicated and subtle.
Because of the way Answers is set up, high-level users--and by "high-level," I mean "anybody level 3 and above"--are not powerful because of what they know, but because of the frequency and tone with which they communicate what they know. They're on the service a lot. They answer questions quickly and accurately. And they have high status because they write graceful, easy-to-digest answers that don't make the person who was brave enough to ask the question feel stupid for having done so in public.
Okay, let's say you're a provider of goods or services on the Web, and you'd like to find out who your happy users are. In the questionSearch API, send a link to your main site in
query and set the optional
search_in parameter to
best_answer. Any answers that come up were pretty clearly posted by users who 1) know what they're talking about and 2) like your stuff. These folks are your volunteer evangelists. Snuggle up to them. Be nice. Send them a T-shirt, or a job offer.
Here's an example I've used at work. We'll search for best answers in the Programming & Design category that have a link to
Here's a pocket-sized API explorer for Answers. For best results, start with something simple like "cars" in questionSearch. Once you see some results, poke around inside and find a user, question, or category ID, copy it, paste it into the Find box, select the appropriate API, and you're off and running. If you'd like to see your results in JSON, check the box.