Answers, we have Answers

Sarah points to an article on SearchEngineWatch by Danny Sullivan about Yahoo Answers.

I’m interested in this particularly because I moderate and contribute to a similar but more blog-oriented site called Ask MetaFilter. The idea is simple. It’s a place where the 38,000+ members of the MetaFilter community blog can go ask each other questions and get answers. You can categorize and tag your questions, and everyone in the community gets to ask a maximum of one question a week. There’s a feature for marking “best answer,” marking favorite posts to keep track of, and asking anonymous questions which is quite popular. Each question has its own RSS feed. So does each tag. There’s a $5 [lifetime] barrier to entry that keeps the site from becoming just a one-off “free questions answered here!” site and there’s a group we informally call the MeFiBrarian Posse of info professionals (some of whom I’m sure you know) that answer questions like this one that I answered this week which seem like more typical reference questions. I’ve answered over 2300 questions since the beginning of 2004 and you can read every one of them. Going to where the user is, indeed.

I don’t know much about the traffic side of things, but MetaFilter is one of Technorati’s Top 100 blogs and AskMetafilter gets about as much traffic as the main part of the site. I spend a lot of time there keeping questions on track, helping write and organize the FAQ, putting out fires, enforcing the community guidelines, and being one of the human faces of a very effective website. I am the only librarian on a staff of three. I know I spend an awful lot of time talking about my small libraries and their trials and tribulations, but it’s worth knowing that there are also jobs in the online world at all that can test the mettle of even the most super-social and savvy librarian.

One thought on “Answers, we have Answers

  1. It’s not how many answers, but how good are the answers!
    Many of our cities’ public libraries reference desks don’t offer adequate followup on answers provided. How well did we do ? should be asked of people to whom answers are provided. That kind of evaluative question isn’t asked often enough of people to whom answers are provided. In a nondefensive neutral manner ask after providing answers… How well did we/I do?

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