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Updated 1:30 PM April 26, 2008
 

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Yahoo Answers users seek advice, expertise

One of the first large-scale analyses of how people share knowledge on Yahoo Answers has found that participants use the site to exchange advice and opinions, in addition to technical expertise.

"There are gobs and gobs of useful information on the Web. Search tools allow one to, in principle, access a fair portion of it with relative ease," says Lada Adamic, an assistant professor in the School of Information and first author of the study.

Recent School of Information doctoral graduate Jun Zhang will present the research April 23 at the WWW2008 conference in Beijing.

With approximately 23 million resolved questions in the system at the time of this study, Yahoo Answers is by far the largest English-language site devoted to questions and answers.

Adamic, along with School of Information Associate Professor Mark Ackerman and other colleagues, analyzed one month of activity at the site: 1.2 million questions by 495,414 people and 8.5 million answers by 433,402 people. The askers and answerers overlapped, with 211,372 people doing both. The level of activity among users varied. Most users participate only in a question or two, while some were involved in hundreds.

Anyone who registers can ask or answer questions at Yahoo Answers. The site organizes questions by category, and the researchers examined 300 of the roughly 1,000 categories — more than 91 percent of the content on the site. In the fact-based categories, researchers found that the questions were relatively simple. Math and science categories, for example, appeared to be dominated by high school students seeking easy solutions to their homework.

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