Yahoo Answers scarier than Wikipedia

Slate featured an interesting article on Yahoo Answers last Friday. Yahoo Answers is not something I've used extensively; however, the results from Answers often pop up in more challenging web searches.

Slate featured an interesting article on Yahoo Answers last Friday. Yahoo Answers is not something I've used extensively; however, the results from Answers often pop up in more challenging web searches. The concept is actually an interesting one: post a question about anything (within community guidelines) and get answers back from any Yahoo user. While this opens your questions up to, presumably, some very smart people, it also opens it up to anyone older than 13, potentially with a matching IQ. As the Slate article notes,

For educators fretting that the Internet is creating a generation of "intellectual sluggards," the problem isn't just that Yahoo!'s site helps ninth-graders cheat on their homework. It's that a lot of the time, it doesn't help them cheat all that well.

Questions posted range from "Should you still do weight lifting even if u have a cold?" to "Why do men have nipples?" If you have ever been curious about any topic PG-13 or under, someone else has probably been curious about it, too, and already posted it (and gotten several answers to it).

However, peer review in this case consists of readers tossing out their thoughts, opinions, agreements, and disagreements with other previous posters. Wikipedia, at least, has added several tools to help surfers identify potentially problematic sources of information. As we know, kids all too often struggle to differentiate fact from opinion, especially online. While Wikipedia must be taken with a grain of salt, there is plenty of really valuable content. Yahoo Answers requires very careful consideration and rarely features sources, documentation, etc., in its mostly off-the-cuff, blog-style responses.

I'm thinking we should bookmark it, though, on the OLPC XOs. Then kids can ask questions like "Why did our government buy us these laptops instead of that water sanitation system?"

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