The Best Yahoo Answer Ever

I quit smoking with only minimal side-effects (other than wanting to smoke cigarettes). It’s only after about three or four weeks that I have started to suffer real withdrawal effects, like a pretty durable sore throat or the insomnia that has me posting this at 4:30 AM.

The major effect that quitting smoking had on me is that I’ve become far less utopian about the internet. Any google search, no matter how specific, will bring up almost no honest and sincere information about quitting smoking. Almost every hit is some kind of search-engine-optimization article that parrots every other SEO article in an attempt to drive hits to some kind of nicotine patch or quit-smoking pill. I think that some of these sites were also funded by Phillip Morris as part of their tobacco lawsuit settlement.

There is basically only one large highly-ranked quit-smoking site on the internet that does not want your money, and that is whyquit.com. This is a not unhelpful site…but it is a little idiosyncratic (and also quite ugly and hard to navigate).

The downside of this is that any real information about what to expect when you quit smoking – real concrete stuff like, uhh, what is going to happen and what will it feel like? – is drowned in a sea of copied articles and alarmism that is designed to get you to buy nicotine patches. I’m not saying that good information is not out there, but generally the PageRank of the useful stuff is sufficiently low that it’s not that easy to find. And even the “useful” stuff tends to have kind of a low information density (its blog posts and forum threads stuff like that).

Except for one golden, shining place…Yahoo Answers.

Yahoo Answers, for some reason, has an incredibly high page rank. For some other reason, it has not yet been invaded by people trying to sell you shit. And for some third reason (or maybe these are all for the same reason), it doesn’t have the social component to it that afflicts most blogs and forums, which generally makes comments more about performing some monkey ritual of interpersonal contact than about actually exchanging information.

There’s also an inductive quality to Yahoo Answers that contrasts strongly with the more deductive sort of answers that most internet sites attempt to give you. Most sites basically take conventional medical wisdom and attempt to render it in layman’s terms. It’s a one-size-fits-all strategy that is in many cases exactly as frustrating as the platitudes that doctors tend to hand out.

But Yahoo Answers is about people using the knowledge they’ve acquired in their own lives – when handling problems remarkably similar to yours – to try to understand what is happening to you. A perfect illustration of the difference is this Yahoo Answer I just found, which bears absolutely no relevance to me, but happens to be the greatest answer in the history of answering questions from strangers.

Question: Smoking = sore throat?

OK so I quit smoking 4 years ago and just recently I started again, but not really, more like 2 or 3 a day. I don’t need lectures, I know all about it, I quit before and I’m planning on stopping very soon. I just had a little relapse, that’s all. Anyway, since I started smoking again my throat has been incredibly sore. I am not sure if it is just coincidence or if the smoking has caused it. When I smoked before, (for 10 years) I never had a sore throat due to smoking, ever.

Has this happened to any of you? Can smoking cause a perma-sore throat? Or maybe is this coincidence (it is allergy season, after all).

 

Best Answer – The first time you smoked a cigarette, you didn’t inhale deeply, you might have coughed like crazy, but you took it easy and gradually began drawing in harder. This time, you had the habit already ingrained, so you didn’t work up to a deep draw, you just started off immediately doing the same thing…no surprise that it made your throat sore.

Source(s): RN [Registered Nurse]

I don’t know if this seems as great to someone who’s never smoked cigarettes, but this answer rings very true to me. But can you imagine what a doctor would say if you asked them this question? Or what you’d find if you did an internet search on it? Or if you posted on a forum about it?

Doctor: Umm cigarettes are poison, they are slowly killing the cilia in your throat?

Person: But why didn’t that happen the first time?

 

Internet Search: Use chantix! It’ll help you quit smoking no problem.

Person: Okay…that wasn’t even remotely relevant

 

Forum / Comment Thread: Oh man that sucks, I quit smoking myself a year ago. You just got to stick with it!

Person: Yes I know, I’m gonna try again soon…but it still would be nice to know the answer to this question….the one I actually asked.

In my imagination, the entire internet used to be like Yahoo Answers. But I don’t think that was actually the case. I can’t wait until something like Yahoo Answers arises that is about a thousand times better than Yahoo Answers. Because as good as Yahoo Answers is, it’s basically only the barest sketch of what it should be, it’s the Myspace of question-answering sites, and when someone develops the Facebook of question-answering….I am going to buy some stock in it.

6 thoughts on “The Best Yahoo Answer Ever

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Nope, I had never heard of it, but I just signed up and spent a few minutes browsing it. It seems cool, and the literacy of both questions and answers is pretty good. However, it’s not really there yet. In particular, it seems like there is a huge element of posturing in the questions and answers, as exemplified by questions like this, from the quit smoking topic:

      “What can a person do to decrease the rate of cigarette smoking among people we have contact with?”

      or “What if there was no concept of smoking? i.e. what if there was never tobacco, marijuana, etc.? This is a vague question but I’m interested more from a cultural aspect than a health POV.”

      With that kind of stuff (combined with the requirement that people use their real names), it seems like this is going to go down the social networking hole without ever attaining that jagged edge of anonymous desperation that makes Yahoo Answers so great. But it’s something to watch, definitely (although it would be way better if their questions and answers were google indexed)

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      I just signed up and spent a few minutes futzing around with it. Aardvark kind of seems like someone used Yahoo Answers and was like, “Wow, this is a great idea, the only problems are that it’s so anonymous (and the people who answer are all strangers), that all the questions and answers are so old, and that most of the people who use it are passive browsers instead of active participants.”

      But….those are exactly the things I like about Yahoo Answers: it’s historical, it’s anonymous (and has no social component) and you don’t need to actively interact with anyone, you can just browse all the questions that have already been answered.

      In general, it seems to me like most internet companies are way too involved in acquiring a dedicated user-base and not involved enough in creating a good product. Any of these question/answer companies could immediately start generating millions of hits just by letting their questions and answers get indexed by Google, but they’re too afraid to give away their content for free. They don’t trust that if you have a good product, then people will want to use it.

      Also, Aardvark is basically replicating what happens when you have a facebook status that ends in a non-rhetorical question mark. Which is not to say that it doesn’t look interesting. It’s just that it basically seems like another way to socialize with people. And that’s not what excites me about Yahoo Answers.

      1. Daniel Steinbock

        I use Aardvark to ask questions that Google can’t answer. It’s good for polling opinions, getting advice, and recommendations in obscure or niche topics that my immediate social network (i.e. facebook status) may be incapable of providing insight on. I love the fact that I can shoot back a quick follow-up question to people who answer my Aardvark queries. It’s not just finding me an answer, it’s finding me an ‘expert’ to have a super-brief IM exchange with. I wouldn’t call it socializing, but it is an interaction that pays out way more than just voting on the ‘best answer’ to a question.

        Google bought Aardvark semi-recently so I expect something to come of that relative to your point about historical indexing.

        It can be quite entertaining to just ask random things you wonder about and see what comes back.

        1. R. H. Kanakia

          I actually did ask them a question (I asked how I could access past questions and answers on Aardvark; ones that had not been asked or answered by me). It was a very interesting (and rapid!) experience. Maybe I will try to play around with it some more. I think it might be particularly good for getting book recommendations.

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