Yahoo Answers

One of the big ticket items of the day was the launch of Yahoo Answers, which aims to be every bit the community-powered knowledge base that Google Answers isn’t. Both allow you to ask questions, but the latter’s queries are answered by pre-screened experts while Yahoo is taking a long-tail, wisdom of crowds approach — any Yahoo member can answer a question, and user ratings determine the “best” of the crop. A reputation system will supposedly weed out the experts from the spammers.

I’m all for the experiment and I’m quite curious to see how it turns out. It would be nice to have a general one-stop shop for this kind of collective Q & A, as opposed to tracking down and poking through various subject-specific user forums. Also, this service has promise to capture the more ephemeral day-to-day questions that don’t really fit into any of those forums: “What are some good gift ideas for moms?” “How can I learn to breakdance?” (despite popular opinion, I did not submit that one.)

But, as an experiment, it faces many of the same challenges those user forums have faced (and many failed) before. Greg Linden notes (via Pete Cashmore) that popularity voting does not truth make. Gary Price notes that spam, scams, infomercials and troublemakers are all very likely outcomes for the user community to police on its own, as Yahoo currently has no plans to maintain the knowledgebase. I suppose we’ll know if the service becomes successful when Andrew Orlowski starts writing scathing invectives about it.

Gift ideas for geeks: Top 10 VoIP gifts

Sister site VoIP Fan (aka the artist formerly known as The VoIP Weblog) has a nice roundup of VoIP-related gifts for that special geek. Or perhaps you can give the gift of VoIP plus hands-on tech support for the uninitiated on what is an increasingly consumer-friendly social technology.