yahoo questions

one of the web's stupidest sectors keeps on truckin'

There is a podcast I have been listening to for years that I used to genuinely enjoy. It’s an advice show where people send in questions, and the three hosts try to answer the questions in funny and unhelpful ways. It was once really fun, but times and tastes change, and now I mostly listen to it because of a meta-narrative I’ve constructed in my head, which is: at this point you can hear audibly and clear as day that two of the hosts hate the third host.

In addition to sourcing questions from listeners, the show also plumbs the depths of a service called Yahoo! Answers, which is a web platform where users ask questions and, in an ideal world, get answers. The questions and the answers are all generally of low quality (e.g., “how is babby formed?”) and that’s funny. If Wikipedia is the zenith crowdsourcing knowledge online, Yahoo! Answers is the nadir.

Yahoo! Answers feels like a real wild west ghost town of the internet, a product from a storied technology brand that has been almost completely ignored and fallen into decay, but still teems with life through sheer inertia. But the product is also juuuuuust focused enough in its question-answer format that it hasn’t been completely taken over by radicals and reactionaries in the same way that, say, something like 4chan has. Having to phrase your concern in the form of a question is juuuuuust enough friction to stop people from posting tons of terrible stuff.

But it’s also led to an interesting phenomenon of people asking questions that aren’t really questions. In journalism (I used to be a journalist) and in doing lawyer things (I’ve watched television), these are known as “leading questions” — ones loaded with bias, and seeking, or intimating, a specific answer. I got bored this afternoon and went on Yahoo! Answers and searched “insurrection” and sorted by reverse-chron because I hate myself, and I found a lot of people who were “just asking questions.”

I don’t mean to pick on Yahoo! Answers users (much), it’s more just that it’s funny to how, given access to the whole dang internet, this is where people choose to spend their time. Many questions feel like they are being asked by people with nowhere else to turn. “Throat hurts after eating dry food?Others feel like brainteasers, like “Can police legally take this guy out of church or not?

There are better platforms out there for blasting a question out (Twitter’s awful prompts are probably the most prominent example. I saw a prompt this week that was like “what’s a movie you’re proud to have seen in theaters?” and the person asking it listed Interstellar???) and yet Yahoo! Answers hums along. I admire its persistence and longevity, the raw and unmanicured posting style that seems all but extinct these days. It’s a different type of performance from social media, but an interesting performance nonetheless.

Anyway, there’s not too much else to say here. Just another curious thing I found on the net. Also, bad news for the former president!


Elsewhere…

  • i watched this tiktok and then, despite knowing better, scrolled through the rest of this account’s clips

  • corn lamp

  • this mostly just reminded me how long Too Many Cooks was. I forgot how long it was

  • the sea shanty all over tiktok isn’t even a sea shanty (I feel like I might’ve already linked this but I’m too lazy and behind schedule to go look)