Illustration for article titled Yahoo Answers Showed Us Exactly How Not to Search For Advice Online

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When Yahoo Answers, one of the internet’s last bastions of unfiltered, crowdsourced advice, is shut down on May 4, the site will not be archived. The digital equivalent of the Library of Alexandria for bizarre questions will burn, and it will be a great loss for the internet.

The site’s emergence 16 years ago came with promise, born from a belief that community could provide answers to users’ most pressing questions. In reality, Yahoo Answers was more of a raging horror show than a wellspring of useful advice from well-intentioned denizens of the web.

As anyone with an internet connection and a pulse soon learned, there are far better ways to get advice online, and far better places to ask serious questions and get credible answers. Still, Yahoo Answers will be sorely missed, if only for its singular encapsulation of the web’s often hilarious hive mind. Let’s revisit some classics, and how you can find better answers than the ones we were often given.

It was hilarious sometimes

Yahoo Answers was more a comedic goldmine than advice forum. It’s not a forum for crowdsourced queries can’t be useful (Reddit is often a great platform to seek advice or expert opinion), but Yahoo Answers was more like a pit of trolls, as the evidence below illustrates.

You get the idea. Sure, Yahoo Answers had users who engaged in seeking and supplying legitimately constructive advice. But the site’s more ridiculous side always shone brighter. With its archives destined for the dustbin, we’ll really only have the screenshots to remind us of the bizarre queries that captured the internet’s imagination.

Where to find better resources for advice

To use a highly redundant statement: There is helpful information on the internet, but it’s likely not going to come from strangers. If you’re really intent on collecting wisdom from an anonymous group of peers, you might try Reddit, which as previously mentioned, is very well regulated by swarming administrators who do a decent job of weeding out much of the nefarious or disingenuous content. Where you should not go is Quora, which, much like Yahoo Answers, is an experiment banked on the high-hopes of crowdsourcing information from random folks.

Of course, the best venue for seeking answers will be contingent upon your questions. But generally speaking, look for information that has been vetted by experts. If you have a medical question and don’t have easy access to a doctor, consult sources like the Mayo Clinic , the Cleveland Clinic, or credible health outlets like Medical News Today (not WebMD). If you have questions about parenting, try consulting parenting-specific forums.

If you’re just looking for basic knowledge on a given topic, Wikipedia isn’t going anywhere soon, and it isn’t likely to devolve into complete nonsense. In short, avoid sending messages into the void and expecting a knowledgeable, good-natured stranger to return to offer you a plan of action. In any case, with Yahoo Answers primed to be scrubbed from the face of the web, you’ll have one less option to do that.

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