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Is Yahoo Answers being gamed?

The WSJ is reporting this morning that people are asking and answering inane questions on the Yahoo! Answers service to boost their point scores.

Here is the WSJ’s explanation of the system:

“A points economy is like a regular economy, except the currency is points, not currency. Even though you can’t exchange these points for real-world goods and services, people will still spend enormous amounts of time accumulating them just to beat others in a list of top point-getters, or simply to compete with themselves.

Web sites are taking advantage of this aspect of human psychology and setting up point systems to draw in users to help create “content” for them.

If you’re a member of Answers — total users are in the millions — you can gain points asking questions, answering questions, and rating the questions and answers of others. The points are good for nothing, save allowing you to move up through the seven levels in the Answerers hierarchy. With each new level, you gain more powers on the site, such as the ability to ask and answer more questions, and thus get more points.”

Some background info on Yahoo! Answers

It’s interesting to see this particular system gamed as the incentive is somewhat low. Notoriety is one thing, but it seems that perhaps there are more lucrative sites out there to game. One thing that I learned at my time at Epinions is that the higher the incentive, the more likely it will be gamed.

Congrats to Yahoo! Answers for figuring out a way to make users care enough to game the system.

Read – [WSJ free link]

6 replies on “Is Yahoo Answers being gamed?”

Yahoo! Answers is hilarious. Some of the content that shows up on their home page is embarrassing.

I can get into it for about 5 minutes, but the lack of smart questions kills it for me.


I do think that it is a good product and Yahoo! has done a excellent job promoting it. I don’t believe that they have done a good job preventing things like gaming.

I used it when it first came out and discovered that you really needed to go through with machine like precision if you wanted to get anywhere point wise. I answered all sorts of questions and people seemed to like the answers, but the points just didn’t lend itself toward quality, they pointed to quantity.

Ask Metafilter is a much better place for quality answers.

Ya, but I get the smarmy attitude from Metafilter at times that I get from message board posters. But I know a lot of people who love Metafilter.

Fair enough… I still think certain projects we talked about would be a lot better, albeit a little more focused.

Yahoo! Answers now is like a game for many people. I’m a admin at OnHelp – – which is a realtime snapshot of Yahoo! Answers submissions, answers, votes, and comments using Yahoo! Answers api. Users can play Yahoo! Answers with it.

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