This article in the NY Times repeats a lot of the same coverage, and even much of the same text I’ve seen elsewhere, but it does have one additional bit:

“It has been one of our most successful launches,” said Tomi Poutanen, product director for Yahoo Social Search. … Mr. Poutanen described it as a way to harness the “wisdom of the crowds.”

First of all, it’s the wisdom of crowds, not wisdom of the crowds. But whatever. If this is the wisdom of crowds, I want nothing to do with it. Have you seen the answers provided in Yahoo! Answers? They’re almost uniformly bad. Maybe I’ve only been finding the bad ones… but really, what are the odds of that? This post has a very nice comparison of the 4 questions mentioned in Google Answers “adieu post.” (Nice work, AU interactive, whoever you are.) Some of the Best of Answers are not bad, but almost none provide any links to resources to justify up the answer provided. And the Other Answers are uniformly useless.

Which makes this all the more depressing:

Figure courtesy of SearchEngineWatch

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: As Nicholas Carr so eloquently put it: free trumps quality all the time.

I’ve been reading blog posts that interpret this post on the Yahoo! search blog as a case of extreme schadenfreude.

The folks who are researchers and information specialists have been at this longer than us, and there’s a lot we can learn from you. We’ve set up a Yahoo! Group for former Google Answers Researchers and we’d prefer that one of the exGARs help moderate the group.

Finally, we’re also going to be meeting up with some of the most prolific Yahoo! Answers users here at the Sunnyvale campus on Wednesday, December 13. And we’d like Google Answers researchers to join us, tell us what you think and get to know what we’re doing here.

But I prefer to interpret this differently. I would like to believe that the Yahoo! people know that the answers provided in Yahoo! Answers are quite poor, and would like to recruit some answerers who will actually provide some good responses. Not that GA’s responses are great shakes, but some of them are quite good.

Which brings me to my ultimate question: What incentive(s) are there for answerers to provide good quality answers? GA of course had one answer: money. Knowledge iN has quite another: a reputation economy. Library reference has yet another: years of training and professional pride. What incentive(s) can there be in online QA services that (a) are free, (b) do not accrue reputation to answerers, and (c) require no training or credentials?