With emerging online information sources, information seeking behavior is changing. A common and defining characteristic of these sites is that anyone can pose their information need on almost any topic as a question, and receive answers from the community of users that belong to that particular site Harper, et al. In recent years, these services have become increasingly popular. Answers is reported to have more than million users worldwide [ 1 ], with 15 million users visiting daily [ 2 ].
This area is considered to be an online or virtual version of traditional reference services, where a patron can receive information from reference librarians or other experts Mon, Answers YA due to its scope and accessibility, examining its effectiveness in terms of retrieving information and providing satisfactory answers.
Hence, we will address the following research questions:. The remainder of the paper describes how we collected a large amount of data from YA, mining it to answer these research questions. We conclude with a few interpretations and implications of our findings. To answer our research questions, we performed data mining on a large set of data retrieved from YA.
This section describes our methodology for data collection, as well as a basic description of the data.
Yahoo! Answers - Wikipedia
However, APIs have a daily limit so collecting a large amount of data in a short period of time is not possible. We, therefore, ran our data collection processes for more than two years between Fall and Fall to create a corpus of a reasonable size. This resulted in a collection of over 3,, questions, with over 16,, answers. On YA, an interrogator can choose an answer that satisfies his or her information needs from a set of answers.
We only collected those questions that have been resolved. In other words, interrogators of these questions had picked the best answers from a set of answers they received; hence, answers were not possible for these questions. This approach was selected because we wanted to look at the selected answer for each question, since having an answer chosen as the best answer marks a given question resolved. This creates one of the limitations of our approach to identifying effectiveness and user satisfaction.
Since we only studied questions that were resolved, we only looked at situations where at least one satisfactory answer was provided, thus, making the service appear very effective. It is beyond the scope of this work, due to its methodology, to consider situations where no satisfactory answer was posted. Table 1 provides a summary of the data, where the number of questions and their respective answers are presented within the 25 subject categories of YA http: We do not know the actual size of the YA dataset, which constantly grows.
We do, however, believe that our data is a reasonable sampling of it. Questions in these categories are often seeking opinions rather than a specific answer [ 3 ]. For each question, we collected its subject, content, category, username of the interrogator, number of answers, and the time when the question was posted. For each answer, we collected its content, username of the individual providing an answer, rating if there was any , and the time when the answer was posted. Given that the rating is posted only for the interrogator selecting a given answer, having a rating for an answer also tells us which was chosen.
First, we looked at how many answers a given question received.
Figure 1 depicts a scatter plot of number of questions—answers. As we can see, the majority of questions received fewer than 10 answers. In fact, based on our data — about 16,, answers for about 3,, questions — we can derive that, on average, each question earned five to six answers. Receiving five or six answers per question may seem encouraging, but a more important question is how soon one could receive at least one answer. This could, in a sense, indicate the effectiveness of YA. To answer this question, we computed the time lapse in minutes between the posting times of a question and its first answer.
The results are summarized in Figure 2. We can see that more than 30 percent , out of about 3,, of the questions received their first answers in less than five minutes, and only about eight percent , out of about 3,, of the questions took longer than one hour to secure their first answers. In other words, more than 90 percent of the questions received at least one answer within an hour. Given that millions of questions are posted on YA, these statistics are indicative of the effectiveness of this system. Note that we did not collect unresolved questions from YA, so there may be a number of questions for which no satisfactory answer was received.
We have observed that many of these sorts of questions ask for opinions or advice rather than a solution or specific information; thus, by nature, they are irresolvable. Such observations are supported by Harper, et al. Interrogators select answers from a set of answers that best fit their information needs. Liu and Agichtein regard this as an indication of user satisfaction. When selecting an answer, an interrogator can also rate that answer on the scale of 1 to 5.
Figure 3 illustrates the rank distribution for answers in our dataset. Among the selected answers, most received a rating of 3 or higher. This has been regarded as the indication of high quality answers by Shah and Pomerantz [ 4 ]. In other words, interrogators were not only satisfied with a given answer; they also found these selected answers to be of high quality. Let us consider these answers with respect to time.
While receiving a quick response for a posted question may demonstrate the effectiveness of the system, it still remains to be seen if these answers satisfy the needs of a given interrogator. To analyze this, we looked at the time lapsed between the time a question was posted and an answer was given and selected. Therefore, in order to get control of the trademark, Yang and Filo added the exclamation mark to the name.
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