You can Google just about anything, but it's not always your best resource for finding the exact answer to what you want. Here's a look at our top ten tools for finding better answe you use? (Besides Lifehacker, of course.) More »
You can Google just about anything, but it's not always your best resource for finding the exact answer to what you want. Here's a look at our top ten tools for finding better answers online.
10. Yahoo! Answers
Whether you want to know how babby is formed or have a legitimate question, Yahoo! Answers has a wealth of information. When you ask a question you're bound to get a healthy serving of snark, but you'll generally get a few good (if not great) answers as well. These results are thanks to the popularity of Yahoo! Answers. Even if you don't always get the answer you're looking for, you're pretty much guaranteed a response due to how many people use the service.
For the more casual and fun questions, you have Ask Reddit. If you're not familiar with Reddit, it's a social news site with a dedicated user base. Those users make Ask Reddit a good tool to get answers, but most of the questions you find tend to fall on the light side of things. You can learn how to cope with putting down your old cat, combat your extreme paranoia, and find out how many people feel Christmas isn't worth it anymore, making the tool more interesting to read when you're bored than the best tool to find the answer you're looking for. In the event you have a question that fits the topics floating around Ask Reddit, however, you'll have plenty of people to join in and answer.
Duck Duck Go is a clever search engine that provides tons of shortcuts to help you find what you're looking for very quickly. The idea is to get you your information without the need to click around too much. Need a color swatch for a particular HEX value? Just enter the HEX value in Duck Duck Go and you'll get it. It can even help you quickly generate a strong, random password. Although search, in general, is pretty fast, Duck Duck Go has a tool set to help you get answers and information as quickly as possible.
You might be thinking, "duh." For that reason it's pretty much impossible to keep Wikipedia off of a Top 10 list about finding better answers online. Wikipedia contains an enormous wealth of information and it ought to be your primary destination when you want quick information on a given topic. While you can't ask it a specific question, if you know what you're looking for you're bound to find it on Wikipedia. It doesn't have an article on everything, but if it did there would be no need for this Top 10.
While the name is just about charmless, Blekko is a very neat search engine that's quickly growing in popularity. What makes Blekko interesting is a feature it calls slash tag search. For example, if you are looking for a cure for a headache you can just search for that on Google and probably do alright. If you're looking for a cure for a headache but only a homeopathic cure, you can enter "cure for headaches /homeopathy" and that's all you'll get. Slash tag search aim to guarantee that your results will be tailored to categories you specify (via slash tags). It's a really neat way to search and a great way to find answers.
Our intern Arvin Dang is very fond of Quora, and for good reason. It's a really nice way to get answers, provide answers, and come across answers in your everyday web search. Quora's goal is to use the internet community to build great answer pages on every subject so when you need information it will be the first place you look. While Quora's still new and it has a ways to go before it gets there, it will only get better with time if people keep using it. Quora seems to be frequented by quite a few smart people with thoughtful answers, and hopefully it will only continue to improve.
In and of itself, Ask Metafilter is really nothing special. You post a question, people answer it, and it all shows up in one long page of text. There really isn't a user interface to speak of, it's not particularly nice to look at, and there's information everywhere. What's so great about it? The content. First at foremost, content wins. Somehow, Metafilter has managed to create a community that breeds good information. Even if you aren't in search for a particular answer, some of the questions are just so interesting that you can go on reading for hours...or maybe even answer a few.
I was always against Twitter until I started using it and began to realize what a helpful tool it can be to find good information. For Twitter to be effective, you have to have a reasonable number of followers so that when you ask a question there's bound to be a few people who have good answers. Twitter tends to be particularly effective because it isn't just anybody answering a question. Just like you follow people who interest you, or are your friends, or have things in common with you, your followers presumably do the same While I don't have a huge number of followers (feel free to help me change that), I've always gotten good answers when I've asked questions. There are plenty of tools online that are effective at providing you with information, but Twitter helps you get answers from a selection of people that are relevant to you.
Aardvark is one of my favorite answer sites, letting you ask just about any question and receive an answer in under a minute—for free. Aardvark aims to keep the process simple by keeping your questions short and sweet. You ask a question that's about the length of a tweet and you get an answer that isn't much longer from helpers whose interests match that of the question. In return, you're encouraged to answer questions that fall into your area of expertise. Aardvark is possible because of this information exchange and generally works very well, although it did fail to find a good soft-serve ice cream shop in Los Angeles. I guess I'll have to settle for Tasti D-Lite, whenever it finally shows up. But why is Aardvark number one? Because it effectively does the same thing as Twitter, but without the need for a base of followers. It does a fantastic job at matching your question with relevant, helpful people and it does it fast. Even though it couldn't do the impossible and find soft server ice cream in Los Angeles, it's probably the best question and answer service you could ask for.