FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. I want to close my Y!Answers account, but it's not possible. What can I do about it?
As you may have seen by the notice in the Home page here, in my opinion this should be one of the first things that prospective Users are told before joining YA.
Once people discover that they can't cancel their YA account without effectively deactivating the entire Yahoo! account associated with it (email, 360, Groups, Instant Messenger, and all other Yahoo! properties), they're dismayed .
There are two basic choices for you:
a) If you choose to terminate your whole Yahoo! account, go to this page and follow the instructions (make sure you're logged in with the account you want to terminate; and remember that it will take approx. 3 months for the account to disappear).
IMPORTANT NOTE 1: According to Yahoo!'s Terms of Service, Yahoo! has "the perpetual, irrevocable and fully sublicensable license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display" any content you have posted in YA "and to incorporate such Content into other works in any format or medium now known or later developed."
This means that even if you delete your entire Yahoo! account, your YA posts will remain in YA - therefore if you're concerned about anyone linking your posts to your "real life", make sure you follow the steps detailed below and anonymize your YA posts before deleting your account.
Remember that once you delete the account, you won't have access to the settings in your YA Profile page.
IMPORTANT NOTE 2: If when you click on the link above, you encounter a message similar to this:
"Sorry! You cannot delete this account online. Please call [name of your ISP] Customer Care at [their phone number] to cancel your account"
It means that you're using Yahoo! through an associated ISP (Internet Service Provider). In that case, you will need to contact them to terminate your account.
b) If you just want to disconnect from Yahoo! Answers, here are a few things you can do:
1) Go to your Profile page and anonymize it by doing the following:
- Change your nickname to Anonymous, -----. ....., ~, random characters, or anything similarly unrecognizable.
- Eliminate any links from your profile to other Y! properties such as Y!Messenger or Y!Profile page (if you have one), and disable the e-mail communications option.
- Delete all the information in your "About me" box.
- Change your Avatar to the grey square face.
- Opt out of messages and notifications from YA.
Note: You can't opt out of Best Answers notifications, so you might keep receiving these for a while until the last Qs you answered are Resolved.
- Check all your Privacy options to make your Qs & As private; eliminate your Contacts and select the option to not allow fans (thus, if you have current fans, they will be deleted).
2) If you have Open Questions, or Answers in Open Qs, you may delete these to prevent them from being incorporated into the database.
After you've severed all your connections between YA and the rest of your Yahoo!-related activities, just stay away from YA.
You'll be effectively gone.
2. Is it OK to vote for one's own answer?
Yes, it is perfectly valid for any User to vote for their own answer. That is, of course, provided they're not using multiple accounts to vote in order to get BA . Using multiple accounts in order to earn points is point-gaming.
Remember to keep an eye on the Qs you have answered, and if one of them goes to Voting, vote for the A you think is best.
3. My Questions receive few Answers. Is there anything I can do to get more As?
It's true that special 'featured' questions, especially those by celebrities, do get hundreds of As, but the latter are allowed to remain open for much longer, and special care is taken to attract more Answerers (then of course there's the ridiculous task of choosing a BA among so many!). Getting 10-30 As is fairly good for 'normal' Qs.
- As you know, there is a 110 character limit for the main text of the question. Make sure it is eye-catching, but also specific enough so that Answerers who could give good answers to it are interested enough to click on the Q.
Use the Additional details to add more specifics.
- Open-ended Questions that ask for opinions, thoughts, etc. are likely to receive more answers. Remember that proper categorisation is essential: if you ask a poll-type question, post it in Polls&Surveys.
- Choose the right category. It's not mandatory to use the subcategory suggested by the system. If you think there's a better one, you can select it.
- Keep an eye on the category where you want to post your Q, because there are peaks of activity during certain times of day. For instance, I usually post late at night for US users(I'm in a different time zone) and thus I get comparatively few answers.
- Extend the Open period of your Question. More good Answerers who actively look for Qs might find it during those 8 days.
- Build a Contact Network and use it: make sure that your Profile allows other Users to add you as a Contact. These people will see the Qs you ask and may be interested in Answering them. If they Star your Question, then their own Contacts will also see it, and so on.
- An interesting question that gets many stars will also appear in the Popular Tab of Open Qs; some Users look for these popular Qs.
- Finally, no matter what you do, your Q will soon drop to the back pages of Open Qs.
Therefore, use other methods to advertise your Question: you can post the link in the YAT blog, in the Forum (if appropriate), or in your 360 page... you can also email it to specific people who might answer it.
4. I want my Avatar to be older/larger/wear a costume/show a flag/etc. How do I go about it?
5. Does having multiple accounts violate the Community Guidelines?
Short answer: No, not per se.
For instance, you may want to use different accounts if you want to ask
or answer about private/delicate issues that you don't want your YA
Contacts, friends or family to know about. However, using these
multiple accounts to abuse the system is not allowed.
Long answer: On October, 2008, the wording of the Help section about multiple accounts was slightly changed. It now states "Using multiple accounts to participate at Yahoo! Answers is a violation of Community Guidelines" (you can read the FAQ here).
This led to a lot of questions from confused YA users. The official responses from staff members have clarified the matter and reassured the users. Staff members have stated that "It is technically not a violation just for having multiple accounts. We are aware that a lot of people have both professional and work YIDs, and it's not unusual for people who want to ask personal questions to prefer not to use their work account."
In other words, the valid criterion still appears in the guidelines, which state "Don't create multiple accounts to troll or otherwise violate these guidelines or the Yahoo! Terms of Service." and "creating multiple accounts or posting content for the
sole purpose of gaining points or soliciting others for points is not
In any case, since the "legitimate use" of multiple accounts is so narrowly defined, the best general advice is to have only one Yahoo! account to participate in YA (of course, people can have other Yahoo! accounts to participate in Groups, Suggestion Boards, and other Yahoo! properties).
If you choose to have more than one YA account, e.g. for participating in different categories, make sure your accounts don't interact (this includes any type of point-gaming, such as using one account to rate or vote for the other, as well as using one account to ask and the other to answer, targetting other users by down-thumbing or reporting their posts using multiple accounts, etc.)
6. Are the "troll patrol" or other vigilante groups officially supported or endorsed by the YA Team?
No, the YA Team does not encourage nor sanction these types of groups. Forming such a group does not give these users "more power".
If you feel that such a group of users have "ganged up" on you and this has resulted in unfair violation notices, the best you can do is file an appeal when you receive the VN. If your appeal is approved, the reputation of every person who reported you will be lowered, and future reports from them will be less effective.
7. Can I view my "trust score" with respect to the new Community Moderation system?
No, the YAT won't disclose this parameters, or give a "trusted reporter" badge to good users.
The "trust score" of a User is dynamic, and is continually being adjusted to the user's performance. Bear in mind that if a post you reported is not immediately removed, that doesn't mean that you are not trusted. There are several factors that interact when deletion of a post is evaluated, including the trust score of the reporting user, but also the trust score of others who may have reported it, that of the user who authored the post, plus other things that the YAT won't disclose.
Right now (September '07) the system is still in Beta phase. This means that not all the Qs and As are being moderated by the community (i.e. automated system). Customer Care is still reviewing some reports, and both systems will be operating in parallel until the automated system works well enough for YA to be completely community-moderated.
UPDATE (early 2008): Some posts by YAT members in the forum indicate that they're thinking of adding some sort of information/gauge about reporting success or "trust-level" in each User's profile. This feature would be private, i.e. only visible to the user in question. There's no confirmation whether this will actually be introduced in the anticipated "March update" (it's now March 23rd and there's no update in sight).
8. I have received an abusive/insulting message from another YA user. What do I do?
If you've received an abusive email, forward it to the Yahoo!Answers Team at firstname.lastname@example.org using an appropriate subject line, such as "Harassment". Explain to them that you've received this message, and make sure you include any information that might be useful for them to understand the situation (for instance, if you know why the user is targeting you, or you have a link to a problematic Q&A). Let them deal with it, and don't ever respond to such messages. That would only cause the aggression to escalate, and make the abuser happy that they were able to get to you. Remember, don't feed the trolls.
9. I'm interested in the questions asked by this particular user. How can I keep track of them?
- You can use the RSS feed from the user's profile. Add it to your RSS Reader and you can see an updated list of their questions (NOTE: it doesn't work for answers). See more about RSS. NOTE: It doesn't work with users who keep their Q&A private.
- Add the user's Qs to your "My Yahoo" page. It works similarly to RSS, and will keep an updated list of their newest Qs in your "My Yahoo" page. See more about My Yahoo. NOTE: It doesn't work with users who keep their Q&A private.
- If the user is one of your Contacts, when you log in and check the "My Network's Q&A", you can view his/her Questions by clicking on his/her screenname in the column to the left. See more about your Network.
10. Why was my question removed? (if I didn't do it)
This could be due to different reasons:
- It could have been considered as a violation of the CGs or TOS. In that case, it could either have been reported by other users, or by Customer Care (you can tell the difference because you'll be deducted 10 points in the latter case). This can happen to Open, Undecided or Resolved Qs. See more about Violations.
- It was put up for Voting and the community selected NBA; as a consequence the Q and all the As are deleted. This can only happen to Qs that are sent to the public vote. See more about the Question Life Cycle.
- It was already resolved, but the Best Answer was removed (by community reports or directly by Customer Care) because it was in violation of the CGs or TOS. In that case you won't get a Violation Notice, and no points will be deducted, but unfortunately the Question will stay deleted anyway.
- The Question expired with no answers. In that case it is deleted, with no points refund. Seen the Question Life Cycle.
11. Why was my answer removed? (if I didn't do it)
- It was considered as a violation of the CGs or TOS. In that case, it could either have been reported by other users, or by Customer Care (you can tell the difference because you'll be deducted 2 points in the first case, and 12 points in the latter). This can happen to Answers to Open, Undecided or Resolved Qs. See more about Violations.
- You deleted it accidentally (I've never heard of it happening, but...). In that case you'll lose 2 points and won't be able to answer the same Q again.
- If the Question was removed by the Asker or for other reasons (listed in FAQ 12 above), then your Answer is gone as well. This won't cost you any points.
12. What is Error 999?
When this error occurs, you get a blank page with the following:
Unable to process request at this time -- error 999
It usually happens when you're trying to post an Answer, right after the Preview screen worked perfectly well. When it becomes persistent, Error 999 can virtually stop you from posting anything in YA (or the forum) for a given period.
I've gotten "999'ed" several times when attempting to include a specific link to this Tutorial in my answers. Thus, though I'm no expert, it's obvious that certain hyperlinks trigger it. Based on what I've read, postings that are "too frequent" (= a user posting one Q or A after another in quick succession) can also cause this error to appear.
Based on this, and on what I've read at this informative site, I can answer that in short, Error 999 is Yahoo's way of telling you that you're using too much of their bandwidth, especially for posting content they don't care much about (such as specific hyperlinks).
Check the site I linked above for suggestions you can try to solve this problem.
13. Why does asking a question cost 5 points?
Many users, especially new ones, see this cost as too "harsh", and argue that it discourages people from Asking. Reality shows that the cost doesn't deter those who really want to ask... not even when their Q has been asked and answered many times before!
These are some points to consider:
- Basic supply and demand theory: just like in the real world, the users "pay" (with points) for what they need, i.e Answers, and get rewarded for supplying the latter.
- There's a historical reason for it, arising from the development of YA through the Beta stage.
When YA first started, the users earned points by Asking. This was necessary at first because... well, there were no questions!
However, as more and more users started to join, asking as many Qs as they could for the points became a "fun" (and convenient) thing to do. So it became apparent that some point cost was necessary; the idea was that the users who felt that they needed answers would keep posting, but those who just did it for the points or for fun would be deterred.
The system was changed first to point-neutral Questions, then to point deduction per Q (if I remember rightly, it was -2 or -3 points at first, which then had to become -5 because people still kept posting lots of rubbish Qs).
The current 5 point deduction seems to be here to stay.
- In any case, remember that Askers get a +3 point refund when their Q is resolved. This means that the real cost per Q is only 2 points (the same that you can earn by simply answering one Q, or voting twice).
14. My YA account has been suspended and I want to rejoin. What do I do?
It is OK to open a new account to participate in YA. However, don't overdo it; that is, don't create many accounts at once, or one right after the other.
Judging from the comments of both users and staff at the Forum, those second (or third, fourth, etc) accounts are more closely watched. This means that if you keep commiting the same violations of the CGs or TOS, chances are you'll get suspended sooner.
Also, if you start having problems because your new accounts are suspended at once (even without asking or answering), the official advice is that you wait a few weeks before coming back. I guess the automated system picks up these repeated attempts as abuse-like, even when there are no violations.
Tip: if you don't know or understand why you were suspended in the first place, make sure you have this information before going back to YA. If you can't get official feedback other than the form letters, you can ask at the Suggestions Board, where there are many knowledgeable users willing to help. Also, feel free to contact me and I'll do my best to help.
15. How to get rid of an unwanted Fan?
There are malicious users who "attach" themselves to others as their Fans (see more about Contacts&Fans) only to follow them around to report them, give them Thumbs Down, and other negative activities. If you suspect that you have such a Fan, or you simply don't want to have some unknown user following your activities around, do the following:
- Go to your Profile page, and locate the user in your Fans tab.
- Block the user (see more about Blocking here). This will automatically remove the User from your Fans list.
- You can leave it at that, and the blocked user won't be able to add you as a Contact again.
- Alternatively, you can immediately Unblock the User, and see if they choose to "attach" themselves again. To do this, still in your Profile page, click on your Blocked users tab, locate the user, and unblock him/her (see more about Blocking).
Remember that you can also choose not to have any fans, using your Privacy settings (see more about Privacy).
Many thanks to SuzieQ for suggesting this FAQ and providing the basic outline of the text above
16. How do I get rid of a Fan who has been suspended?
Suspended Users don't have an active Profile page, so in order to get rid of them, here's what to do.
In your Profile page, go to your Fans tab. If you hover the mouse cursor over their avatar, the pop-up window with their information will appear.
If the Fan is not in your Contacts, you will see the option to "Block User". This automatically removes them from your Fans list.
If the Fan is also your Contact, you need to first click on the "Remove Contact" option (which will appear in the same pop-up window). Only after you do this, the "Block User" option will appear (because you can't Block a Contact).
Then, if you want to Unblock them, go to your Blocked Users tab to do it.
17. Why is the Y!Answers mascot a hamster?
Here's the story, according to what I learned while YA was still in the first (beta) stages, and also to the wisdom of other users who actually met the original YA Team:
When YA first started in December of 2005, their avatar (in the official 360 blog) was a photograph of a Karate Hamster toy, similar to this one:
According to the accounts of original Team members, this toy was actually on the desk of the YA team leader and he would switch it on when he wanted to summon the team members. So when YA was launched, a snapshot of the hamster was adopted as an informal mascot and Team avatar on the official YA 360 blog. It began to be known as the Karate Hamster, Ninja Hamster, Kung Fu Hamster, or Yamster (extensively, the members of the YA Team - and sometimes all the YA users - became the YAmsters).
This toy was used as the Team avatar until somebody commented in the forum that this was a real toy that surely had a manufacturer and a copyright somewhere. Soon after this comment was posted in the "old" suggestion forum, the snapshot avatar disappeared and was replaced by the typical "green smilie".
The Team members told us that it was time to acquire a more "professional" avatar, as they were progressing toward the end of the beta phase. Some time later, the new Yahoo-copyrighted cartoon Yamster made its debut. This stylized version of the Yamster has different attires and expressions, such as the "Oops!" version that appeared during the huge YA downtime event of 2006, and the frowning Yamster from the Abuse Reports.
18. Why are there daily limits? I want to ask and answer more!
Lots of new users find YA so entertaining and "addictive" that they spend their daily limits (which are pretty low for Level 1) in a short while. When they find that they can't ask or answer anymore until the next day (which starts at midnight, Pacific Standard Time), they ask this question.
The daily restrictions exist for good reasons:
First, they help new users to take it slow and "learn the ropes" as they progress up the levels. This is particularly important because there are so many posts in violation on almost every page of YA, that it may not be easy for new users to understand how YA is supposed to work. Thanks to the limits, people have the chance (and the time) to learn about the guidelines and the mechanics of the site.
For instance, if a new Level 1 user sees lots of chatty posts and thinks that they're OK, he or she might end up with a suspended account due to several violations, if it were not for the daily limits.
The second major reason is to prevent malicious users from flooding the site with their posts. These include spammers and other advertisers (there are even auto-posting bots that do it), trolls, and other abusers. Thus, the amount of rubbish they can post is somewhat under control (though of course, they know how to make new accounts to circumvent the limits).
TIP: While you wait for the limits to reset, remember that you can also vote, which will help you to get to the next level faster.
Just pick a category and click on the "Vote" tab. Remember that if you sort the undecided questions by date (oldest to newest), you'll be voting on old Tiebreakers and helping to reduce the backlog of Unresolved Qs.
You can also go to the Discover section and browse Resolved questions, there's some interesting stuff there
19. How many daily emails can I send through YA?
If you click on the "Email" option that is available in some user's Profile pages, your daily quota of emails will appear under the Message box. The limits vary according to the YA level you're in:
Level 1 = 10 daily emails
Level 2 = 20 daily emails
Level 3 = 30 daily emails
Level 4 = 40 daily emails
Levels 5, 6 and 7 = 1000 daily emails
Thanks to Badmoon and Anoneemuuse for filling the gaps! You're great
20. I did not receive an email notification (of answers to my question/violation notice/suspension notice/messages from other users), is this a glitch?
Glitches and bugs abound in YA, especially when features are being updated, fixed or introduced. But when emails from YA fail to arrive in the users' inboxes, it's far more commonly due to Spam/Bulk filters. It may be that at some point you discarded one email from YA, and subsequently the email system or email client you use went on filtering all the emails from YA to the Spam or Bulk folders. Or the messages may be filtered without you doing anything to cause it.
Anyway, make sure you periodically check your 'unwanted mail' mailboxes, especially if you are not receiving emails from YA that you should be getting. For example: if you've had posts deleted and got no email about it, or if you've checked the appropriate option to be notified of new As to your Q but have received none even though you did get answers.
If you have checked and there are no mails lost or filtered away, you can ask for help at the Suggestions Board.
(Thanks to Anon from the Forum who suggested this Q)
21. How do I respond to/thank the Answerers of my Question?
There are different ways for you to do that.
1. While the Question is open, use the Edit function:
- Go to your Question
- Hover the mouse cursor over the Edit (Pencil) Icon, until a drop-down menu appears
- From this menu, select "Add details". Remember that you can't delete previous "Added details", only post new comments that will be added to the previous ones.
2. At the moment of selecting the Best Answer:
- After picking the Answer, you'll be presented with a text box.
- Type your message to the Answerers; you can thank one and all or add other types of comments.
3. Once the Q is resolved:
- You can add Comments to any Resolved Q, including those you Asked. However, there's no guarantee that the Answerers will go back to the Q and read them.
4. You can also send private messages to the Answerers via their Profile page, if they have such communication enabled.
5. If you have chosen one answer as BA, but you feel that there were other good answers that deserve a reward, you can check the Answerers' profiles and, if their Q&A are open, give Thumbs Up to other of their Best Answers. This way, you will be giving them extra points.
Plus, if you leave a Comment when you Thumb Up a Best Answer, there's a higher chance that the Answerer will check the Q and read the comment you left :-)
22. What are Avatar Games and why are they not allowed in YA?
Avatar Games (AG) consist of a 'question' that is actually a request to do or say something to/about the Avatar located above and/or below your post. AG are expressly forbidden in YA, as they commit one or more of the following violations:
1. Wrong format: not a question, and not an answer. The 'question' is a request or invitation, and the 'answers' are just complying with it
2. Point gaming: each answerer is earning 2 points for posting bad content; if the AG is resolved, one of them will earn 10 more points (plus the points for Thumbs)
3. Placeholding: when the AG demands that the Answerers 'say something' about the avatar below, the Answerers have to placehold until others post
4. Chat: exchanging personal remarks
5. Insulting: some AG demand that each poster say something negative about the other posters
6. Soliciting: the 'question' is a demand, a request for something other than an answer
7. Abuse of certain features such as ratings (Thumbs Up/Down) and/or Stars
When you encounter AG in YA, you will see that the posters go to great lengths to 'camouflage' their games. They may use special characters, code phrases, or 'hide' in little known categories... all for the "fun" of breaking the rules and starting new accounts week after week - after they get suspended, of course - .
The attempt at camouflage may consist of adding a question (especially a poll/survey type) to the AG; unfortunately for the players, this does not make the AG any more valid.
In my humble opinion, Avatar Games (and their variations, such as "Guess" or "Type random letters" questions) are garbage. They are not knowledge-worthy in the least, and they clutter the site. Usually, they also tend to attract the type of users who are not making valuable contributions anyway.
Having said this... Participating, ignoring or reporting them is up to you
Remember that if you enjoy these kinds of games, Yahoo Bix may be the place for you!
Many thanks to Eve for her comments which helped me improve this FAQ!
See the YAT blog entry about Avatar Games here.
23. What's up with all the "Get answers from millions of real people." Questions? Why are there so many of them? Where do they come from?
So you've noticed that many Qs start with this phrase, while the actual Question is in the Additional Details. Why does this happen? In short: poor design.
When non-YA users arrive in Yahoo!Answers, it's usually from clicking on a link in a web search (for instance, while trying to learn why their car is not working, or if penguins have knees). The results of the web search include one or more Questions from YA, so they click on the link, and suddenly they are faced with something like this:
Do you see the text in the text box under "Still have a question? Ask" ...Exactly!
If the newcomer decides to click on the blue "Post Question" button, s/he is taken to a Register/Login page - and inadvertently acquires a YA account that s/he doesn't know how to use, won't be able to close and that probably didn't want in the first place.
Do you get the idea?
After logging in, they are taken to this new screen:
As you see, the text in the box for the main Question is the same. And guess what, unlike the usual "What would you like to ask?", it does not disappear when one clicks on the box, so the newest YA user assumes that it is a fixed feature (after all, why would they know any better?)
The newbie proceeeds to type the 'real' question in the Additional Details box, and then continues with the process.
Guess which is the first Category suggested by the system? Yes, you are right: Yahoo Products -> Yahoo Answers.
The net result of this messed-up design is (1) an incorrectly categorized question that has (2) a nondescript main text, while the question is "hidden" in the Details, posted by a (3) new inexpert user who'll probably never know how to find his or her Q again.
Guess what happens to these Qs? And guess what are the chances that the Asker will select the BA, if you decide to answer one of them?
Many thanks and original credit go to Rock for showing me the source of this issue!
24. What is the Action Bar? I received a reminder email telling me to Extend my Question using it, but I can't find it!
The Action Bar is the row of icons located right below each Question (within the Question box). The Action Bar displays different options depending on whether you're the Asker of the Q you're viewing or not. NOTE: During one of the newer updates (2009/10) the Action Bar was labeled as such, so I'm happy to say that this question is now obsolete).
If it's one of your own Questions, the Action Bar will look like this while the Q is Open:
The Action Bar will disappear once your Question is Resolved.
If the Asker of the Question is somebody else, the options are different:
25. I've come across a Question/Answer from someone who seems suicidal. What do I do? If you see a post from someone who sounds like he/she has suicidal intentions, please report it using the bottom button (TOS violation), and type "Suicide" in the Additional Details. This ensures that the report will be especially looked at by Customer Care employees. What happens next is that the post is deleted and the User is sent a special supportive message with helpful information and resources.
Bear in mind that if you report it using the top (CG violation) button, and you have high Trust Status, the post will probably be deleted sooner by automated Community Moderation, but the report won't be looked at.
If you want, you may also send an email to the Y!A Team at y_answrs_team(at)yahoo.com - but reporting should be enough.